As the heir of a rich tradition of veneration and devotion to St. Joseph in Carmel, St. Teresa of Jesus would give more breadth and depth to the tradition, to the great benefit of Carmel and of the universal Church. Indeed, it is undeniable that more than any other, Teresa of Jesus made devotion to Joseph one of the elements that characterizes the spiritual identity of Carmel.
Her encounter with St. Joseph came about in one of the darkest periods in her life. She was about twenty-five years old. She had been suffering from a painful and endless illness, and the doctors had not only not cured her but made her worse. She was paralysed and worn out, both physically and psychologically.
She felt that she was alone, without anybody to help her, when as if she felt something inside pushing her, she turned to St. Joseph as her “lord and father” (The Book of Her Life, ch. 6, no. 6; ch. 33, no. 12). For the rest of her life, Joseph would remain for her and her work as the custodian and protector, taking her out of every difficulty that came her way.
From being only a personal devotion, her devotion to Joseph would become in time a feature of the Teresian Reform centred on friendship with Jesus Christ. Just as Joseph watched over the relationship between Jesus and Mary, defending it from dangers from outside and protecting the home where they dwelt, likewise, he would watch over the Carmels that just like the family of Nazareth were intended to be places in which the humanity of Jesus would find a home, and Carmelites would live only for that end.
For this reason, Joseph is not only a patron, but also the master of all who practice prayer, (The Book of Her Life, ch. 6, no. 8) because there is no one who knows more than he what it means to live a life of intimacy with Jesus and Mary, because of the many years he lived with them and the way in which he made possible their life as a family in Nazareth. It is no surprise therefore that ten out of the fifteen Carmelite monasteries that Teresa herself founded bore the name of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph, Patron of Carmel
Míċeál O’Neill, O.Carm.
Saverio Cannistrà, O.C.D.
St. Joseph, Patron of Carmel is a letter from the Prior General, O.Carm. and Superior General, O.C.D. to the Carmelite Family on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. We present this excerpt from the section, “St. Teresa and St. Joseph”. You can read the entire letter here or here. Our featured image comes to us through the kind permission of the Discalced Carmelite Secretary for Communications. It is a detail of an 18th century anonymous oil on canvas painting of the patronage of St. Joseph over the Carmel bearing his name in Ávila, Spain. The work is part of the collection of the Convento de San Joaquín, Mexico City.