Sunday, March 27, 2011

"The vocation to union with God is a vocation to eternal life."

The Vocation of the Soul to Eternal Life
by Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
(excerpted from Finite and Eternal Being)
We have learned to know the innermost being of the soul as the abode of God. By virtue of its pure spirituality, this innermost being is capable of receiving into itself the Spirit of God. And by virtue of its free personal nature, this innermost being is capable of surrendering itself in such a way that this reception can be come efficacious.

The vocation to union with God is a vocation to eternal life. As a purely spiritual form, the human soul is immortal by virtue of its very nature [naturlicherweise]. As a spiritual personal substance, moreover, the soul is capable of a supernatural augmentation and elevation of its life, and faith tells us that God wills to give the soul eternal life, i.e., an eternal participation in his life.

The individual soul with its unique individuality is thus not something transitory, destined merely to impress upon itself for a limited span of time the stamp of its specific particularity, and during this span of time to hand on this specific particularity to its progeny so as to preserve it beyond the duration of the life of the individual. Rather, the soul is destined for eternal being, and this destination explains why the soul is called upon to be an image of God in a wholly personal manner.

Sacred scripture offers much support for such an interpretation. Thus, we may understand the words of the Psalmist, "Qui finxit signillatim corda eorum (He has formed the heart of each of them individually) in the sense that every individual human soul has proceeded from the hands of God and bears a special seal. And when we read in the Apocalypse of St John, "I shall give the victor... a white stone, and on the stone will be inscribed a new name, known only to the one who receives it," are we not to assume that this name signifies a proper name [Eigenname] in the strict and full sense of the term, i.e., a name which enunciates the innermost essence or nature of the recipient and reveals to this recipient the mystery of his or her being that is hidden in God?

For God this name is not new but a new name is given to the victorious human being. While on earth, this person bore a different name. For human language, after all, knows of no genuine proper names. It names things as well as persons after some universally apprehensible traits of character. Human beings characterize things and persons by compiling the greatest possible number of such traits. The innermost and most authentic nature of human beings remains hidden most of the time. It is veiled by that stamp or style of character which individual human nature has assumed in the course of the individual human life under the influence of the environment and especially under the influence of social intercourse. Whatever we know or divine of this deeply hidden nature in ourselves and in others remains dark, mysterious, and ineffable. But when our earthly life ends and everything transitory falls away, then every soul will know itself as it is known, i.e., as it is before God: in the what, the why, and the whither which God had in mind when he created this personal soul, and this is essential in the status which it has attained in the orders of nature and grace by virtue of its free choices.

We also have to consider what it means for the soul to receive God into its innermost being. The omnipresent God is, of course, present always and everywhere—in inanimate and irrational creatures which are unable to receive him in the manner the soul receives him, in the outer mansions of the soul where the soul is unaware of his presence, and in the innermost being of the soul, even though the soul may not abide in its own interiority. It is therefore not possible to assume that God enters into a place where he was not present before. To say that the soul receives God means rather that it opens itself and gives itself freely to him to bring about a union that is possible only between spiritual persons. A union of love: God is love, and the participation in divine being which is granted in this union must be a participation in divine love [ein Mitlieben].

God is the plenitude of love. Created spirits, however, are incapable of receiving into themselves and of sharing to the fullest extent the total plenitude of divine love. Their share in divine love is rather determined by the measure of their being, and this implies not only a so much and not more, but also a thus and not thus. In other words, love always bears the stamp of personal individuality. And this explains in turn why God may have chosen to create for himself a special abode in each human soul, of that the plenitude of divine love might find in the manifold of differently constituted souls a wider range for its self-communication.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Going to Rome

I had hoped to prepare a few more postings on St. Edith Stein before I left, but so many other things have intruded such that it was not possible. Another close and dear family member, Rosemarie, has had a frightful last week or so, getting in critically serious condition for a while, but things are looking up now. Even so, pray for her.

After some conflicted moments about even going, I am very thankful to the Lord for being with her, so it looks like I will, after all, be able to take this trip, i.e. pilgrimage, to Rome with my mother, who has never been to the Eternal City. Worry not, a novena will be offered for Rosemarie, for you and many others.

We will return April 10.


Friday, March 25, 2011

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Canonization biography of St. Edith Stein
"We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was the synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting ... and also the synthesis of the full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God."
--Pope John Paul II, beatification of Edith Stein in Cologne on 1 May 1987

Who was this woman?

Edith Stein was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family were celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Feast of Atonement. "More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother." Being born on this day was like a foreshadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.

Edith's father, who ran a timber business, died when she had only just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hard-working, strong-willed and truly wonderful woman, now had to fend for herself and to look after the family and their large business. However, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. Edith lost her faith in God. "I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying," she said.

In 1911 she passed her school-leaving exam with flying colours and enrolled at the University of Breslau to study German and history, though this was a mere "bread-and-butter" choice. Her real interest was in philosophy and in women's issues. She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women's Franchise. "When I was at school and during my first years at university," she wrote later, "I was a radical suffragette. Then I lost interest in the whole issue. Now I am looking for purely pragmatic solutions."

In 1913, Edith Stein transferred to G6ttingen University, to study under the mentorship of Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl's new view of reality, whereby the world as we perceive it does not merely exist in a Kantian way, in our subjective perception. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: "back to things". Husserl's phenomenology unwittingly led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In G6ttingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who directed her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her "bread-and-butter" studies and passed her degree with distinction in January 1915, though she did not follow it up with teacher training.

"I no longer have a life of my own," she wrote at the beginning of the First World War, having done a nursing course and gone to serve in an Austrian field hospital. This was a hard time for her, during which she looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theatre, and saw young people die. When the hospital was dissolved, in 1916, she followed Husserl as his assistant to the German city of Freiburg, where she passed her doctorate summa cum laude (with the utmost distinction) in 1917, after writing a thesis on "The Problem of Empathy."

During this period she went to Frankfurt Cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer.
"This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot."
Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote:
"There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace."
How could she come to such a conclusion? Edith Stein had been good friends with Husserl's Göttingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife.

When Reinach fell in Flanders in November 1917, Edith went to Göttingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met with a woman of faith.
"This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross."
Later, she wrote:
"Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes."
In Autumn 1918 Edith Stein gave up her job as Husserl's teaching assistant. She wanted to work independently. It was not until 1930 that she saw Husserl again after her conversion, and she shared with him about her faith, as she would have liked him to become a Christian, too. Then she wrote down the amazing words: "Every time I feel my powerlessness and inability to influence people directly, I become more keenly aware of the necessity of my own holocaust."

Edith Stein wanted to obtain a professorship, a goal that was impossible for a woman at the time. Husserl wrote the following reference: "Should academic careers be opened up to ladies, then I can recommend her whole-heartedly and as my first choice for admission to a professorship." Later, she was refused a professorship on account of her Jewishness.

Back in Breslau, Edith Stein began to write articles about the philosophical foundation of psychology. However, she also read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. She felt that one could not just read a book like that, but had to put it into practice.

In the summer of 1921. she spent several weeks in Bergzabern (in the Palatinate) on the country estate of Hedwig Conrad-Martius, another pupil of Husserl's. Hedwig had converted to Protestantism with her husband. One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth." Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: "My longing for truth was a single prayer."

On 1 January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus entered into the covenant of Abraham. Edith Stein stood by the baptismal font, wearing Hedwig Conrad-Martius' white wedding cloak. Hedwig washer godmother. "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God." From this moment on she was continually aware that she belonged to Christ not only spiritually, but also through her blood. At the Feast of the Purification of Mary - another day with an Old Testament reference - she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.

After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: "Mother," she said, "I am a Catholic." The two women cried. Hedwig Conrad Martius wrote: "Behold, two Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (cf. John 1:47).

Immediately after her conversion she wanted to join a Carmelite convent. However, her spiritual mentors, Vicar-General Schwind of Speyer, and Erich Przywara SJ, stopped her from doing so. Until Easter 1931 she held a position teaching German and history at the Dominican Sisters' school and teacher training college of St. Magdalen's Convent in Speyer. At the same time she was encouraged by Arch-Abbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey to accept extensive speaking engagements, mainly on women's issues.
"During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to `get beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it."
She worked enormously hard, translating the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. The latter was a very free translation, for the sake of dialogue with modern philosophy. Erich Przywara also encouraged her to write her own philosophical works. She learnt that it was possible to "pursue scholarship as a service to God... It was not until I had understood this that I seriously began to approach academic work again." To gain strength for her life and work, she frequently went to the Benedictine Monastery of Beuron, to celebrate the great festivals of the Church year.

In 1931 Edith Stein left the convent school in Speyer and devoted herself to working for a professorship again, this time in Breslau and Freiburg, though her endeavours were in vain. It was then that she wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Thomas Aquinas. Later, at the Carmelite Convent in Cologne, she rewrote this study to produce her main philosophical and theological oeuvre, Finite and Eternal Being. By then, however, it was no longer possible to print the book.

In 1932 she accepted a lectureship position at the Roman Catholic division of the German Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Munster, where she developed her anthropology. She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and her teaching, seeking to be a "tool of the Lord" in everything she taught. "If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him."

In 1933 darkness broke out over Germany. "I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on His people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine." The Aryan Law of the Nazis made it impossible for Edith Stein to continue teaching. "If I can't go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany," she wrote; "I had become a stranger in the world."

The Arch-Abbot of Beuron, Walzer, now no longer stopped her from entering a Carmelite convent. While in Speyer, she had already taken a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 she met with the prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne. "Human activities cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it."

Edith Stein went to Breslau for the last time, to say good-bye to her mother and her family. Her last day at home was her birthday, 12 October, which was also the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Edith went to the synagogue with her mother. It was a hard day for the two women. "Why did you get to know it [Christianity]?" her mother asked, "I don't want to say anything against him. He may have been a very good person. But why did he make himself God?" Edith's mother cried. The following day Edith was on the train to Cologne. "I did not feel any passionate joy. What I had just experienced was too terrible. But I felt a profound peace - in the safe haven of God's will." From now on she wrote to her mother every week, though she never received any replies. Instead, her sister Rosa sent her news from Breslau.

Edith joined the Carmelite Convent of Cologne on 14 October, and her investiture took place on 15 April, 1934. The mass was celebrated by the Arch-Abbot of Beuron. Edith Stein was now known as Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce - Teresa, Blessed of the Cross. In 1938 she wrote: "I understood the cross as the destiny of God's people, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery." On 21 April 1935 she took her temporary vows. On 14 September 1936, the renewal of her vows coincided with her mother's death in Breslau.
"My mother held on to her faith to the last moment. But as her faith and her firm trust in her God ... were the last thing that was still alive in the throes of her death, I am confident that she will have met a very merciful judge and that she is now my most faithful helper, so that I can reach the goal as well."
When she made her eternal profession on 21 April 1938, she had the words of St. John of the Cross printed on her devotional picture: "Henceforth my only vocation is to love." Her final work was to be devoted to this author.

Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism.
"Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone." In particular, she interceded to God for her people: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort." (31 October 1938)
On 9 November 1938 the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the whole world.

Synagogues were burnt, and the Jewish people were subjected to terror. The prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne did her utmost to take Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce abroad. On New Year's Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite Convent in Echt in the Province of Limburg. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939:
"Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by His people and that His Kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world."
While in the Cologne convent, Edith Stein had been given permission to start her academic studies again. Among other things, she wrote about "The Life of a Jewish Family" (that is, her own family): "I simply want to report what I experienced as part of Jewish humanity," she said, pointing out that "we who grew up in Judaism have a duty to bear witness ... to the young generation who are brought up in racial hatred from early childhood."

In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942." In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order:
"One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)."
Her study on St. John of the Cross is entitled: "Kreuzeswissenschaft" (The Science of the Cross).

Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people."

Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. This was an act of retaliation against the letter of protest written by the Dutch Roman Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of Jews. Edith commented,
"I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. ... I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress."
Prof. Jan Nota, who was greatly attached to her, wrote later: "She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent."

On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, her sister and many other of her people were gassed.

When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured "a daughter of Israel", as Pope John Paul II put it, who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Novena of the Holy Spirit

Novena of the Holy Spirit
by St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Who are you, sweet light, that fills me
And illumines the darkness of my heart?
You lead me like a mother's hand,
And should you let go of me,
I would not know how to take another step.
You are the space
That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.
Away from you it sinks into the abyss
Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the light.
You, nearer to me than I to myself
And more interior than my most interior
And still impalpable and intangible
And beyond any name:
Holy Spirit eternal love!

