Before I was confirmed in the Catholic Church, I never anticipated how comforting I would find the intercession of the saints. For me at the time, it was nice to know that the saints do pray for us and intercede on behalf of the Church. But when times become trying and you need a lot of trust in God, the saints can become integral in the peace that one knows in the midst of the craziness. My husband and I are grateful to have families and church family who help us and offer us advice. When we do not know what to do or get stuck in some situation, we all naturally turn to people we can trust. It is this way with God, and it can be this way with the saints in heaven, too.
There are many decisions my husband and I have had to make recently, and more decisions to be made in the future, along with some unexpected things that have come up in the midst of this discerning. Through all of this, it is easy to become overwhelmed and anxious. Often, this is my response. But by the grace of God, He has granted me peace and help to not worry quite so much (though I know I still have a long way to go). Again and again, my husband and I have been in situations not knowing what will happen, but always, God has taken care of us and provided us with what we need, and I am confident He will do it again and is doing it this very moment. And part of the way He provides us with what we need is through the intercession of the saints.
We are people created for community. As such, He gave us the Church. He gave us the church on earth—the church militant—and the church in heaven—the church triumphant. Both are integral to strengthening our faith on earth, increasing our hope, and enflaming our love. We are not meant to live in isolation. We are meant to live in community with the Church in our time and the Church throughout time, and that includes the saints in heaven. In his memoir, An Immovable Feast, Tyler Blanski writes of coming to understand the communion of saints:
Jesus loves the Father with all his heart and he loves his neighbor as himself. And if the baptized faithful who have passed through death are alivein Christ, wouldn’t they do what Christ does? Wouldn’t they join the Son in bringing glory to the Father and interceding for man? In Revelation, John saw the saints in heaven offering to God the prayers of the saints on earth (5:8; cf. 6:9-10). The righteous in heaven can and do intercede for us, and “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (Jas 5:16). (192)
Even after death, those who love Christ and are joined to Him are invested in the lives of others who are trying to make it home to heaven. They do not cease to love their fellow human beings; rather, loving their neighbors and looking to Christ for His help, they continue to work in the lives of those on earth according to the gifts God has given them.
Mary has been a huge help to me, and I have written about her increasing role in my life which has coincided (not coincidentally) with the great growth in my relationship with her Son, Jesus. Now, I can say that I have additionally found great comfort in the intercession of St. Joseph. Looking at this foster father, I see a man of great character who provides everything his family needs in very trying and desperate times. I see a man who offers protection in quite dangerous situations. This man is a provider and a protector. Our Father in heaven ordained that this man would be the father of His Son on earth, and He offered him supernatural grace to accomplish a most difficult task—to become the husband of a virgin mother and the father of a son wanted dead from the time he was born. And in the midst of poverty he made a way to provide for his family’s needs. Furthermore, St. Joseph actually taught Jesus, the very Son of God. He directed and guided him, even was an authority to Jesus as his earthly guardian.
So what does any of this about St. Joseph’s relationship to his family—the Virgin Mother and the Son of God—have to do with us? St. Teresa of Avila wrote of him in her autobiography, “I know by experience that this glorious saint helps in all. For His Majesty wishes to teach us that, as He was Himself subject to him on earth – for having the title of father, though only his guardian, St Joseph could command him – so in heaven the Lord does what he asks” (47-8). When I first read this statement by St. Teresa, I was struck by it and still this understanding of St. Joseph has stuck with me. Our Lord asks us to humble ourselves before God and our neighbors. We often think of Jesus humbling Himself by becoming a human being, but He even went so far as to humble himself in obedience to a human father, and continues in heaven to offer him such respect and love as to do the same in heaven.
None of this is to say that we cannot ask our Father in heaven to provide what we need. Of course we ought to do this. We ask Him to do this often when we pray “give us this day our daily bread” as Jesus taught us. But even as we pray this, we tell our family and friends our needs, even asking for help. And God wills that we are provided for by the hands of our neighbors. So too, God ordains that we are provided for through the prayers and intercessions of Jesus’ own foster father who cares for us as he cared for his wife and son on earth. St. Joseph was a guardian, a provider, and a protector when he lived on earth, and so he remains today in heaven as he intercedes for us, going to his son asking in love that He grant us what we need.
Such love God offers us! Not only does He provide us a superabundance of His own unending love, but he grants us a whole community of brothers and sisters in the saints in heaven—friends in the Church triumphant who love us and desire our good. He grants us so much more than we could ever imagine. Just when we think Jesus could not offer any more to us, still he offers us ever more by giving us His friends to be ours.