Joseph Begins to Walk and Speak - Part 2
Even though he was still so very young, Joseph was never occupied with childish things. He never asked to be allowed to play with other children of his age, but preferred to remain in seclusion within his own home. He either busied himself with the reading of the Scriptures, or he prayed; never did he squander his time.1 To his parents he rendered a prompt obedience. As for recreation, this consisted entirely in glancing frequently heavenwards, where he knew his God resided; to Him he would then dispatch, amid ardent sighs, petitions for an early arrival of the promised Messiah.
Joseph had a great veneration for the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as for the prophet David. He often asked his father to tell him the stories of their lives. His father responded to his pleas and narrated portions of their life histories, for a time devoting himself to one, and then, in like manner, to the others. Joseph had the desire to imitate them when he saw how they were loved and specially privileged by God. After listening attentively through the narrative, he would remark: "Indeed, these were the friends and favorites of God; we must imitate them in their virtues."
When he heard his father relate how Abraham had always lived in the presence of God, as the Most High Himself had commanded him to do if he wished to be perfect, Joseph was determined, insofar as was possible, to imitate him. And verify, Joseph had already acquired by the time he reached the age of seven, a true appreciation of all the virtues that the patriarchs had practiced. To the extent that it lay within his power, he applied himself to imitate them in their faith, their hope, and their love for God, and so advanced steadily in virtue, and became ever more pleasing to God.
Again, when Joseph heard how King David had rendered praise to God in a special manner, seven times daily, he wanted to do the same. He petitioned his angel to wake him up at night so that he could praise his Creator even during the night hours. Joseph knew by heart various prayers of praise to God. He would repeat these often throughout the day and night, with great joyfulness of spirit. God, in turn, was most generous in granting him additional illuminations, and His gifts, in greater profusion.
While he was reciting these prayers of praise, Joseph was inclined to be so fired with love for God, that he would often open up the window of his room, even during the night, and while standing there gazing upwards toward heaven, he would give full vent to his longing and cry out: "Oh, what joy awaits the man who is destined to see with his own eyes the promised Messiah! Oh, what bliss for those who shall be privileged to serve Him and associate with Him! Oh, what a glorious and happy lot shall be theirs!"
He made these remarks with such an ardor of love that for the longest time he would be completely oblivious to the things of this world. At the same time, he was inspired with an intense yearning to be able to serve the Messiah and render unto Him highest honor and perfect obedience. Joseph's heart contained an ardent love for his fellow-man. He wanted to help everyone.
He frequently expressed to his parents his desire that they bestow alms generously on the poor without giving any thought to the idea of saving anything for him, for he himself preferred to be poor if others could thereby be delivered from want. His parents readily responded to these desires of his, and continued to bestow alms very generously.
Joseph, now seven years of age, continued on in this way, and preserved undiminished the luster of his innocence, so much so, that he never caused the slightest displeasure to his parents. All his actions were exceedingly pleasing to God. He had a special love for holy purity, for God had in a wonderful manner, infused into his soul the love for this virtue. His angel recommended it to him, telling him how extremely precious it was to God, so that he was all the more drawn to it, and was determined to preserve it all his life.2
In order that he might be better able to accomplish this, he implored God for the necessary graces, and resolved to shun all dangerous occasions, so that the resplendence of this virtue would not be diminished. The success he achieved was largely due to the fact that he made every conceivable effort to maintain a strict guard over his senses, especially his eyes which he generally kept cast down except when directed upward towards heaven.
From the expression in his eyes, one could see how profound his purity of soul and body really was. He gave one the impression of being an angel in mortal flesh. This preternatural appearance was especially noticeable after Joseph came from those intervals of prayer in which he had been all alone with his God, and in intimate communion with Him.
On these occasions the souls of Joseph's parents would abound with extraordinary consolations and with reverential love for their son. They realized more and more what a treasure, what a gift from heaven he was. They did not refrain from exercising their parental authority over him; they tested him often, to see whether he would heed their admonitions. However, Joseph was always perfectly obedient.
Joseph was very much inclined towards fasting and a generally austere way of life. But when his parents forbade anything, he submitted to their will completely. Whenever he wished to fast and make night vigils, he would ask for their permission with such submissiveness that it seemed almost impossible to refuse him. He had a captivating attitude and manner about him! Hence, when they had to deny him these penances, they were not able to do so without experiencing a definite pang, for it was most difficult for them to refuse him anything.
His father often gave Joseph money to distribute as alms to beggars. Joseph would accept the coins with effusive thanks, as if they had been given to him for himself. He would quickly distribute them among the poor, and never kept back anything for his own use. Whenever he saw a poor man approaching, he would hurriedly go to his mother and beg her for an alms, just as humbly as if he wanted it for himself. His mother marveled at this virtuousness of her son, and was most generous in giving him money.
The mere sight of a poor person was enough to depress Joseph, but just as soon as he was able to render some assistance, he quickly cheered up. Joseph's eagerness to practice this virtue of liberality towards the poor and also all the other virtues, stemmed largely from the fact that his angel had made it clear to him how precious and how pleasing they were in the sight of God.
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