The figure of Joseph of Nazareth is as sympathetic as he is popular. Today thousands of devotees and admirers follow him, pray to him, invoke him. But it was not always so.
Perhaps few today remember who was the promoter of this unique devotion so forgotten for centuries: St. Teresa of Jesus, the wanderer of God, the great mystic of Carmel. Miraculously cured by him of an irreversible paralysis at the age of twenty-five, she remained so grateful to him all her life, so fond of him, that she placed almost all her foundations under his patronage, celebrating his memory with a great feast.
The Discalced Carmelites of the first Teresian foundation have long experience of this. St. Joseph of Avila is the first monastery in the world to have the holy Patriarch as its titular. We have always considered him the master, the father, the owner, the protector, and our mouths are full when naming him with that endearing invocation, so typical of the Order of Carmel: Our Father St. Joseph. It is even recounted in the canonization processes of the saint how, among the first discalced women, it was not uncommon for them to sometimes feel him walking among them. Her feast has always been celebrated in this monastery with great enthusiasm and solemnity.
As for images, there are two in our convent that have a peculiar history. The one on the façade, the work of Giraldo de Merlo, which represents the saint holding the Infant Jesus by the hand -who in turn holds a carpenter's saw in his hand- was a personal gift from King Philip III. And the one that presides over the altarpiece of our church -from the school of Manuel Pereira- was canonically crowned at the end of the IV Centenary of the Teresian Reform in 1963, and is one of the only two images of Saint Joseph crowned in Spain.
Devotions and other practices of piety have never been lacking in our community, such as the Seven Sundays, the recitation of his sorrows and joys on the 19th day of each month. or the Month of St. Joseph, being constant nourishment for our prayer life. In our community there is the custom, on the first day of March, to place on the altar of the choir, under a beautiful image of the saint, a case that serves as a pedestal where the sisters introduce their petitions in the form of a personal letter with this address: N. P. S. José. El Cielo. In them we express to the holy Patriarch the intentions that we carry deepest in our hearts, echoing also the needs of the whole world, among which stand out those of our relatives, friends and devotees who ask us to entrust them to us.
But perhaps where this endearing love for the father of Jesus is most evident is in the constant recourse to his father. In a year of severe and persistent drought, the sisters made a procession through the orchard, each one carrying a picture of St. Joseph. In a year of severe and persistent drought, the sisters made a procession through the orchard, each one carrying a picture of St. Joseph (in all the cells we have a very simple one) and obtained the desired rain.
It happens to all of us, When we began our novitiate in this convent, we noticed something very special about the figure of St. Joseph.. Other saints - be they of the Carmelite Order or those of the universal Church - are loved, prayed to and given as gifts. But with N. P. S. Joseph we all have a trust and a predilection that can only be compared to the love for Christ and his Blessed Mother. For us, St. Joseph is as if he were a kind father to whom we all turn when other resources fail. His image always presides in the altar of the choir and even when we place another image because it is a feast of another devotion, we always add a small image or a small picture so that St. Joseph is never missing.
As for more spiritual aspects, there is no doubt that the example and presence of St. Joseph have profoundly marked the history of the community. As the Saint says in her writings: "Let us be somewhat like our King, who had no home except in the portal of Bethlehem where he was born and the cross where he died. These were houses where one could have little recreation" (Road to Perfection 2, 9). Or, as St. Peter of Alcantara added when he contemplated the first dovecote, on the eve of his foundation: "Truly this house of St. Joseph is proper, because it represents to me the little hospice of Bethlehem". St. Joseph has always been like the little house of Nazareth, a poor convent, small, silent, with little noise. When one reads the biographical sketches of our ancient mothers - of some of them very little is known - one realizes that they all followed this humble path, without glitter, without exteriority. Just like the great saint of silence, the saint without prominence who was N. P. S. Joseph. There is nothing in this house that calls the attention, but a life of prayer, work, obedience and joy as the life of the Holy Family of Jesus could have been. Here there are no flashy things, no extraordinary events, but the sanctification of everyday life to the rhythm of the Gospel, in that quiet and hidden heroism that forges the saints who will never ascend to the altars, but who are no less saints for that. And that style of life is, without a doubt, the one that Our Blessed Mother dreamed for us, following in the footsteps of the Father of Christ.
N. P. S. Joseph is the Father and Protector of our monastery. He is the one who gets us out of trouble, the one who serves as our salvation in the face of any serious or minor need. He is our model of virtues and the best teacher of prayer. This is your house. That is why we know that he takes good care of it and that, in four and a half centuries, he has never allowed anything to happen that could seriously harm the community. The great Saint already said, when she narrated the foundation of St. Joseph of Avila: "He (St. Joseph) would keep us at one door and our Lady at the other" (Life 32, 11).
We thank Pope Francis for his precious inspiration to dedicate a year to St. Joseph. We hope that many will take advantage of the graces of this Jubilee year and that love for this great saint will grow.
Discalced Carmelites St. Joseph of Avila