“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on the Importance of Saint Joseph (and some reflective thoughts of my own)

If there is one individual who I have focused on a lot in my writing over the years, it is Saint Joseph. Including today’s post, the total is now at 10. Saint Joseph has always played an important role in my life. My middle name is Joseph, so from the beginning of my life he has been watching over me, he is one of saints I first learned about in my adolescence, and he remains a steadfast figure in my life today, most especially now as I prepare for marriage and fatherhood.

In the past, many of my posts about St. Joseph have focused on the writings on Pope St. John Paul and his words, but for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I am going to turn to the words of Pope Benedict XVI. Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI had a great devotion to the foster-father of Jesus, most especially because his Baptismal name is Joseph (Josef).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 19 March, is the Solemnity of St Joseph, but as it coincides with the Third Sunday of Lent, its liturgical celebration is postponed until tomorrow. However, the Marian context of the Angelus invites us to reflect today with veneration on the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s spouse and Patron of the universal Church.

I like to recall that beloved John Paul II was also very devoted to St Joseph, to whom he dedicated the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, Guardian of the Redeemer, and who surely experienced his assistance at the hour of death.

The figure of this great Saint, even though remaining somewhat hidden, is of fundamental importance in the history of salvation. Above all, as part of the tribe of Judah, he united Jesus to the Davidic lineage so that, fulfilling the promises regarding the Messiah, the Son of the Virgin Mary may truly be called the “son of David”.

The Gospel of Matthew highlights in a special way the Messianic prophecies which reached fulfilment through the role that Joseph played:  the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (2: 1-6); his journey through Egypt, where the Holy Family took refuge (2: 13-15); the nickname, the “Nazarene” (2: 22-23).

In all of this he showed himself, like his spouse Mary, an authentic heir of Abraham’s faith:  faith in God who guides the events of history according to his mysterious salvific plan. His greatness, like Mary’s, stands out even more because his mission was carried out in the humility and hiddenness of the house of Nazareth. Moreover, God himself, in the person of his Incarnate Son, chose this way and style of life – humility and hiddenness – in his earthly existence.

From the example of St. Joseph we all receive a strong invitation to carry out with fidelity, simplicity and modesty the task that Providence has entrusted to us. I think especially of fathers and mothers of families, and I pray that they will always be able to appreciate the beauty of a simple and industrious life, cultivating the conjugal relationship with care and fulfilling with enthusiasm the great and difficult educational mission.

To priests, who exercise a paternal role over Ecclesial Communities, may St Joseph help them love the Church with affection and complete dedication, and may he support consecrated persons in their joyous and faithful observance of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. May he protect workers throughout the world so that they contribute with their different professions to the progress of the whole of humanity, and may he help every Christian to fulfil God’s will with confidence and love, thereby cooperating in the fulfilment of the work of salvation.

Today, as I write and reflect on these words by Pope Benedict XVI, I find myself having a connection with St. Joseph like never before. As I stated previously, I am preparing to enter the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in the coming months. The closeness I feel towards St. Joseph today is difficult to explain since it feels like the closeness I have with my father, even though he is deceased for nearly three years. As I sit in the adoration chapel here at the parish and write this post, I am also gazing up frequently to look at the St. Joseph statue.

Although it’s difficult to explain specifically why this year is different than in years past, I can tell you that some of the words from Benedict have penetrated my heart and have allowed me to see what I really need to do in my life as and soon-to-be husband and potential father.

As a man, who truly remained hidden in the house of Nazareth, St. Joseph still was the head of his household, courageously caring for Mary and Jesus, most notably when fleeing to Egypt. Like St. Joseph, I must remain steadfast and care for my future wife and any children the Lord blesses us with when we are married. In silence, I must learn that sometimes words are not needed, just my presence and the ability to have fortitude when challenges present themselves is enough. Being silent isn’t always easy for me since my secondary vocation is a teacher of sorts in a parish position that assists other adults in coming to know their Catholic faith. Learning to be more silent is a challenge for me, but to truly be like St. Joseph, I must learn to do so.

I pray this day that St. Joseph will allow me to be more like him – a man of faithfulness, obedience, steadfastness, courage, and silent strength.

For further readings on St. Joseph, I would encourage you to read posts from previous years:

1. Saint Joseph – Patron of the Universal Church

2. The Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

3. “Mondays with Mary” – The Espousal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph

4. “Mondays with Mary” – ‘The Marriage that Linked Joseph to Mary’ 

5. “Mondays with Mary” – The Fatherhood of St. Joseph 

6. “Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mary, Joseph’s Virginal Spouse’ 

7. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Joseph, and the Spousal Gift of Self

8. The Influence Saint Joseph has on Catholic Men in the 21st Century 

9. “Mondays with Mary” – Asking for the Intercession of Saint Joseph 

 Saint Joseph…Pray for Us 

“Mondays with Mary” – A Marian Image Painted by Saint Luke (Our Lady of Expectation, India)

According to traditions within the Catholic Church, it has been said that Saint Luke, the author of the Gospel that bears his name, the same author of the Acts of the Apostles, and a companion of Saint Paul, drew a variety of paintings and icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not only was he a trained physician, historian and theologian, but he was also a talented artist.

In the Eastern Church, he is raised to high esteem as the original “iconographer” – the man responsible for the first icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You will often see paintings throughout the centuries of St. Luke in front of an easel, painting a portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus.

Although there are four specific icons that are attributed to Saint Luke, there are other opinions that he drew many more than just these four. The four often attributed to him are – Our Lady of Vladimir, Our Lady of Czestochowa, Salus Populi Romani, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. As you will see from this online catalog, there are the other paintings attributed to Saint Luke.

The reason I am focusing on this topic today is because in last week’s “Mondays with Mary”, I mentioned that St. Denis placed a portrait similar to Our Lady, which was said to have been drawn by St. Luke. In my research for last week’s blog post, I came upon this image of Our Lady (see image below) –

Our Lady of Expectation (India) – Saint Luke

You will find this image in the online catalog above under the title – Our Lady of Expectation (also an older feast I have written on numerous times). It is believed that Saint Thomas the Apostle, the apostle to India, carried this “scapular” like image, strapped like a breastplate to his body, as he went to India to bring the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.

This image is still venerated today in the main altar of St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is the place where St. Thomas was martyred for the Catholic faith.

Devotion to Our Lady goes back to the time of the Apostles. Even though she is our Mother, she was first mother to the Apostles. Also see “Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Mylapore, another Marian image and veneration in India.

Although I have written about some of these Marian images in the past as well as written about the Blessed Virgin in Sacred Art, I am going to write on these from time-to-time for the foreseeable future to focus on the Lukan images of Our Lady in the aforementioned online catalog.

Our Lady of Expectation…Pray for Us

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of the Fields

Traditionally, today in France, February 26, is the memorial of Our Lady of the Fields, also known as Notre-Dame des Champs. Instituted by St. Denis in the middle of the third century, this Marian title has withstood throughout the centuries, beginning in the early days of Catholicism in France.

Our Lady des Champs, during the ancient years, was dedicated to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility, and motherly relations. During this time, St. Denis was Bishop of France. He had a great love and devotion to the Blessed Mother. According to tradition, St. Denis drove out the demons from the Temple of Ceres and then consecrated the building to Our Lady placing inside an image of the Madonna similar to the one after St. Luke’s painting (next week’s Mondays with Mary). Catholics in Paris have honored this image for centuries under the title – Our Lady of the Fields.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is a woman of simple beauty, approachable – always leading us closer to our Son, Jesus Christ. She is humble and holy. She is the defining woman of creation and her simple beauty gives honor to the Heavenly Kingdom, for she is our Mother. St. Denis knew this well. He placed her in the former temple and Parisians have been honoring her ever since.

A simple flower of the field is the lily. The white lilies (Madonna lilies) and their beautiful fragrance represent Mary’s perfect purity, love, and humility to God’s divine economy. They are often seen during the Easter season when they represent the Resurrection of Christ.

If you can read French, I encourage you to look at the parish website in the Archdiocese of France.

Our Lady of the Fields…Pray for Us

Source: Roman Catholic Saints – Our Lady of the Fields (website).

7 Ash Wednesday Quotes by Pope Saint John Paul II

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day we enter the great penitential season of Lent, a season that draws our attention to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. For many, this season is about “giving something up” (in today’s technological world that would be social media on our phones or limiting our phone time in general). However, you can give anything up or even take something on. Whatever your Lenten fast is this year, I encourage to do it, and to do it well with the help of God’s grace.

Fasting though is only one-third of the Lenten theme, we must also pray and give alms. Since prayer is our encounter with God, adding times to pray to our daily routine would be extremely beneficial to each and every one of us. A simple addition of prayer is signing up for Eucharistic Adoration in your parish or a nearby parish. Spending that extra hour in prayer each week will for sure increase your encounter with God. I really want to add more prayer time to my day, not just during these next 40 days, so that’s why I am working on adding the Liturgy of the Hours to my daily prayer routine.

For alms, if you have a favorite charity or don’t give to your parish, increasing your financial donations during the next 40 days will assist you in meeting the alms obligation during Lent. Since I am getting married in seven months, I am going to continue to clean out my closets and give away any clothes I don’t wear to shelters or St. Joseph the Worker, a local shelter here in the Phoenix area. Please don’t forget, there are many people less fortunate that need our assistance.

To help us prepare for this Ash Wednesday and Lent of this year, I now turn our attention to 7 Ash Wednesday Quotes from Pope Saint John Paul II. These quotes are come from his homilies and messages given to the Church and the world on the Ash Wednesday’s of his amazing Papacy –

1. “Today the Church lays great stress on this truth, confirmed by the history of every man. Remember that “to dust you shall return”. Remember that your life on earth has a limit!… Therefore the message of Ash Wednesday is expressed with the words of St. Paul: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:20-21). Collaborate with him!”

2. “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. This invitation, which we find at the beginning of Jesus’ preaching, introduces us into the Lenten season, a time to be dedicated in a special way to conversion and renewal, to prayer, to fasting and to works of charity. In recalling the experience of the chosen people, we too set out as it were to retrace the journey that Israel made across the desert to the Promised Land. We too will reach our goal; after these weeks of penance, we will experience the joy of Easter. Our eyes, purified by prayer and penance, will be able to behold with greater clarity the face of the living God, to whom man makes his own pilgrimage on the paths of earthly life.”

John Paul II placing ashes on the head of a Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos in 2004. 

3. “During Lent, we prepare to relive the Paschal Mystery, which sheds the light of hope upon the whole of our existence, even its most complex and painful aspects. Holy Week will again set before us this mystery of salvation in the evocative rites of the Easter Triduum. Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us set out with trust on our Lenten journey, sustained by fervent prayer, penance and concern for those in need. In particular, may this Lent be a time of ever greater concern for the needs of children, in our own families and in society as a whole: for they are the future of humanity.”

4. “‘Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6: 4, 6, 18). Jesus’ words are addressed to each one of us at the beginning of our Lenten journey. We begin it with the imposition of ashes, an austere penitential gesture very dear to Christian tradition. It emphasizes the awareness of sinners as they stand before the majesty and holiness of God. At the same time, it demonstrates readiness to accept and to transform into concrete choices adherence to the Gospel.”

5. “The Church lives Christ’s redemptive sacrifice throughout the liturgical year. However, in the season of Lent we would like to immerse ourselves in it in a particularly intense way, as the Apostle urges us: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2). In this important season, the treasures of Redemption, merited for us by Christ crucified and risen, are dispensed to us in a most particular way. Thus the Psalmist’s exclamation: “Create in me a clean heart … and put a new and right spirit within men becomes at the beginning of Lent a strong call to conversion.

6. “Why does the Church place ashes on our foreheads today? Why does she remind us of death? Death which is the effect of sin! Why?…To prepare us for Christ’s Passover. For the paschal mystery of the Redeemer of the world. Paschal mystery means what we profess in the Creed: “On the third day he rose again”!…Yes. Today we need to hear the “you are dust and to dust you will return” of Ash Wednesday, so that the definitive truth of the Gospel, the truth about the Resurrection, will unfold before us: believe in the Gospel.”

7. “By inviting us through the discipline of Lent to tread the paths of love and hope marked out by Christ, the Church makes us realize that the Christian life involves detachment from superfluous goods, and the acceptance of a poverty which sets us free, and enables us to discover God’s presence and to welcome our brothers and sisters with an ever more active solidarity and in an ever wider fellowship.”

So as we step into this Lenten season, I pray that each of us upholds our penances and sacrifices with a fervent desire to grow closer to Our Lord Jesus and his Catholic Church. Ask for the intercession of the Holy Mother of God to give you the strength to offer up the next 40 days to Our Lord. Pray with the Saints, many who knew the day-to-day meaning of penance and sacrifice.

If you are now avoiding certain social media sites this year, make sure you sign-up on my homepage to receive blog posts when I write them.

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Lourdes: Prayers, Saints, Popes and Miracles

Yesterday, in the Latin lung of the Catholic Church, we celebrated the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, and although this Sunday takes precedence over any particular feast or memorial, it is also the day in the liturgical calendar where we honor Our Lady of Lourdes.

Just like with Our Lady of Fatima, I know many Catholics that have a particular devotion to the Blessed Mother at this particular pilgrimage site. Over the past six years of writing on this blog, I have written on Our Lady of Lourdes a total of 7 times (including this one today).

Unfortunately, like many other Marian sites, except for Our Lady of Guadalupe, I have not personally been on pilgrimage, but many friends have been and often have brought me items back from these holy sites. One of my cherished items is a small glass container of holy water that was purchased at the Marian Pilgrimage Shrine of Lourdes in France. You can read about it below in the post titled, “Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Lourdes.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Since I have written many times in the past on Our Lady of Lourdes, for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I am going to list the posts I have written on this widely devoted Marian pilgrimage site and title for Mary. Between prayers, lives of the saints, Papal activities, and a host of miracles, Lourdes remains to be one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the Catholic Church, if not entire world. Yesterday, the 70th approved miracle was declared valid, although countless pilgrims have claimed miracles not officially reported or approved.

If you haven’t read these posts in the past or you are new to my website/blog, I hope you will read these posts to give yourself a better understanding of Our Lady of Lourdes and the importance this shrine plays in the Catholic Church today –

1. “Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Lourdes  

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict XVI on the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes  

4. Our Lady of Lourdes 

5. “Mondays with Mary” – The Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes by Pope St. John Paul II 

6. “Mondays with Mary” – Prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima

Our Lady of Lourdes…Pray for Us 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Marian Prayer of Saint John Vianney

Saint John Vianney, Patron of Parish Priests, notably known as the Curé of Ars, is a saint that I have drawn from many times in my writings. His simple yet profound sayings have impacted me in the course of my life, most especially the last twelve years or so. I was first introduced to him in 2006, then in 2009, I was reintroduced through a small booklet with many of his quotes contained in it. If you are unfamiliar with this great French saint, I would encourage you to read more about him. To read my other post about him and the Blessed Mother, read that one here.

St. John Vianney was asked once how long he loved Our Lady, his response, “I loved her almost before I could know her.” If I was a betting man, I imagine many of the saints would say the same exact thing about the Blessed Virgin Mary. So, for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, here is a Marian Prayer written by the Curé of Ars –

O most holy Virgin, Mary, who evermore stands before the most holy Trinity, and to whom it is granted at all times to pray for us to your most beloved Son; pray for in all my necessities; help me, protect me, and obtain for me the pardon of all my sins. Help me especially at my last hour; and when I can no longer give any sign of the use of reason, then encourage me, make the sign of the cross for me, and fight for me against the enemy. Make in my name a profession of faith; favor me with a testimony of my salvation, and never let me despair of the mercy of God. Help me to overthrow the tempting enemy.

When I can no longer say: “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I place my soul in your hands,” I ask you to say it to me; when I can longer hear human words of consolation, comfort me. Leave me not before I have been judged, and if I have to atone for my sins in purgatory, pray for me earnestly; and admonish my friends to procure for me a speedy enjoyment of the blessed vision of God. Lessen my sufferings, deliver me speedily, and lead my soul into heaven with you: that, united with all the elect, I may there bless and praise my God and you for all eternity. Amen. (Split into two paragraphs for easier reading).

 O, Most Blessed Virgin Mary…Pray for Us

Saint John Vianney…Pray for Us

More Sayings from the Great Master of Youth – Saint John Bosco

Four years ago, today, I wrote a short blog post about the Great Master of Youth – Saint John Bosco. Since that time, that article, which included 10 sayings from the Italian saint has garnered over 43,461 views [at time of publishing for this post]. It is one of the most popular posts I have written in the past six years. I am often humbled and shocked on the shear mass of individuals viewing this post about Don Bosco on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.

Since so many people liked that post over the years, here is another one focusing on More Sayings from the Great Master of Youth –

1. “I will take no unnecessary walks. I will make exactingly careful us of my time.

When the salvation of souls is at stake I will always be ready to act, to suffer, and to humble myself. May the charity and gentleness of St. Francis de Sales inform my every action.I will always be content with the food set before me unless it is really harmful to my health.

I will always add water to my wine and drink it only for reasons of health. Since work is powerful weapon against the enemies of my salvation I will take only five hours sleep a night. During the day, especially after dinner, I will take no rest, except in case of illness.

Every day I will devote some time to meditation and spiritual reading. During the day I will make a short visit, or at least a prayer, to the Blessed Sacrament. My preparation for Mass shall last at least a quarter of an hour and so shall my thanksgiving.

Outside the confessional and save in cases of strict necessity I will never stop to talk to women” [one large quote broken down into smaller paragraphs to read].

2. “I have promised God that until my last breath I shall have lived for my poor young people. I study for you, I work for you, I am also ready to give my life for you. Take note that whatever I am, I have been so entirely for you, day and night, morning and evening, at every moment.”

3. “In my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth; that it is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself and easier to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them.”

4. “You should bear patiently the bad temper of other people, the slights, the rudeness that may be offered you.”

5. “Never read books you aren’t sure about…even supposing that these books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?”

6. “A saint was once asked, while playing happily with his companions, what he would do if an angel told him that in a quarter of an hour he would die and have to appear before the judgment seat of God. The saint promptly replied that he would continue playing because I am certain these games are pleasing to God.”

If you are not familiar with the life of Saint John Bosco, affectionately known to many as Don Bosco, I would encourage you to read the book, Saint John Bosco; A Friend of Youth by F. A. Forbes.

He had a great devotion, like many saints before and after him, to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His particular devotion was to Our Lady, Help of Christians.

If you are in the field of education or a catechist at a parish and working with children from kindergarten to high school, I would encourage you to read, The Educational Philosophy of St. John Bosco. It was a book that completely revolutionized my approach when I was a high school theology teacher.

Saint John Bosco…Pray for Us