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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 



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: ~ 


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 


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 

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, 


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 

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 



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. 


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: 


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. 


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 


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 


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. 




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- 


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 



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 


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, 


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 


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- 



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 

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 



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