Let us Celebrate St. Joseph!

The foster-father of Jesus has always been referred to as a ‘just man’. Celebrating St Joseph today means we have to be visible and vocal in taking a stand against the injustices of our time.

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph!

By Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph! on his Feast Day (19 March) and on every single day of this year, dedicated to him. In his Apostolic Letter ‘Patris Corde’ (With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church and to mark this occasion he has proclaimed a ‘Year of Saint Joseph’, beginning 8 December 2020 and concluding on 8 December 2021. Pope Francis says “I would like to share some personal reflections on this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. For, as Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34). My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone.” We celebrate St. Joseph by internalizing the spiritual wealth of ‘Patris Corde’.

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph! On the Feast of St. Joseph in 2013, Pope Francis began his Pontificate. At the Inaugural Eucharist, focusing on St Joseph, Pope Francis said, “In the Gospels, St Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak, but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness.” He added, “that exercising the role of protector as St Joseph did, means doing so discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. The Gospels present St Joseph as a husband to Mary, at her side in good times and bad, and as a father who watched over Jesus, worried about Him and taught Him a trade. St Joseph responded to his call to be a protector by being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply his own.” As we celebrate St. Joseph, let us thank God, for the precious gift of Pope Francis to the Church and to the world!

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph! In ‘Patris Corde’, Pope Francis says, “Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.” He goes on to share seven significant ‘fatherly’ dimensions which St Joseph radiates: a beloved father; a tender and loving father; an obedient father; an accepting father; a creatively courageous father; a working father; a father in the shadows. Celebrating St Joseph means making a meaningful and concerted effort to emulate some of these qualities in our own lives.

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph! The foster-father of Jesus has always been referred to as a ‘just man’. Right from the moment, Mary was betrothed to him, St. Joseph was confronted with a host of issues. He had to make very difficult decisions; every decision of his would impact on Mary or Jesus or on both of them, in a profound way. But he did so with a great sense of prudence and responsibility and surely, after much discernment. The Biblical ‘righteousness’(justice) was his forte; he was imbued with a tremendous sense of justice. Our world today is plagued with several injustices and the victims of these injustices are always the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable of our society. Celebrating St Joseph today means we have to be visible and vocal in taking a stand against the injustices of our time.

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph! Pope Francis has never stopped reminding the world that the Holy Family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus were refugees. When the child Jesus was in danger of being killed by King Herod. Joseph took the babe and Mary and fled into Egypt; there they found refuge, safety and security. Joseph experienced and understood the plight of refugees. A hallmark of the papacy of Pope Francis has been his consistent concern for refugees and migrants. He has been urging all to welcome, protect, promote and integrate refugees and migrants. All around us there are migrants, refugees, others. We have seen what happened to thousands of migrant workers all over the country, when the lockdown was imposed, a year ago. Celebrating St. Joseph means checking our own attitudes: how do we treat the ‘outsider’; someone who is not like us? Are we inclusive enough?

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph! Pope Francis often refers to Joseph as a ‘dreamer’ capable of accepting the task entrusted to him by God. In one of his earlier homilies he said, “Christians, especially young people, should follow the example of St Joseph who was not afraid to listen to his dreams, like when he was told in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife and again when he was told to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt. When we dream great things, beautiful things, we draw close to God’s dream, the things that God dreams for us. May he give young people – because he, too, was young – the ability to dream, to risk and to take on difficult tasks that they have seen in their dreams.” Pope Francis has also been sharing a very personal secret. “I would like to share with you something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a man of strength and of silence. On my desk in my room, I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church. Yes, he can do it! We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. He now sleeps on a mattress of my notes. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem. That is why I sleep well: it is the grace of God!” Celebrating St Joseph means that we too are called to dream of making our world a more humane, just, free, equitable and fraternal one. When St Joseph awakes, he actualises his dream; we are called to do likewise.

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph! Just before Christmas 2017, in a homily at Casa Santa Marta Pope Francis said, “St. Joseph gives us three key lessons as we walk with him to Bethlehem. Jesus’ father on earth knew ‘how to walk in darkness’, ‘how to listen to the voice of God’, and ‘how to go forward in silence’.” Then speaking of Joseph’s struggle upon learning of Mary’s pregnancy, he continued, “Joseph fought within himself; in that struggle, the voice of God [is heard]: ‘But get up’ — that ‘Get up’ [which is heard] so many times in the Bible at the beginning of a mission — ‘Take Mary, bring her to your home. Take charge of the situation; take this situation in hand, and go forward.’ Joseph did not go to his friends to be comforted; he did not go to a psychiatrist so that he could interpret the dream. No… He believed. And he went forward. He took the situation in hand. What was the situation? What was it that Joseph had to take up? Two things: fatherhood, and mystery.” To truly celebrate St Joseph today we need to embark on a similar journey: to walk in darkness, to listen to the voice of God, and to go forward in silence. It is not easy- but it is the way of the pilgrim, the path of discipleship!

Let us Celebrate St. Joseph! As we pray today and every day, in the words of Pope Francis, Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary . To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.

(Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, is a human rights and peace activist/writer.)

(Photo/Image Courtesy - unsplash.com)

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