Are you not the sweet manna
That from the Son's heart
Overflows into my heart,
The food of angels and the blessed?
He who raised himself from death to life,
He has also awakened me to new life
From the sleep of death.
And he gives me new life from day to day,
And at some time his fullness is to stream through me,
Life of your life indeed, you yourself:
Holy Spirit eternal life!

Are you the ray
That flashes down from the eternal Judge's throne
And breaks into the night of the soul
That had never known itself?
Mercifully relentlessly
It penetrates hidden folds.
Alarmed at seeing itself,
The self makes space for holy fear,
The beginning of that wisdom
That comes from on high
And anchors us firmly in the heights,
Your action,
That creates us anew:
Holy Spirit ray that penetrates everything!

Are you the spirit's fullness and the power
By which the Lamb releases the seal
Of God's eternal decree?
Driven by you
The messengers of judgment ride through the world
And separate with a sharp sword
The kingdom of light from the kingdom of night.
Then heaven becomes new and new the earth,
And all finds its proper place
Through your breath:
Holy Spirit victorious power!

Are you the master who builds the eternal cathedral,
Which towers from the earth through the heavens?
Animated by you, the columns are raised high
And stand immovably firm.
Marked with the eternal name of God,
They stretch up to the light,
Bearing the dome,
Which crowns the holy cathedral,
Your work that encircles the world:
Holy Spirit God's molding hand!

Are you the one who created the unclouded mirror
Next to the Almighty's throne,
Like a crystal sea,
In which Divinity lovingly looks at itself?
You bend over the fairest work of your creation,
And radiantly your own gaze
Is illumined in return.
And of all creatures the pure beauty
Is joined in one in the dear form
Of the Virgin, your immaculate bride:
Holy Spirit Creator of all!

Are you the sweet song of love
And of holy awe
That eternally resounds around the triune throne,
That weds in itself the clear chimes of each and every being?
The harmony,
That joins together the members to the Head,
In which each one
Finds the mysterious meaning of his being blessed
And joyously surges forth,
Freely dissolved in your surging:
Holy Spirit eternal jubilation!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Authentic Fatherhood:
The Fruitfulness of the Love of Joseph in His Virginal Marriage to Mary

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In his catechesis below, Pope John Paul II has a remarkable insight regarding St. Joseph -- that by the fullness of his love for God and Mary, a transcendent love that is both unitive and truly fruitful, in the spirit even if not in the flesh, he was a true "father" to Jesus, not merely in the legal sense. He was not merely a bystander or an after-the-fact custodian, but contributed to the fruit of Mary's womb by the love that he had for her and God in his heart, and the love that she had for them in hers. When Jesus was made present in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, Joseph was already present in her heart. This is, of course, consistent with the Theology of the Body, that it is the fullness of love which is procreative, and not biology only, that the fullness of love is, by its very nature, both spousal and parental, unitive and fruitful/creative.

Fr. Scalia also has some outstanding thoughts on St. Joseph and fatherhood, but he presents the more traditional view, referring to Joseph as a father under the Law, without taking the extra step regarding that fatherhood that Pope John Paul does.

The Virginal Fatherhood of Joseph
Venerable Pope John Paul II
General Audience of August 21, 1996
The angel of the Lord appeared in a dream and said to him: "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:20). Thus he received confirmation that he was called to live his marriage in a completely special way. Through virginal communion with the woman chosen to give birth to Jesus, God calls him to co-operate in carrying out his plan of salvation.

The type of marriage to which the Holy Spirit led Mary and Joseph can only be understood in the context of the saving plan and of a lofty spirituality. . . .

Precisely in view of their contribution to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, Joseph and Mary received the grace of living both the charism of virginity and the gift of marriage. Mary and Joseph's communion of virginal love, although a special case linked with the concrete realization of the mystery of the Incarnation, was nevertheless a true marriage (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, n. 7).

The difficulty of accepting the sublime mystery of their spousal communion has led some, since the second century, to think of Joseph as advanced in age and to consider him Mary's guardian more than her husband. However, one should instead suppose that he was not an elderly man at the time, but that his interior perfection, the fruit of grace, led him to live his spousal relationship with Mary with virginal affection.

