"If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take St. Joseph sent as his master, and he will not go astray."
St. Bernadette Soubirous
This week we have remembered in the liturgical calendar the feasts of the Conversion of St. Paul and St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Paul's conversion tells us that God has a plan for our life and that it is always possible to begin again in God's sight. St. Paul's life was hardly easy. It was wrought with many trials and tribulations, but one senses in his beautiful letters not only a man of great determination but also one whose faith was indestructible. On the other hand, St. Thomas, the great Doctor Angelicus, who travelled but little in his life, must have faced the regular trials of life. We know that this incredible mind spent most of his time in quiet study and reflection. Both lives of reason and faith, although in different ways, lead us to God.
As you are aware, the Holy Father has dedicated this liturgical year to St. Joseph. The holy spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary has, or should have, much to say to us today and, in my opinion, our current circumstances. Many think St. Joseph an unimportant personage as the claim is made. We don't know much about him. In fact, we know enough to formulate some sense of his personality. Like Mary, angels spoke to his heart when he had to decide whether to marry the Blessed Virgin to whom he was betrothed or to dismiss her away quietly. Only a gracious and generous man could commit to the marriage of his beloved, knowing of the great vocation to which the Young Maiden was called to live. His care in accompanying Mary to Bethlehem speaks of his love and fidelity. His reaction to the possibility of the threat to the young Jesus's life is quick and decisive. He must protect his son as any good and righteous father would. His readiness to act selflessly is clear. When the threat passes, St. Joseph returns to his home in Galilee and settles the Holy Family there and continues his trade and heads the household.
We do know that St. Joseph raised Jesus to learn his craft at which Our Lord worked for the better part of his life. One can almost see St. Joseph with the tools of his trade in hand teaching the young apprentice Jesus. Good fathers teach us much: the dignity that comes from hard work, sacrifice for the family, calmness in the face of troubles, strength in the face of opposition. St. Joseph was such a man. He was indeed a righteous man. I was fortunate to see my own father in this light.
We should remember that St. Joseph is one of the Patrons of Canada. Recently, I saw a newsreel of the funeral of the saintly Brother Andre, who died in 1937. His devotion to St. Joseph was renowned. It was he who was responsible for the construction of the iconic Oratory of St. Joseph on top of Mount Royal and the most visible landmark in Montreal. Over one million faithful filed past his bier. This strong testament to this simple but holy Religious of the Holy Cross Congregation and the devotion of the faithful is a reminder of Catholic Quebec before the Quiet Revolution. Brother Andre would maintain, his life was simply a reflection of the love St. Joseph has for us as other adopted sons and daughters.
The Protector of the Brothers of the Christian Schools is St. Joseph, under whose patronage St. La Salle himself placed the Institute. In fact, so strong was their devotion to the Foster Father of Jesus that the Brothers discussed calling their new form of religious life the Society of St. Joseph. The first seal of the Institute depicts St. Joseph with the Divine Child Jesus in his arms with the Star of Bethlehem in the background. The paternal care St. Joseph gave to Jesus is expected of all Christian teachers. St. Joseph was and is the role model par excellence. Firm and gentle. St. Joseph is also the Patron of the Universal Church.
Does St. Joseph have anything to say to a world like ours? I fear that St. Joseph is a very unappealing figure to our world. Among Catholics, devotion to St. Joseph has waned significantly. While Christian motherhood has also been under attack for years, the concept of Christian fatherhood has been demeaned and determined to be wrong-minded and dangerous by an arrogant and self-absorbed generation. Perhaps, this is the reason the Pope has asked the faithful to think and renew our devotion to St. Joseph this year. The Church must be extremely concerned about the many assaults on the family – the cornerstone of civilisation. The Church must concern Herself specifically with the disparate views of manhood as revealed by Christ in Scripture and what the modern world has determined it should be. Fathers and mothers are not perfect, as daughters and sons are not perfect. This is not the point. If we try to love God and do our best, God will help us do the rest. St. Joseph's life, as little as we may know of it, can help us do our best and lead us to a deeper love of God and neighbour. This is the point. The life of St. Joseph is not the subject of some silly and meaningless fairy tale. Expressions of devotion to him are not inconsistent with Scripture and tradition.
It seems to me that at a time when there abound so many ruinous trends and reckless theories contrary to goodness and discipline, St. Joseph is the kind of person we need and offer our young, especially young men. His steadfastness and sense of duty are important virtues worth rediscovering. His righteousness, based on the belief in the One God and not the sanctimony of those who believe in the many gods of man, is the remedy an ailing world needs. I suppose it is true that St. Joseph, like all of us, could have turned his back on the will of God for him. Instead, despite whatever faults the Foster-Father of Jesus of Nazareth may have had, he must have had enough faith and strength of character not to run away from his destiny. What our bewildered and selfish world does not want to know is that we would be better people of God if we imitated faithful St. Joseph. Ite ad Joseph.
St. Joseph – pray for us.
"I have a great love for Saint Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table, I have an image of Saint Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church. Yes. We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath Saint Joseph, so that he can dream about it. In other words, I tell him: Pray for this problem."
Brother Domenic, fsc