8T. JOSEPH DISCOVERS THAT MARY IS ABOUT TO BECOME A MOTHER, WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO PENETRATE THE MYSTERY. HE ENDURES GREAT SUFFERINGS ON THIS. ACCOUNT.
CHAPTER . 8T. JOSEPH DISCOVERS THAT MARY IS ABOUT TO BECOME A MOTHER, WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO PENETRATE THE MYSTERY. HE ENDURES GREAT SUFFERINGS ON THIS. ACCOUNT. T’ was about five months since the eternal Word had become incarnate in the chaste bosom of the Virgin Mary, when St. Joseph be- gan to observe indications of it, and to entertain suspicions. It was the more apparent, because _ the proportions of her pure form were so perfect,. that the least change was perceptible. Deeply concerned and anxious, St. Joseph, as he one day observed her.coming forth from her oratory, perceived that it was no longer possible to doubt the testimony of his own eyes. The heart of the man of God was penetrated with profound sorrow, and he was unable to resist the harrow- ing reflections that tormented his spirit. It may not be without utility or interest. to notice some of these reflections, which increased the violence of his great affliction. In the first 7 74 LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. place, he entertained a most chaste and sincere love for his faithful spouse, to whom, since the commencement of their union, he had devoted all the tenderness of his heart. Besides, his de- sire to serve her was augmented from day to day by the unequalled holiness and attractive manners of our blessed Lady. Our saint, there- fore, was impelled, by a desire natural to his love, to find a response to it on her part. The Lord so ordered it, that, from this same desire, the holy Joseph was still more careful to serve and respect our blessed Mistress. Thus St. Joseph fulfilled with great zeal his obligations as a most faithful husband and guard- ian of the mystery which, as yet, was hidden from him. But the more assiduous he was to serve, to honor his spouse while bearing for her a love, so pure, chaste, holy, and just, the more eager was his desire that she should reciprocate his affection. Nevertheless he did not disclose this internal conflict; either because of the re- spect produced by the humble majesty of his spouse, or because in witnessing the discreet de- portment of Mary—her sweet converse, and her more than angelic purity—the revelation would have been too painful. At the view of what was become so evident, he was lost in amazement. Still, though con: ~ LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. Q5 vinced, he would not allow his imagination tc go beyond appearances. Being a just and holy man, and seeing the fact, he suspended his judg- ment without entering into the cause. What an example for us! It is most probable that if he had been convinced of the culpability of his wife, the violence of his grief would have put an end to his existence. In the second place, his reflections reminded him that he had had no agency in this condition which was but too apparent. Dishonor was inevitable when it should become known; and, as St. Joseph was of a generous and noble heart, this apprehen- sion gave him great pain. Besides, he considered, with rare prudence, the affliction that their own infamy would bring upon them if the matter came to be divulged. But that which caused the greatest grief of all to the holy spouse, was the fear that his wife would be stoned, according to the law which ordered this punishment; for he could not make himself an accomplice to hide the crime, if it existed. All these considerations pierced the heart of St. Joseph with the deepest grief, in which he found no consolation except in the ir- reproachable conduct of his spouse. Still, on the other hand, though appearances convinced him, he could neither find means of excuse, nor even 76 LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. dare to communicate the subject of his grief to any human being. Our saint was then like one environed by the sorrows of death, and he felt the force of the words ‘Jealousy is as cruel as hell.” He would have sought some alleviation for his pains in spiritual consolation, but grief suspend- ed the powers of his soul. If his reason in- clined to follow the suspicions suggested by his senses, the reflections that he made on the tried holiness of his most wise and prudent spouse caused them to vanish like ice in the heat of the sun, or smoke before the wind. If he strove to _check the affections of his chaste love, it was im- possible, since he found his spouse always more worthy of being loved. And although the truth was concealed from him, she had more power to attract, than the seeming deception of her infi- delity to repel him. The sacred ties of love could not be rent asunder, because they reposed on the solid foundations of truth, reason, and justice. Our saint did not then judge it expedient to declare his grief to his blessed spouse: added to this, the gravity, ever equal and divinely humble, which he saw in her, did not permit him to take this hberty; for, although he saw marks s>? unequivocal, a conduct so pure and holy as hers could ill accord with infidelity, LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. "7 Such a fault could not in any manner he compat- ible with so much purity, holiness and discre- tion; nor with that assemblage of graces whose growth was each day more visible in the august Mary. In these perplexities the saintly husband ad- dressed himself to God in prayer. Placing him- self in His presence, ‘Eternal God and my Lord,” he said, “my desires and my groanings are not hidden from Thy divine Majesty. I find myself struggling with violent agitations, I have given my heart to the spouse which I received from Thy hands, I have trusted