One of my favourite saints is certainly St Joseph, whose feast we celebrate on March 19. There are different reasons why God keeps caring, guiding and encouraging me through the Custodian of the Redeemer, as we joyfully and proudly call the most humble man from Nazareth.
Joseph, the Diligent Protector of Christ and the Spouse of the Mother of God, really helps me grow in various aspects of Christian life. First of all, St Joseph teaches me the abundant good fruit of silence. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has a very profound meditation on St Joseph’s industrious silence. During his Angelus address he delivered in St Peter’s Square on December 18, 2005, he said:
“Saint Joseph’s silence is a silence full of contemplation of God’s mystery, being entirely subject to God’s will. In other words, St Joseph’s silence does not express an inner emptiness but, on the contrary, the fullness of the faith he bears in his heart and which guides his every thought and action. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; silence, woven from constant prayer, prayer of blessing from the Lord, worship of His holy will and unconditional trust in His providence. Let us allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by the silence of St Joseph! We have much need of it in a world which is often too noisy, which does not encourage reflection and listening to the voice of God. (…) Let us give priority to inner recollection so we may let Jesus come and stay in our life.”
The Light of the Patriachs’ silent contemplation life attitude shows me the importance of living by faith. Can I live without faith? And if I cannot live without the latter who else other than Joseph can really help me to boldly open my heart to receive faith and have him as a role model in doing all my best to keep persevering in faith till the end? In his sermon of March 19 1982 St Pope John Paul II said:
“We need faith so much! Faith is so necessary for people today, in today’s difficult era! We need great faith so much! Today, individuals, families, communities, and the Church need great faith. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1,20) People of God! Church! Do not be afraid to take Mary and Joseph of Nazareth. Do not be afraid to take Jesus Christ, his Son, in your whole life. Do not be afraid to take him in a faith like Joseph’s faith. Do not be afraid to take him under the roofs of your homes – just as Joseph welcomed Jesus under the roof of his home in Nazareth. Do not be afraid to take Christ in your daily work. Do not be afraid to take him into your ‘world.’ Then this ‘world’ will become ‘human’ indeed. It will become more and more human. In fact, only God-Man can make our ‘human world’ fully ‘human’”.
In his letter to the Romans St Paul tells us squarely: So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ (Rom 10:17). Faith does not fall from the sky. It comes from listening attentively to and with a sincere and contrite heart the Word of God. Thus, St Joseph, the man of outstanding faith, is the one who listened wholeheartedly to the Word of God that was told to him. Again, St Pope John Paul II reminds us of this crucial fact when within the same sermon of March 19, 1982 he observed:
“The Holy Scriptures say little about Saint Joseph. They do not even mention the words pronounced by Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth. And still, even without words, they demonstrate the depth of his faith, his greatness. Saint Joseph is great in his spirit. He is great in faith not because of the speeches he utters, but primarily because he listens to the words of the living God. He listens silently. And his heart is always ready to receive the truth of the words of the living God. To greet him and do it with love. Looking at the figure of Saint Joseph today with awe and love in this gaze, we should renew our own faith. Let us see how the Word of the living God penetrates deeply into the soul of this man – this righteous man. And what about us, do we listen to the Word of God? Do we know how to absorb it into the depths of our human selves? Are we opening our minds to this Word? Or, on the contrary, do we stop at the surface of the Word of God? Do we let him into the depths of our souls? Do we accept the Word of God in the silence of our inner readiness, like Joseph of Nazareth did? Do we create the conditions for it to work in us and to bear its fruit? Do we listen to the Word of God? How do we listen to it? Do we read Scriptures?”
However, as St James clearly, appropriately and beautifully asserts in his letter that if faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead (Jas 2:17), then the authentic disciple of Christ is the one who let his faith thrive through an extraordinary life of self-giving. Thus, in his apostolic letter on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Patris Corde, Pope Francis said in number 7:
“Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a ‘most chaste’ father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness. Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.”
It is because Joseph focused his love on how best to serve Mary and Jesus that he can protect our nation. His heroic generous love englightens those responsible to care for the common good of our spociety. Joseph’s loving intercession gives intelligence of knowledge to those seeking adequate ways to care for the health and physical well-being of their brothers. Joseph’s selfless love inspires volunteers, nurses, doctors who are on the front lines to keep curing the sick. Joseph’s unquestioned dedication to Jesus and Mary helps us, as Church’s ministers, to be witnesses of the Spirit’s light and goodness towards those whom we serve as well as instills in our families a climate of haromious love and peace. Joseph’s loving perseverance is a prayerful fragrant incense before God’s throne so that our elderly may never give in to despair, abandonment and discouragement and always find people who care for them. Joseph’s Godly heart acts as a comfort for the frailest, an encouragment for those who falter and be a powerful intercessor for the world’s poor. Finally, may St Joseph, with Mary, keep interceding before the Father of all mercies in order that any kind of pandemic be immediately stopped.
St Joseph, Head of the Holy Family and Protector of the Holy Church, pray for us!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap