“Oh my Mother, it is to your heart that I come to lay down the anguish of my heart; it is there that I draw strength and courage.” (Saint Bernadette Soubirous).
Today is the Feast Day of Saint Joseph and – in preparation for this great day – I have been reflecting on the seven sorrows of Saint Joseph over the last few weeks. I have known that Our Blessed Mother’s heart was pierced by seven swords and that she bore seven sorrows, but I had not really thought very much about the sorrows of Saint Joseph, until I read Father Donald Calloway’s “Consecration to Saint Joseph” last year, during the year of Saint Joseph. And since learning about them, I have been unable to remove them from my mind.
The seven sorrows of Saint Joseph are linked to the various events in the life of Christ, around whose life Saint Joseph’s own life revolved…
The first sorrow is the doubt of Saint Joseph (Matt. 1:19), when Saint Joseph was confused about his role in Christ’s life and thought to divorce Our Blessed Mother quietly. The second sorrow is the poverty of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:7), which Saint Joseph accepted as the Will of God, despite his earthly desire to provide for his family. The third sorrow is the Circumcision of Christ (Luke 2:21), where his blessed foster Child bled and suffered, foreshadowing His eventual Passion and death. The fourth sorrow is the prophecy of Simeon when Saint Joseph heard the prophesy delivered to his chaste spouse and knew that she would suffer (Luke 2:34). This fifth sorrow is the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt (Matt. 2:14). The sixth sorrow is the return of the Holy Family from Egypt (Matt. 2:22). And the seventh sorrow of Saint Joseph is the loss of the Child Jesus (Luke 2:45).
And I have been reflecting on the very HUMAN experience of this HUMAN man in bearing these seven sorrows. After all, Saint Joseph felt those sorrows as a man! He felt the confusion that so many new husbands and fathers feel at negotiating their role in their family’s life. He knew the longing to provide for his family and to be unable to give them all the comforts that he desired. He knew the sorrow of watching his Child (and also his Holy spouse) suffering and his utter powerlessness to heal their pain. He knew the sorrow of migration and the turmoil of trying to protect his family in a world where dangers lurked in every place.
And as I really think about those sorrows, I can see that the seven sorrows of Saint Joseph are really my own seven sorrows – and your sorrows too. I have experienced the sorrows of confusion, poverty (or fear of poverty), pain, powerlessness and an inability to protect my loved ones from pain. And if you really think about it, such sorrows are overwhelming!
They are overwhelming – that is – until you realise that God also gave Saint Joseph SEVEN JOYS!
The first joy is when Saint Joseph received the message of the Angel and was able to marry his Chaste Spouse and live with her as her protector (Matt. 1:20). The second joy is the birth of the Saviour (Luke 2:10-11). The third joy is the Holy Name of Jesus (Matt. 1:25). The fourth joy is the effects of the Redemption (Luke 2:38). The fifth joy is the overthrow of the idols of Egypt (Is. 19:1). The sixth joy is life with Jesus and Mary at Nazareth (Luke 2:39). And the seventh joy is the finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:46).
And just as Saint Joseph’s sorrows have been mine – and yours too – so too are Saint Joseph’s joys, my joys and yours…
You see, when I am inspired to love and adore my Beloved, that is a joy. When I witness the Salvation offered by Christ, that is a joy. When I proclaim the Holy Name of Christ, that is a joy. When I have trust in the Sacred Act of Redemption, that is a joy. When I see my God as the God of all, that is a joy. When I experience Christ in my life, that is a joy. And when I find my Beloved – or more correctly when He finds me – well, that is the greatest joy of all!
And it occurs to me as I reflect on those seven sorrows and seven joys, what a gift they really are – just for me, twenty centuries after the Holy Family experienced them – because they remind me that for every sorrow that God allows, God provides us a joy. And the JOYS are so much greater than the sorrows, just as our ETERNAL JOY – God Himself – is so much greater than anything else!
And knowing this, I can call out to Saint Joseph, and to His Holy Spouse, my Blessed Mother, as Saint Bernadette Soubirous called out to the Blessed Virgin, “Oh my Mother, it is to your heart that I come to lay down the anguish of my heart; it is there that I draw strength and courage.”
For inside the sorrows of their hearts, God placed great joy… And from that JOY I draw great courage and strength! Through Grace and no merit of my own…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.