As thousands prepare to consecrate themselves on March 19th (Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary) and others prepare for the second consecration beginning March 30th and ending May 1st (Feast of St. Joseph the Worker) let us contemplate the power of our spiritual father St. Joseph and his mighty “Staff” which is a prefiguration of the cross.
In the history of salvation, God gave a staff to the patriarchs of Israel to be the instrument of His power. Through it, GOD performed great signs and wonders. According to the Rabbinic Jewish tradition, Midrash Yelammedenu (Yalḳ. on Ps. ex. § 869) states,
“The staff with which Jacob crossed the Jordan is identical with that which Judah gave to his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Gen.32:10, 38:18). It is likewise the holy staff with which Moses worked (Ex.4:20,21), with which Aaron performed wonders before Pharaoh (Ex.7:10), and with which, finally, David slew the giant Goliath (I Sam.17:40). David left it to his descendants, and the Davidic kings used it as a scepter until the destruction of the Temple, when it miraculously disappeared. When the Messiah comes it will be given to him for a scepter in token of his authority over the heathen.”
Biblically, the staff is one of the weapons God gave to his chosen people to defeat Satan from the beginning of time. So, let’s connect St. Joseph’s staff to the Old Testament staff. In Hebrew 9:4, St. Paul mentions Aaron’s ancient staff,
“The ark of the covenant entirely covered with gold. In it were the gold jar containing the manna, the staff of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant.”
Jewish tradition says the staff was created to be passed on to all the patriarchs from Adam, Shem, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph, David, and finally to “Joseph, Son of David (Mt.1:20)” as a sign of God’s power and authority because the Ineffable Name of God was engraved upon it.
Jewish tradition says God gave it to Adam as a sign of His authority and protection when he was put out the garden as when he placed a sign (Gn. 4:15) on Cain that he would be protected when he walked among the people lest he be killed.
We read about the staff when Jacob says, “I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan (Gn.32:10),” and in the Letter of Paul to the Hebrews, Jacob uses his staff to bless Joseph’s sons,
“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff (11:21).”
Likewise, the same staff is later mentioned when Moses and Aaron worked 15 powerful miraculous signs and wonders before Pharaoh and the Hebrews. Later, the staff is used to rescue the Hebrews by parting the Red Sea, to strike the Rock for water to flow (Ex.17:5-7), and finally with arms and staff raised high Moses defeated the Amalekites (Ex.17:9).
The Lord himself reminds Moses concerning this staff as a sign of the previous generations who carried it in Exodus 4:2-5,
“What is that in thine hand? And he said, A staff. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.”
Joshua received the staff from Moses which he used in battle (Jos.8:18), and later, we read how David slew the giant Goliath with staff in hand,
“Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones (I Sam.17:40).”
The staff is then used by the Davidic Kings as a scepter until the destruction of the temple when it mysteriously disappears as does the Ark of the Covenant; however, a prophecy in Isaiah 11:1 tells of the staff’s return,
“And there shall come forth a rod (staff) out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.”
Jewish tradition says that it was buried in the Garden of Gethsemane until it was revealed to St. Joseph. (Similar to when a hidden sword was revealed to St. Joan of Arc by St. Michael the Archangel.)
Now going back a little to connect St. Joseph’s staff to Aaron’s staff to Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Mary is,
“The Daughter of Zion in person, The Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells.” (2676)
Analogically, we read in Number 17:4-5 where the Lord says to place everyone’s staff and the staff of Aaron next to the first Ark of the Covenant which was a prefiguration of Mary to see which will sprout and blossom,
“Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the Ark of the Covenant law, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout… The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds… The Lord said to Moses, ‘Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Ark of the Covenant law.’”
Keep in mind Aaron’s staff is, also, a prefiguration of St. Joseph’s staff as it, too, is placed by the Ark of the Covenant.
Amazingly in a vision, Ven. Mary of Agreda in Mystical City of God sees St. Joseph’s staff blossom next to the Mary, the real Ark of the Covenant, in preparation for the betrothal ceremony,
“While they were thus engaged in prayer the staff which Joseph held was seen to blossom and at the same time a dove of purest white and resplendent with admirable light, was seen to descend and rest upon the head of the saint, while in the interior of his heart God spoke: ‘Joseph, my servant, Mary shall be thy Spouse; accept Her with attentive reverence, for She is acceptable in my eyes, just and most pure in soul and body, and thou shalt do all that She shall say to Thee.’ At this manifestation and token from heaven the priests declared Saint Joseph as the spouse selected by God himself for the maiden Mary.”
Likewise, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich sees, “Joseph…and his staff with a crook at the top” plus blossoming while the staff of the other descendants of David do not blossom,
“I saw the end of St. Joseph’s staff with its blossom, whereby the lot had fallen upon him in the Temple to become Mary’s spouse.”
Similarly, the Benedictine mystic Sister Maria Cecilia Baij, whose visions and writings on St. Joseph, Pope Benedict XV encouraged its publication, saw in a vision,
“Our Joseph had purposely chosen a very unobtrusive spot as being more befitting of his unworthiness. Then, suddenly, he saw his staff begin to sprout and become bedecked with snow-white blossoms! Everyone around him was soon staring wonderfully at this miraculous sign.”
Mary of Agreda refers to the staff as “the wonder-working staff of miracles and prodigies” or as God says to Moses, “And take this staff in thy hand, wherewith thou shalt do the signs (Ex.4:17).”
The staff is also a prefiguration of the cross when God says to Moses to place a bronze serpent on the staff (Num. 21:8) and those that look upon it will be healed. Ven. Mary of Agreda explains that the staff and the cross are closely linked even today,
“He [God] worked great wonders with the staff of Moses, which prefigured the cross on which the incarnate Word was to be sacrificed as the Lamb, as salvation to many, a ruin to others (Lk.2:34). It was like the staff of Moses, and like the Red Sea, the waves of which shielded the people and annihilated the Egyptians. Thus, he filled the live of the saints with joys and sorrows, with hardships and with comforts; with infinite wisdom and providence.”
Similarly, the Church Father, Origen explains concerning Exodus chapter 7,
“This staff of Moses, with which he subdued the Egyptians, is the symbol of the cross of Jesus, who conquered the world.”
This prophecy concerning the staff of authority to rule the nations is further mentioned in the Book of Revelation,
“She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne (12:4-5).”
Today, we see the prophecy of Jesus ruling with an iron rod through our bishops who still carry a staff (crosier) as a sign of God’s authority and rule as King of kings even on this earth. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich even sees the staff of the early apostles (bishops).
“I saw the Apostles and disciples arrive mostly in a very tired condition. They had long staffs with crooks and knobs of different shapes in their hands which showed their rank.”
Interestingly, the staff (crosier) is given to a bishop at his ordination. The bishop holds the staff with the open side of the crook facing the people while processing, listening to the gospel, preaching, accepting vows, the profession of faith, during confirmation, and during the triple blessing of the people at the end of mass reminding us of the prophet Micah,
“Shepherd your people with your staff (7:14).”
Finally, may God, through St. Joseph’s staff destroy the evil Coronavirus. Let us not fear but totally entrust and consecrate ourselves to St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, putting our faith in the words of King David,
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)