in her purity, but the strange appearances which I discover in her cast me into the most afflicting perplexity. It would be rash to think that she had been un- faithful and had offended Thee, seeing in her such great purity and so eminent a holiness. It is, nevertheless, impossible to deny the evidence of my senses, and sorrow must destroy me un- less there be here some mystery that I have not discovered. Reason exculpates, but the senses condemn her. I see plainly that she conceals from me the cause of her condition. What shall Ido? Isuspend my judgment, ignorant of the cause of what I see. Receive, O God of Abra- ham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, my sighs and my tears, as an acceptable sacrifice. I cannot believe q* 78 LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. that Mary has offended Thee; but, also, being her husband, I cannot presume the existence of any mystery of which I can be unworthy.” Saint Joseph persevered in his suyplications and united with them many other affections and prayers. He thought there must be in all this some mystery, but his humility hindered him from being assured on this point. All the rea: sons that presented themselves in favor of the ho- liness of our most sweet Lady, contributed only to persuade him that she had committed no fault. At the same time the saint never thought of her being the mother of the Messiah, for he could not have believed himself worthy to be her spouse. Sometimes he suspended his suspicions, at others appearances augmented them. Some- times he was overwhelmed by agitation; some- times in an aching calm, without power to resolve or to believe any thing. He could neither van- quish his doubts nor appease his heart, nor find that certitude of which he had so much need, to regulate his conduct and to calm his mind. And thus it was that the sufferings of the Holy Patri- arch were so cruel. They serve as evident proofs of his incomparable prudence and sanctity, and they gained him such merits before God as to render him worthy of the favors he was uw to receive. LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. "9 Through the knowledge and iafused light which she possessed, our blessed Lady saw all . that passed in the breast of St. Joseph. But, though filled with tenderness and compassion for the sufferings of her spouse, she spoke not on the subject of his pain, but contented herself to serve him with submission and exactitude, be- cause it was not proper to disclose the secret of the great King, without an express command from the Lord. During this period, while he was in ignorance of the mystery of his spouse, St. Joseph thought it his duty to maintain his superiority, yet with great moderation. In this he imitated the an- cient Patriarchs, from whom he would not de- generate, whose wives were very submissive, Although just and good, he therefore allowed himself to be served and honored by the blessed Virgin after their espousals, preserving in all things his authority as chief, which he sweet: ened by his rare humility and great prudence. And he would have had cause for this if our Lady had been like other women. On her part, the august Mary was most submissive ard obe- dient to her husband, and, although she was above all, none ever equalled her in these. She served her spouse with an incomparable respect and promptitude, and thus she gave oppor: 80 LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. tunities to our saint, while she served him at the table, or occupied herself in other domes- tic affairs, to observe her closely, and, to the great affliction of his soul, assure himself more positively of the truth. It was impossible that in her actions the signs of her condition should not be more evident, but this did not hinder her in hertasks. She desired neither to excuse nor to justify herself, because this would not have ac- corded with the truth, nor with her angelical can- dor, nor with the grandeur and generosity of her most noble heart; and the pains of St. Joseph found no alleviation. The queen of heaven could easily have alleged the truth of her irre- proachable innocence—have exculpated herself, and relieved St. Joseph of his pain by disclosing the mystery, but she would not hazard the jus- | tification of so mysterious a truth upon her own testimony, and, with great wisdom, she aban- doned herself to the Divine Providence. She strove to console and please him in all things, often asking what he would have her to do. Many times she served him on her knees, and although these loving ways might in some sort console the saintly spouse, they gave him, a!so, additional causes of affliction in considering the many motives to love and esteem her who plunged him in such perplexity. LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. 81 St. Joseph could not entirely conceal his grief: thus he often found himself pensive, sad, and in reverie. Pre-occupied by his sor- rows, he sometimes spoke to his spouse with more harshness than formerly. But this was neither from indignation nor vengeance, for he had no such thought—it was merely the effect insepara- ble from a wounded heart. Our most prudent Lady, on her part, changed nothing in her sweet - manners; on the contrary, she took greater pains than ever to comfort her spouse. She served him at table, or offered him a seat. Without doubt, this painful season was one of those which most exercised not only St. Joseph but our blessed Lady. Our incomparable queen offered continual supplications for her spouse to the Most High, that He would vouchsafe to regard and console him. In order better to understand the profound humility and the sublime wisdom of the august Mary in these circumstances, it should be understood that the Lord had not commanded her to keep the secret of the mys- tery of the incarnation. He did not even dis- close His will on this point with as much clear- ness as in other matters. It seemed that the Lord left all to the wisdom and to the divine virtues of His Elected one. Thus the divine Providence gave caccasion to a LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. the most pure Mary, and to her most faithful spouse, to exercise by heroic actions, each ac- cording to their capacity, the virtues and gifts which He had allotted them. He was pleased, thus to say, to witness the faith, the hope, the love, the humility of these upright hearts in the midst of so poignant an affliction. The Lord seemed deaf, according to our manner of speaking, for His greater glory, in order to give to the world this example of sanctity and pru- dence. He waited until the proper time to speak wascome. Let us understand from this the designs of God and His secret ways with the souls whom He cherishes, and whom He would render capable to receive His favors and His gifts. We ought to use every effort, and employ all our care to acquire efficaciously a true resigna- tion to this divine Providence. If men only knew the loving care of this Father of mercy, they would be happy to forget themselves, and cease to plunge into cares at once burden- some, useless, and dangerous. It is of the utmost importance to the creature to let himself be guided by the hand of the Lord, because men are ignorant of His operations, and the ends to which they are to be led by them. If God were susceptible of being touched like men, by pain or jealousy, He would suffer, in LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. 683 perceiving that His own creatures desire to seek the least thing in any other than himself. The Lord regards the actions of men; He corrects their faults with love; He foresees their desires ; He protects them in danger; He fortifies them in their trials; He assists them in afflictions. None can resist Him, or hinder His will. Ile executes what He can; He can execute all that He wills, and He will give himself entirely to the just who is in His grace and confides in Him alone. Who can conceive the greatness and the nature of the gifts which He pours into hearts disposed to receive them! Let us leave all to His providence, for the Most High will give us whatever is most sure and ne- eessary for our salvation. Except the pains which the august Mary endured from those which were suffered by her most Holy Son, the most severe of all her life were caused by the afflic- tions and perplexities of St. Joseph in the cir- cumstances which we have just related. 84 : LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. CHAPTER JV. THE SUSPICIONS OF ST. JOSEPH INCREASE, AN) HE RESOLVES TO LEAVE HIS SPOUSE—THE ANGEL OF THE LORD DE- _CLARES TO TIIM THE MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION. Gr JOSEPH endeavored to calm the painful agitations of his heart by doing his utmost - remove the conviction of his mind respecting the condition of his wife. But the indications which became every day more visible in her holy person served only to confirm it. The further our Lady advanced, the more amiable, vigorous, active and heansiful she became; and ba sryineii charms attracted his chaste de | without entirely allaying these conflicting c. sions. At length all hesitation was at an end ; he could no longer entertain a doubt of the evidence. His ee was conformed to the will of God; nevertheless, through the weakness of .the dosh, his spirit was exceedingly sorrowful, and nothing remained to dissipate his sadness, He felt his bodily strength diminish—and, al- LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. $5 though no particular malady manifested itself, he grew thin, and his countenance bore the marks of deep affliction. And as he preserved silence, not seeking consolation elsewhere, (as men usually do,) the sufferings of the saint were naturally more intense. The heart of the gentle Mary was penetrated by a sorrow not less profound; but she resolved to redouble her cares for the health of her spouse. She continued to conceal the mystery which she had no command to disclose, in order to honor and to preserve the secret of the celes- tial King. So far as regarded herself, she left nothing undone to promote his comfort—en- treating him to remind her of any thing which might contribute to restore his declining health. She besought him to repose himself, and to partake of some little refreshment; for it was but right to supply the wants of the body, in order to obtain strength to labor for the Lord. St. Joseph, attentive to every movement of his spouse, and sensible of the holy effects of her conversation and presence, said within him- “self: “Is it possible that a woman so holy, in whom the grace of God is so perceptible, can cast me into such perplexity? What can I find to equal her, if [ leave her? Where find censolation, if she fail me? Dut all these 8 86 LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. trouble me even less than the infamy that may result from this unhappy affair; or that I should give cause to believe that I have been the accomplice of acrime. If I make myself the author of her condition, it will be a falsehood unworthy of an honorable man, and opposed to my conscience and my reputation. In such a state of embarrassment what shall Ido? The least evil that can happen is to absent myself— to leave the house.” | Our blessed Lady, being sincerely afflicted by the resolution which her spouse’ had just taken, addressed herself to the angels of her guard, “You,” she said, “who obey with promptitude all the commands of the Lord, listen now to my prayers. Prevent my spouse, I conjure you, from executing this intention which he has made to absent himself from me.” The angels obeyed their queen, and silently con- veyed many holy inspirations to the heart of St. Joseph. They persuaded him anew of the sanctity and perfection of his spouse—that God was incomprehensible in His works, and im- penetrable in His judgments, and that He was inost faithful to those who trust in Him. The agitated spirit of St. Joseph was some- what soothed by these inspirations, although he knew not from whence they came, nor by what LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. 87 order he received them. Yet as the cause of his grief remained, he always sank again into sadness, and returned to his first resolution to desert his spouse. Then our blessed Lady ad- dressed herself directly to her Son whom she bore in her virginal bosom. “It would not be becoming,” said she, “ that thy servant should be without a husband who assists and shelters her from calumnies: do not permit him to execute his design to abandon me.” The Most High replied: ‘I will speedily console my servant Joseph, and after I shall have declared to him, through my angel, the mystery of which he is ignorant, you may speak with him concerning it. I will fill him with my spirit, and enable him to accomplish all that he should do in these mysteries. He shall aid and assist you under all circumstances.” The august Mary comprehended how im- portant it was that St. Joseph should have to endure this affliction, by which his spirit was exercised and prepared for the great charge that was to be confided to him. He had now passed two months of suffering, and, overcome by his apprehensions, he exclaimed: ‘I find no remedy for my grief but absence. I acknowledge that my spouse is perfect, but it is not possible for me to penetrate the mystery of her conditicn, 88 LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. and I will not insult her virtue by subjecting her to the penalties-of the law. I will depart forthwith.” The saint resolved to set out during the night. He therefore prepared a small packet of clothing. Having received a trifling sum of money which was due to him for work, he deter- mined to leave the house after midnight. But as he was accustomed to meditate, he reflected on the importance of the undertaking. “Great God,” he exclaimed, “of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the sorrow which breaks my heart is not hidden from Thy divine clemency. Thou knowest, besides, O Lord, (though in other things I am not free from sin,) my innocence touching the subject of my grief. I choose the lesser evil in quitting my spouse, and go to end my days in some desert, there to abandon myself entirely to the care of Thy providence. Forsake me not, for I desire only what is for Thy glory.” St. Joseph prostrated himself, and made a vow to offer at the temple of Jerusalem a part of the small sum which he had reserved for his journey, praying the Lord to defend his spouse from calumny, and preserve her from all evil. Such was the great rectitude of this man of God, and such the esteem which he preserved for our blessed Lady. After this prayer, he took a little repose, intending to depart without seeing LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. 89 her. Our blessed Lady, from her oratory, ob- served all that St. Joseph did, er proposed to do; for the Most High revealed it to her. The Divine Majesty permitted that the Blessed Virgin and her holy spouse should endure these interior sufferings, in order that, besides the merits which so long a martyrdom would pro- cure for them, the succor of the divine consola- tions should be to them more adinirable and more remarkable. The august Mary practised many virtues during this period, whereby she teaches us to hope for relief from the Most High in the greatest afflictions. And what an example is not that of St. Joseph! No one had ever stronger grounds.of suspicion, nor more of discretion to control his judgment than he. The passion of jealousy produces sharp wounds in him who is attacked by it, and no one ever felt its effects so sensibly as St. Joseph, though, in fact, there was no foundation for it, if he had but known the truth. He was endowed with a singular intelligence to penetrate the sanctity and the lovely character of his spouse. But this, in augmenting his esteem for her whom he was about to lose, augmented his sorrow to find himself necessitated to abandon her. St. Joseph was not subject to the disorders of common jealousy, in which the passions of con- S* 90 LIFE OF ST. JOSEPH. cupiscence are engaged, which neither reason nor prudence can vanquish. The jealousy of the saint arose only from the depth of his love and a conditional suspicion, viz.: whether his chaste spouse reciprocated his affection; for a pledge so dear as the affection of a wife must not be shared by any other. When love is so well founded, the chains that cement it are very strong, and the more so because there are fewer imperfections to weaken them. There was nothing in our sweet Lady which could diminish the love of her spouse. On the contrary, all that she had received from grace and from nattrre gave him new subjects every day to strengthen his affection. After the saint had offered the prayer, of which we have already made mention, he fell asleep in this sadness, which had sunk into dejection. He was sure that he should awake in time to depart at midnight, without being seen, as he thought, by his spouse. Our Lady, on her part, awaited the remedy, and earnestly sought it by her humble prayers. She was con- soled by her assurance that the pains of her spouse had now reached their highest degree— the hour of merey and consolation for that sor- rowing heart could not long tarry, and her desires would soon be accomplished. And now the