Catholic Masterpieces V: The Altar of St. Joseph
This installment of Catholic Masterpieces is actually about an entire altar dedicated to St. Joseph. It is located in the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, which is located in Turin, Italy. It was built by St. John Bosco as "a monument to the Virgin Mary... [and] as the mother church and spiritual centre of Salesian Congregation." St. John Bosco was also the founder of the Salesians.
An acquaintance of mine was in Europe during the last week of October, and he brought back holy cards of the painting over the altar. He gave one to me, and the others to some colleagues of mine.
The altar itself was built in the traditional configuration. It is set against a wall of the basilica, and is "framed" by classical pilasters (the flat "columns") of the Corinthian style. Above the altar is a large painting of the Holy Family, who are depicted in a cloud above the Basilica, as it was in 1869. The depiction is based on a vision St. John Bosco had during his life. St. Joseph appears in the center of the painting, holding the Child Jesus. The Child is shown giving St. Joseph red and white roses. It appears that St. Joseph has taken the other roses and has thrown them toward the earth. St. John Bosco explained that "the white and red roses are the graces God gives us: even the red roses, accompanied by pain, suffering and sacrifices, come from God, and they are the best."
Mary stands beside Jesus and St. Joseph, with her hands folded as in prayer. She glances toward the two of them, showing her "motherly approval." Above the Holy Family are two angels holding a scroll with the following inscription: "Ite ad Joseph" ("Go to Joseph"). These are the words of Pharoah, in Genesis 41:55, to the people who came to him in need during a famine. The Catholic Church has applied these words, which refer to the Joseph of the Old Testament, to St. Joseph. Joseph, son of Jacob, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, was raised by Pharoah to one of the highest positions in the land of Egypt. In a similar matter, God raised the lowly carpenter St. Joseph, a descendant of Jacob, to be "the man closest to Christ" - his earthly father and guardian. The Church directs the faithful to "have recourse to St. Joseph in all their spiritual and temporal necessities," just as Pharoah directed those in need to his servant Joseph.
May we have we recourse to St. Joseph in all of our needs.
St. Joseph, ora pro nobis!