His Preeminence in the Order of Carmel
Since the very origins of Carmel, there has existed a veiled yet real devotion to St. Joseph. The first hermits were attracted to Palestine, the land of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; when they had to flee because of persecution and take refuge in Europe, they brought a personal and local devotion for St. Joseph with them. The Carmelites were the first to have a proper Office in honour of St. Joseph, and it is also the most beautiful. From the first antiphon to the last it represents the Saint in all the splendour of his Glory. This Office shows that devotion to St. Joseph was firmly established, long before St. Teresa of Avila lived. Yet she did much to make this devotion popular, as it overflowed into her life and through her writings.
St. Teresa, the founder of the Reform of Carmel, was gifted as few others with the charism of friendship. Not only did she get along well with people but she also had a personal friendship with many saints. But St. Joseph was special. She wrote, “However numerous may be your Patron Saints, always rank St. Joseph first, for he has great power with God.” (Maxims) She came to know his power personally when as a young nun she prayed to him to cure her of her paralysis. Her devotion to him was full of affection, veneration and confidence. She came to realize that he is a Saint full of goodness and power and she related to him as to a father and Lord. The more she asked of him, the more he gave. As a result she made St. Joseph the founder of the Reform and of her foundations, just as Carmel recognizes the most holy Virgin Mary as its foundress. St. Teresa wrote, “One day after Communion, God made great promises to me that this new monastery…should be called St. Joseph’s and that this saint would watch over us at one door, and Our Lady at the other, and that Christ would remain with us.”
St. Teresa, writing from personal experience says, “Especially persons of prayer should always be attached to him…Anyone who cannot find a master to teach him prayer should take this glorious saint for his master, and he will not go astray.”
The Popes found a powerful helper in the propagation of the cult of St. Joseph in the famous Carmelite Reform. Many other Carmelites have also honoured St. Joseph. One near to our time is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and she wrote, “Oh good St. Joseph! Oh, how I love him! And in Heaven we will see and sing his glory.”
The liturgical feast day of St. Joseph is March 19th.