Where did this come from?
It is even physically heavy.
We speak here about the book, The Life of Saint Joseph, as manifested by Our Lord to Abbess Maria Cecilia Baӱ of the Benedictine Convent in Montefiascone, Italy.
Her revelations -- as powerful and detailed, to our eyes, as those of Anne Catherine Emmerich and Maria of Agreda -- virtually take us into the life and mind and mission of this otherwise -- but now rising -- saint, whose day, as "worker" (5/1/17), coincidentally is today.
The book has at least five imprimaturs and nihil obstats, from the Archdiocese of Chicago to Germany.
In 1920, we have come to learn, Pope Benedict XV himself not only indicated approval for this work but urged its publication -- rare insomuch as this is intense mysticism, real revelation: if not to be constantly taken as literal biography, certainly valuable as one that spiritually takes us two thousand years back, from Saint Joseph's youth through the birth of Our Savior and to the saint's own holy death, as if standing next to him.
It was a holy, miraculous life from the very start -- and if Abbess Maria is right, Saint Joseph's dreams and visions, the supernatural guides for his life, were with him from the onset, not just in the few instances cited by Holy Scripture.
As the New Testament itself says, not everything about Christ (and by extension His parents) could fit between the covers of any physical book, and so it is here that private revelation may help add to the picture, or at least the ambience, character of events, and mysteries of our salvation.
An introduction explains: "[Maria Cecilia] entered the convent on the feast of Saint Peter in 1713. In 1743 she became abbess and remained as such until her death on January 6, 1766. Her soul life was interspersed with molestations of the devil and comfortless spiritual dryness, as well as with interior graces and joys.
"She possessed the gift of contemplation, and an amazing power of recollection, which often raised her to an ecstatic state.
"In May 1729, Jesus palpably and effectually impressed His Sacred Wounds upon her heart. He also commanded her to inform the people about all those things which He would reveal to her. She had to do violence to herself to comply with this request. If her spiritual director had not expressly ordered it, she would never have committed those things to writings."
This she did -- in writings that for many decades were left unpublished, forgotten until a visitor felt compelled to read them in an ignored corner of the monastery's library!
Abbess Maria wrote first about the interior life of Jesus, and then this work on Saint Joseph -- which came one day after Communion, when the saint, "placed his hand on my head, as a token of the protection and love that he was bestowing on me." So began the revelations on the earthly father of Christ -- spouse of Mary!
Terror to demons.
"I then saw him in eminent glory, upon a very lofty throne, from which he said to me: 'Daughter, you have indeed been exceptionally favored by Jesus, by Mary, and by me,'" recalled the cloistered nun. "'Jesus has selected you to reveal to the world things concerning His interior life. His holy mother and I, together with Jesus, have chosen you to portray my own life as well. What a great reward will be yours for doing this! Moreover, you may rest assured that you will be writing most truthfully, describing everything as it really was.'"
How could it have taken so long to know of this -- a revelation promoted by bishops and a Pope?
One reward was immediate: Saint Joseph obtained for Mary Cecilia the favor of being relieved of a serious heart ailment.
On the other hand, she was often oppressed by intense fear while writing about his life.
Was she really recordng things correctly?
Completed by 1736, the words came to Mary Cecilia "by means of an interior voice," noted a priest, P. Odo Staudinger.
They were not auricular locutions; they were "a perception of words somehow resounding within her."
"Many passages in her works favor the opinion that personal considerations and elaborations, abetted by a very lively power of the imagination, are also involved," said Staudinger. "Consequently, the same rule should be applied here as for private revelations in generally, namely, not to seek in them historical background of biblical facts, not even historical certainty in all the events and statements that are recounted."
The human intellect may be active at the same time that a vision is being regarded, noted the scholar, thereby contributing something of its own to the revelation.
Seers can alter a true revelation without realizing it. This is why there may be contradictions between mystical revelations on the lives of Jesus and Mary. It might be, he notes, that God allows an admixture of revelation with error so that we do not equate private revelations with Sacred Scripture.
But the essence?
Here is where we discern, and seek to take what is good, following counsel of the Church.
At the very least: it is the unusual, powerful sense and atmosphere and anointing this book seeks to dispense, the grace.
It is weighty. At the same time, it is uplifting -- edifying, as well as fascinating. One prediction to the abbess that came true, as a sign, was that a feast of the Sacred Heart would be inaugurated (1765).
When we consider all the evils besetting humankind these days, said the priest, "it seems to us all the more evident that veneration of Saint Joseph should be intensified, and propagated to an ever greater extent among our Christian people."
To this purpose, he says, "take up and read." We join in that advice.
It is an inspiration that revitalizes piety, that grants us new impetus, that spurs us to more humility and love.
Where false seers are inclined to seek privileges and exceptional assignments -- as well as attention -- Mary Cecilia lived a hidden life, and died a hidden death.
This work fills us with closeness and love for the Holy Family. It grants insight -- and surprise.
It was perceived -- were the revelations, said Mary Cecelia herself -- "in a very subdued fashion, and I feel within me not as the enunciation of a human being, but rather as the delightful murmur of a gentle breeze."