On March 19 we celebrate the solemnity of St Joseph, the Spouse of the Virgin Mary and the Custodian of the Redeemer. St Joseph is a saint which his life testimony talks to my heart in a special way. He is a saint to whom I am learning to have frequent recourse to in all my personal and fraternal needs. But why does St Joseph talk so much to my heart?
Already his very name says alot to me! As a matter of fact, the name Joseph comes from the Hebrew name Yoseph which means “adds, increases”. It is the causative of yasaph which means “he added”. But what in fact did Joseph add and increase in the Holy Family made of Jesus, Mary and himself? What did he add and increase in the plan of salvation? To be more personal, what did he add and increase in my own life?
Joseph did add many blessings and increase much fervour for God and his Church thanks to his splendid virtues in my life. Thus, Joseph talks to my heart because he teaches me, first and foremost, productive silence. He was the man who always listened to God. And, like the prophet Samuel, Joseph grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground (1 Sam 3:19). What a great source of encouragment are for me the words spoken about St Joseph’s productive silence by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who, in his Angelus address of December 18, 2005, 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.
His contemplative being greatly encourages me to follow God’s will in every life circumstance I come across. It is because he was a man of deep silence, in which he let the Holy Spirit form him from within, that Joseph could get that much-needed strength to carry out the Divine will in each and every event that characterised his earthly life. Joseph made his own life goal those life changing words which the angel told him when he was in a state of great uncertainity: Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20). By believing and acting upon these words spoken to him by the angel of God Joseph cooperated completely with God’s salvific plan. Moreover, from now onwards, any action that will emanate from Joseph himself becomes the working of the Holy Spirit who will be working in and through him.
How motivitating are for me St Pope Paul VI’s words during his homily in the feast of St Joseph of March 19, 1968!
What do we see in our dear and humble character? We see his tremendous obedience, his exceptional readiness for obedience and fulfillment. He does not argue, hesitate, or express any rights or demands. He sinks into a full obedience to the words pronounced to him; he knows that his life is going to be a drama, transformed, however, into an extraordinary level of purity and sublimity: far beyond any human expectations or calculations. Joseph accepted his work because he was told: “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Saint Joseph’s particular commitment to the will of God is an example on which we should ponder today. We know that making our capricious, stubborn, often wandering, sometimes even rebellious desires coincide with the will of God; making these small and lofty desires and this freedom coincide with the Will of God, is the very secret of the greatness of life. It means to immerse in the thoughts of the Lord and to be a part of the plans of His full clairvoyance, His Mercy and even His magnanimity. How should we behave to achieve such a wonderful goal? Saint Joseph teaches us this through his faithful and constant attention to the Almighty.
St Joseph also speaks to my hospital ministry at the Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Every time I am called to assist a person who is dying I always pray to St Joseph to accompany that person as well as his and her family in this painful moment of their lives. When I pray his prayer I immediately feel that comfort which he himself received at the hour of his passing, as he was lovingly surrounded by Jesus and Mary, the two most precious persons he always loved and cared for.
In his Motu Proprio Bonum Sane Pope Benedict XV tells us: At the school of Joseph, all will learn to consider passing current events in the light of their futures that last eternally, and consoling the inevitable hardships of the human condition with the hope of the good things of heaven, they should aspire to the latter through obeying the divine will, living soberly, according to the dictates of justice and piety… (…) We, therefore, full of trust in the patronage of him, to whose vigilant providence God was pleased to grant custody of his Incarnate Only Begotten and of the Virgin Mother of God, we strongly exhort all the Bishops in the Catholic world so that, in these stormy times for Christianity, they will lead the faithful to implore with greater commitment the valuable help of Saint Joseph (…) He is justly held as the most efficacious protector of the dying, having expired with the assistance of Jesus and Mary.
If there is a prayer which powerfully reminds me of the deep holiness that thrived in St Joseph’s heart is certainly the prayer of the abandonment written by Blessed Charles de Foucauld. St Joseph’s life practically sang, in all its aspects, this profound prayer of total trust in the Lord. I humbly recommend that we pray it, especially after receiving the Most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, so that, like Joseph, we consecrate our whole being to the Father in Christ. May we, as we pray it, our hearts, minds and bodies be transformed into every attitude that is inscribed this prayer. A prayer which not only Joseph did pray but also Mary and, particularly, Jesus himself as the perfect gift of himself to the Father for us and our salvation.
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
In his apostolic letter on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Patris Corde, Pope Francis writes: From him [Joseph], Jesus learned the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labour (no.6). May I let St Joseph keep teaching me the value, dignity and joy of working assidously for God by serving others and then be blessed and fortified, in return, by the food that comes as a result of the sweat of my brow.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap