“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 nearly deceased for 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” – Asking for the Intercession of Saint Joseph

Last week I said I would return to the series, Mary in the Old Testament, but again I am going to suspend that series for one more week to focus on the Intercession of Saint Joseph by providing you some prayers and litanies that ask for his intercession. I can write about Saint Joseph as part of my “Mondays with Mary” series since he is so closely connected with Mary, most especially through their marital vows. Although Saint Joseph never utters a single word in the Sacred Scriptures, his presence is never forgotten and his heroic fortitude is never shaken. He listens to the Lord and in turn is obedient to Him.

Because he was the Guardian of the Redeemer and the protector of the Redeemer’s mother, Saint Joseph stands as the Patron of the Universal Church – he protects the Church as he protected Jesus and Mary. However, with Mary, he shares in her divine motherhood by protecting and interceding for that which is most precious to all of humanity. In the Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, Pope St. John Paul II says,

“Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery. Together with Mary, and in relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God’s self-revelation in Christ and he does so from the very beginning. Looking at the gospel texts of both Matthew and Luke, one can also say that Joseph is the first to share in the faith of the Mother of God and that in doing so he supports his spouse in the faith of the divine annunciation. He is also the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary’s “pilgrimage of faith.” It is a path along which – especially at the time of Calvary and Pentecost – Mary will precede in a perfect way…The path that was Joseph’s – his pilgrimage of faith – ended first, that is to say, before Mary stood at the foot of the cross on Golgotha, and before the time after Christ returned to the Father… Nevertheless, Joseph’s way of faith moved in the same direction: it was totally determined by the same mystery, of which he, together with Mary, had been the first guardian.”

So how does one ask for intercession to St. Joseph? Although there are a variety of prayers, the three most common that I personally turn to in prayer are below. The first is pretty short and focuses on any difficult affairs we might be facing. The second is a litany and I provide you with the link to the EWTN page. The third focuses exactly on my points today – his Guardianship in union with Mary. It is my hope for you that if you don’t know St. Joseph well, these prayers will begin your time with him.

O Glorious St. Joseph, whose power can render possible even things which are impossible, come to my aid in my present trouble and distress. Take under thy protection the important and difficult affairs which I entrust to thee, that they may end happily. (Pause – Petition)

My beloved Father, all my confidence is in thee. Let it not be said that I invoked thee in vain; and since thou art able to obtain everything before Jesus and Mary, show me that thy goodness equals thy power. Amen.

Litany of St. Joseph

In our tribulation we fly to thee, O blessed Joseph; and, after imploring the help of thy most holy Spouse, we ask also with confidence for thy patronage.

By the affection which united thee to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and the paternal love with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee to look kindly upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ acquired by His Precious Blood, and by thy powerful aid to help us in our needs.

Protect, most careful Guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen people of Jesus Christ. Keep us, most loving father, from all pestilence of error and corruption.

Be merciful also to us, most powerful protector, from thy place in heaven, in this warfare with the powers of darkness; and, as thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from danger of death, so now defend the Holy Church of God from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity.

Guard each one of us by thy perpetual patronage, so that, sustained by thine example and help, we have live holiness, die a holy death, and obtain the everlasting happiness of heaven. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Patron and Guardian of the Holy Catholic Church…Pray for Us.

To read more about St. Joseph, see Saint Joseph – The Foster-Father of Jesus Christ and the Patron of the Universal Church

Saint Joseph – The Foster-Father of Jesus Christ and the Patron of the Universal Church

Although today is the Third Sunday of Lent, which trumps the Solemnity of Saint Joseph; we will celebrate the Solemnity tomorrow on March 20, I still wanted to provide you with the blog posts I have written on the past that have to do with Saint Joseph. He is patron saint to me since my middle name is Joseph, and without fail my Aunt Agnes always calls me on this day to wish me a Happy Name Day.

Although St. Jospeh never says a word in the Sacred Scriptures, he is the example of heroic fortitude, steadfastness, and protection. It was his duty to care for Jesus and Mary – a duty he fulfilled wholeheartedly and without complaint. He is the type of man that all Christian men must strive to be like – single or married. Men – he is our greatest example behind Our Lord and Savior.

Here are eight blog posts I have written in the past that show the importance and the heroic fortitude of the foster-father of Jesus Christ and the Patron of the Universal Church –

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 

Saint Joseph…Pray for Us 

“Mondays with Mary” – 10 Quotes on the Family from the Guardian of the Redeemer

As I said from my blog post on June 22, 2015 from the “Mondays with Mary” series titled, The Fatherhood of St. Joseph, I would return to the document, Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer) during the time of the 2015 World Meeting of Families. However, because I wrote so much on the nature of the Catholic Church last week from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I did not fully complete my promise to all of you, and to that, I apologize. I felt the need to really help people understand what the Catholic Church says about herself and to the world, especially those in the media because they often get things wrong when it comes to reporting on Church matters.

So for today’s “Mondays with Mary,” I am going share with you 10 quotes that have to do with the family as well as the Holy Family from the aforementioned document written by Pope St. John Paul II. Since the Blessed Virgin Mary is the heart of the Holy Family, I don’t think she will mind me focusing on the family as well as the Holy Family for this series titled and dedicated to her. In the quotes below, the bolded words are mine.

1. “It follows that Joseph’s fatherhood – a relationship that places him as close as possible to Christ, to whom every election and predestination is ordered (cf. Rom 8:28-29) – comes to pass through marriage to Mary, that is, through the family.” (7)

2. “The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family – that sanctuary of love and cradle of life.” (7)

3. “The essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride.” This being the case, it is in the Holy Family, the original “Church in miniature (Ecclesia domestica),” that every Christian family must be reflected. “Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families.” (7)

4. “The growth of Jesus “in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2:52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of Joseph, who had the important task of “raising” Jesus, that is, feeding, clothing and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father.” (#16)

5. “For his part, Jesus “was obedient to them” (Lk 2:51), respectfully returning the affection of his “parents.” In this way he wished to sanctify the obligations of the family and of work, which he performed at the side of Joseph.” (#16)

The Tondo Doni - Michelangelo

The Tondo Doni – Michelangelo

6. “This bond of charity was the core of the Holy Family’s life, first in the poverty of Bethlehem, then in their exile in Egypt, and later in the house of Nazareth. The Church deeply venerates this Family, and proposes it as the model of all families. Inserted directly in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Family of Nazareth has its own special mystery.” (#21)

7. “Together with human nature, all that is human, and especially the family – as the first dimension of man’s existence in the world – is also taken up in Christ. Within this context, Joseph’s human fatherhood was also “taken up” in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation.” (#21)

8. “If the Family of Nazareth is an example and model for human families, in the order of salvation and holiness, so too, by analogy, is Jesus’ work at the side of Joseph the carpenter…Human work, and especially manual labor, receive special prominence in the Gospel.” (#22)

9. “…Joseph was in his day the lawful and natural guardian, head and defender of the Holy Family…. It is thus fitting and most worthy of Joseph’s dignity that, in the same way that he once kept unceasing holy watch over the family of Nazareth, so now does he protect and defend with his heavenly patronage the Church of Christ.” (#28)

10. “…the Church has implored the protection of St. Joseph on the basis of “that sacred bond of charity which united him to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God,” and the Church has commended to Joseph all of her cares, including those dangers which threaten the human family.” (#31)

As the participants from the World Meeting of Families return to their respective cities and countries, and as the Holy Father returns to Rome, let us pray for the safe return of all traveling this day and week. Let us also pray that the families through the New Evangelization will have an impact on the communities in which they live. In a time when the family is being attacked like never before, let us invoke the prayers and intercession of the Holy Family who is the perfect example of love, sacrifice, and beauty to the modern world.

This blog post is dedicated to the Phoenix pilgrims, and all pilgrims, including Pope Francis, who traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2015 World Meeting of Families. 

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

Considering that yesterday was Father’s Day, a day we celebrate our Fathers, Grandfathers, Godfathers, and our spiritual fathers – men who are Priests, I found today’s “Mondays with Mary” the perfect arena to share with you a selection of words from Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer) by Pope St. John Paul II.

The apostolic exhortation focuses on the marriage between Mary and Joseph as seen through the Gospel picture, Joseph’s faith and fatherhood, the virginity of Mary and Joseph, their love, their interior life, and concludes with St. Joseph as the Patron of the Church.

As we approach the World Meeting of Families 2015, to be held in Philadelphia in late September, I will come back to this apostolic exhortation again to help us understand the importance that the Holy Family plays in our lives today as explained to us through the words of the Polish Saint.

For today, I draw from paragraphs 7-8, which discusses the Fatherhood of St. Joseph –

“As can be deduced from the gospel texts, Joseph’s marriage to Mary is the juridical basis of his fatherhood. It was to assure fatherly protection for Jesus that God chose Joseph to be Mary’s spouse. It follows that Joseph’s fatherhood – a relationship that places him as close as possible to Christ, to whom every election and predestination is ordered (cf. Rom 8:28-29) – comes to pass through marriage to Mary, that is, through the family.

St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood. It is precisely in this way that, as the Church’s Liturgy teaches, he “cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation” and is truly a “minister of salvation.”

His fatherhood is expressed concretely “in his having made his life a service, a sacrifice to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the redemptive mission connected with it; in having used the legal authority which was his over the Holy Family in order to make a total gift of self, of his life and work; in having turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of self, an oblation of his heart and all his abilities into love placed at the service of the Messiah growing up in his house.”

St. Joseph with Infant Jesus by Guido Reni

St. Joseph with Infant Jesus by Guido Reni

In recalling that “the beginnings of our redemption” were entrusted “to the faithful care of Joseph,” the Liturgy specifies that “God placed him at the head of his family, as a faithful and prudent servant, so that with fatherly care he might watch over his only begotten Son.” Leo XIII emphasized the sublime nature of this mission: “He among all stands out in his august dignity, since by divine disposition he was guardian, and according to human opinion, father of God’s Son. Whence it followed that the Word of God was subjected to Joseph, he obeyed him and rendered to him that honor and reverence that children owe to their father.”

Since it is inconceivable that such a sublime task would not be matched by the necessary qualities to adequately fulfill it, we must recognize that Joseph showed Jesus “by a special gift from heaven, all the natural love, all the affectionate solicitude that a father’s heart can know.”

Besides fatherly authority over Jesus, God also gave Joseph a share in the corresponding love, the love that has its origin in the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15).

The Gospels clearly describe the fatherly responsibility of Joseph toward Jesus. For salvation-which comes through the humanity of Jesus-is realized in actions which are an everyday part of family life, in keeping with that “condescension” which is inherent in the economy of the Incarnation. The gospel writers carefully show how in the life of Jesus nothing was left to chance, but how everything took place according to God’s predetermined plan. The oft-repeated formula, “This happened, so that there might be fulfilled…,” in reference to a particular event in the Old Testament serves to emphasize the unity and continuity of the plan which is fulfilled in Christ.

With the Incarnation, the “promises” and “figures” of the Old Testament become “reality”: places, persons, events and rites interrelate according to precise divine commands communicated by angels and received by creatures who are particularly sensitive to the voice of God. Mary is the Lord’s humble servant, prepared from eternity for the task of being the Mother of God. Joseph is the one whom God chose to be the “overseer of the Lord’s birth, “the one who has the responsibility to look after the Son of God’s “ordained” entry into the world, in accordance with divine dispositions and human laws. All of the so-called “private” or “hidden” life of Jesus is entrusted to Joseph’s guardianship.”

Today, please offer up an “Our Father” for all fathers – those still with us, and those who have left us to be with God in Heaven.

To be continued in September 2015.

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

The second greatest saint, next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is Saint Joseph. His great humility and closeness to Jesus Christ, allows him to be such a saint. Saint Joseph is the foster father of Our Lord and took great care of him. Divine Revelation tells us that Saint Joseph was pure, just, gentle, prudent, and completely obedient to the will of God. We should all strive to be as faithful as Saint Joseph. He was named the Patron of the Universal Church by Blessed Pope Pius IX. Blessed Pope John XXIII added his name to the Roman Canon of the Eucharistic Prayer. Please read my blog post from last year – Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church for further information on this great protector of the Holy Family.

St. Joseph icon

St. Joseph – Patron of the Universal Church

Today we celebrate one of my favorite saints – St. Joseph. I have always had a devotion to him since my middle name is Joseph, and for Italians, he is one of the big saints we celebrate. It’s funny that most Italians think he is Italian because of the pastries that are made in his honor and name. It’s been told to me that the Poles also think he is Polish and honor him as the Italians do. In reality, St. Joseph, as we should know, was a faithful and practicing Jewish man. He is the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus Christ. All we know of St. Joseph is what we read about him in the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels. From the small excerpts in the Gospels, we read how much he loved both Mary and Jesus and he would protect them from the enemies that threatened their lives.

The two words that come to mind when I think of St. Joseph are – FAITH and OBEDIENCE.  Not only was he faithful to Mary, but his faith in God was of astronomical proportions. When the angel of Gabriel appeared to him in the dreams and told him to take Mary as his wife and to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt, he woke up and did exactly that. We should all look to St. Joseph for the great examples of Faith and Obedience. As men, we should want to be St. Joseph and women should look towards their men or for a man that wants to be like St. Joseph.

When I was in graduate school, I read the book, Joseph of Nazareth by Federico Suarez (he also has book named Mary of Nazareth).  Federico Suarez was a priest in Opus Dei. The book is not a theological treatise on St. Joseph, but a text of reflections revealed from Revelation. I picked up both of these books (for spiritual reading) in a used bookstore in Steubenville, Ohio. Many people have never heard of the book so below are excerpts that speak about St. Joseph. I hope you enjoy some of these powerful quotes from Federico Suarez on the Patron of the Universal Church.

“His figure could, in a certain sense then, appear to the eyes or in the estimation of some as that of the man-in-the-street, so ordinary that little could usefully be said of him to those who would come after.”

“…words of Mgr J. Escriva: “He did exactly what Our Lord wanted him to do, in each and every event that went to make up his life. That is why Scripture praises Joseph as ‘a just man’ (Matt 1:19).””

“The words of Isaiah (30:15) could well be applied to Joseph: “in silentio et in spe erit fortitudo vestra”, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

“Joseph love Our Lady, not with a brotherly love but with a pure conjugal love. It was so deep that any carnal relation was made totally superfluous. So refined was it that he became not only a witness of Mary’s virginal purity – virgin before birth, in birth and after birth as the Church teaches – but he became its custodian.”

“He was there to be of service to Him and to his Mother, to be at their beck and call. He took his responsibility so seriously that he was never far from them.”

“So Joseph, although he was not a priest, was the first to offer to God a holy and perfect sacrifice, the Word become incarnate in the womb of Mary, his spouse, an offering of infinite value such as the world had never seen.”

In regards to obedience…”The best sort of obedience is this”, says St. John Chrysostom: “not to start searching around in quest of reasons for doing what we are asked to do, but simply to do it.”

“Jesus did not deny the title “father” which Mary had given to Joseph. For biological fatherhood is not the only kind of fatherhood there is. And, indeed, it is often inferior in degree to other kinds.”

“He was the head of a family and a poor man. As head of a family, the responsibility of maintaining his dependents properly fell on him.”

“With Saint Joseph, the christian learns what it means to belong to God and fully to assume one’s place among men, sanctifying the world. Get to know Joseph and you will find Jesus. Talk to Joseph and you will find Mary, who always fills that attractive workshop in Nazareth with peace.”