I feel called to post about St Joseph on the eve of Wednesday, the day dedicated to him, thus I’m trying to give fresh perspectives on him, well fresh for me at least, I am grappling slowly with the study of the sublime Joseph. This week I felt moved to write about St Joseph and Holy Michael the Archangel as each having a special status in Heaven yet each having similar and complementary roles. It dawned on me that St Joseph is the highest of all the Saints, and St Michael is the highest of all the angels. Saint and angel are in a class of their own. If we understand their rank, we can understand their influence and their power to help us. And having some knowledge of the high echelons that Joseph and Michael hold may elevate them in our hearts and in our minds and increase our love for them.
St Joseph’s uniquely high place was revealed to St Gertrude the Great who was given extraordinary visions of Heaven. First Gertrude was shown that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most powerful after God the Father, most wise after the Son and most benign after the Holy Ghost. While Our Lady is Queen of the Saints, of all her subjects, he who was her husband on earth is the one to whom all other saints defer. Gertrude saw all Heaven enjoy a celebration, a party if you will, of the time Jesus became the foster child of Joseph. At the name of Joseph, all the Saints bowed profoundly before him and Gertrude saw that they rejoiced in Joseph’s “exalted dignity”.
Of all men and women born with the stain of original sin who have risen to sainthood in Heaven, Joseph has the highest place in Heaven. Joseph occupies a singular place between the Virgin Mary and all the rest of the company of saints. In accordance with Joseph’s exceptional status, we are called to give him a special type of homage that he and only he may be given. This devotion is called “protodulia”, and while “proto” means first, “dulia” comes from the Greek word “douleia” for servitude. Every other saint under Joseph may be reverenced only with “dulia”, but not “protodulia” which is reserved for Joseph to signify that he is first among saints. Unlike Joseph, Michael the Archangel is not given protodulia, but nonetheless he is the best in his class.
While St Joseph was born a man, a composite of body and soul, St Michael as an angel was created as pure spirit. In the litany to him, Michael is hailed as “fairest of all angels”, and it was foremost expert on exorcism, Adam Blai who explained that St Michael is acknowledged as the highest angel even by demons! In the book, The Grandeurs of Saint Michael the Archangel, we learn that Michael is elevated above all angels because the excellence of his nature, his charity, his cooperation with grace, his extraordinary glory, his faith, his hope, his love towards Mary the Mother of God, his love of God and for the greatness of his care towards his fellow angels who are good spirits like him but are led by him because he is superior. The Grandeurs of St Michael is a wondrous book and champions the beauty of St Michael’s nature, “who will be able to comprehend how beautiful is his nature, which surpasses the one of all angels!”
Most importantly, Michael is awarded the top spot among angels because of “his dignity and honors”. In that decisive moment, when the angels decided their eternal destiny, and Lucifer rebelled, it was Michael who thrust him out of Heaven. When Michael rid paradise of the infernal spirit who wanted to take the place of God, Michael earned his place as the highest angel.
Both St Michael and St Joseph have great authority over the evil spirits and also complementary roles in waging spiritual warfare against the fallen angels for our sake. St Joseph is the terror of demons while St Michael is “sworn enemy of the servants of satan”. St Michael is fighting demons on a different basis; he is the best angel against all bad angels. St Joseph fights them as one who was once a man and a husband, who had to discover them as we discover them, who had to fight them more like we fight them, as the destroyers of peace and the enemies of salvation. St Joseph had to fight the devil and his minions during an entire lifetime, Michael had only one opportunity when he decided his eternal destiny in an instant when he fought Lucifer with all his strength. Michael is both angel and saint, and as a saint he defers to Joseph, as all saints do, but as an angel he is in a category all of his own.
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This post from Mary’s Blog was informed by The Life and Revelations of St Gertrude the Great, Adam Blai’s The Catholic Guide to Miracles and Father Marcel Bouzon’s The Grandeurs of Saint Michael the Archangel.