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St. Joseph, Principal Protector of the Order

St. Joseph, Principal Protector of the Order

March 19, 2024

The celebration of St. Joseph within the Carmelite Order has deep biblical origins, as he is portrayed as a righteous man receiving divine communication through dreams. His role as the guardian of the Holy Family, guiding them in their flight to and return from Egypt, connects Jesus to the lineage of David.

The veneration of St. Joseph didn't immediately hold the prominence it does today. Throughout the first millennium, there were few traces of significant theological reflection or homage to him. However, devotion to St. Joseph began to develop with the rise of the mendicant orders, particularly through the contributions of the Franciscans and Carmelites.

For Carmelites, St. Joseph's significance naturally stemmed from the Order's Marian orientation. As a member of Mary's family, he couldn't be overlooked. Medieval legends, inspired by the Apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo Matthew, even suggest connections between the Holy Family and the descendants of the prophet Elijah living on Mount Carmel.

The Carmelite tradition gradually incorporated liturgical celebrations dedicated to St. Joseph. By the 15th century, there were specific Masses and Divine Offices honoring him. The Carmelite liturgy revered St. Joseph as the spouse of Mary, emphasizing their union through contemplation and presenting him as the protector of her virginity and the earthly father of Jesus.

This ancient liturgy highlighted Joseph's purity and obedience to God, viewing him as a worthy master entrusted with the responsibility of naming the child, Jesus, thus becoming the first herald of our salvation. St. Joseph embodied Carmelite spirituality: purity of heart enabling vision of God, union with Mary, and the mystical life's fruitfulness symbolized by the conception and birth of the incarnate Word in a pure soul.

Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church in 1847, and John XXIII included his name in the Roman Canon, emphasizing his crucial role in the Church's life.

The Carmelite tradition has deeply revered St. Joseph, recognizing his pivotal role in the spiritual life, intertwining his virtues with the Order's contemplative and mystical path.

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