While excluding physical generation, Joseph's fatherhood was something real not apparent. Distinguishing between father and the one who begets, an ancient monograph on Mary's virginity the De Margarita (fourth century) states that
"the commitments assumed by the Virgin and by Joseph as husband and wife made it possible for him to be called by this name (father); a father, however, who did not beget."
Joseph thus carried out the role of Jesus' father, exercising an authority to which the Redeemer was freely "obedient" (Lk 2:51), contributing to his upbringing and teaching him the carpenter's trade.

True Fatherhood
Fr. Paul Scalia
Arlington Catholic Herald, December 25, 2003
Poor St. Joseph. If religious art is any indication, his role in the Holy Family was almost useless. Most of the time he is shown as an old man, sitting in the shadows, trailing behind Jesus and Mary, sleeping on the flight into Egypt. Not exactly an inspiring example of leadership.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, however, has no doubts about Joseph’s role. "Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety," she says to the child Jesus in the Temple. (Lk 3:48) "Your father." She, who knew more than anyone else about our Lord’s heavenly Father, does not qualify Joseph’s fatherhood at all.

Joseph was not our Lord’s pretend or "make believe" father. By way of his marriage to the Blessed Virgin, Jewish law afforded him true paternal responsibility and authority over her child. To be sure, Christ’s divine nature comes from God the Father alone and His human nature from Mary alone. Yet God entrusted to Joseph the headship of the Holy Family. For that reason Mary gives Joseph the title "Father" of Christ. He, who was neither the eternal nor the biological father of our Lord, nevertheless demonstrates true fatherhood.

To understand the importance of St. Joseph’s example, we must take seriously the crisis of fatherhood today. Our culture has little use for fathers, except perhaps as the butt of jokes on sitcoms and commercials. (Can you name one respected father in popular culture?) In fact, there exists a deep hatred for fatherhood, as demonstrated by irresponsible men who abandon their families, and radical feminists who proclaim that fathers are unnecessary. We see the father’s legitimate headship betrayed by both extremes: on one hand, a father abuses his authority by using it for his own desires; on the other hand, a father neglects his authority and leaves his family without a leader.

Therefore, we look to St. Joseph, the "foster-father" of our Lord, for the example of a true father. His paradoxical situation calls attention to the truth about fatherhood. First, because he stood as father to a boy who was his son only in the legal sense, he was keenly aware, as every father should be, that he served as the representative of God the Father. Second, because he was the least of the three members of the Holy Family in personal dignity, he exercised his authority with the greatest humility, as every father should.

St. Joseph understood that he, a mere man conceived and born in sin, had been entrusted with the headship of the Holy Family. He was to rule over the Incarnate Word and the Immaculate Conception. He neither neglected this authority, nor used it for selfish gain. Rather, he exercised his headship in perfect humility, in the service of his family. Joseph protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man. This "foster-father" reveals that fatherhood is more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children.

Several years ago, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger remarked that, "the crisis of fatherhood we are living today is an element, perhaps the most important, threatening man in his humanity." To recover the true teaching on fatherhood, this most important element of humanity, let us take St. Joseph as our unfailing example on earth and our powerful intercessor in heaven.

See also - St. Joseph and the Fullness of Love in the Theology of the Body

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Saints on St. Joseph

On St. Joseph (Part 1)
Straight Answers, by Fr. William P. Saunders
Arlington Catholic Herald, March 16, 2006

Tradition also holds that [St. Joseph] died in the presence of Jesus and Mary. For this reason, St. Joseph is the patron saint of a holy death. Although not defined by the Magisterium, St. Francis de Sales (d. 1622) believed that St. Joseph was assumed body and soul into heaven:

"What is there left for us to say now if not that, in no way must we doubt that this glorious saint enjoys much credit in Heaven in the company of the One who favored him so much as to raise him there, body and soul; something which is all the more likely since we have no relic of him here below on earth. It seems to me no one can doubt this truth; for how could He have refused this grace to St. Joseph, he who had been obedient at all times in his entire life?" (complete Works).

On St. Joseph (Part 2)
Straight Answers, by Fr. William P. Saunders
Arlington Catholic Herald, March 23, 2006

Several great saints held great devotion to St. Joseph: St. Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444) preached,

"He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of His greatest treasures, namely, His divine Son and Mary, Joseph's wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying, 'Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.'"

St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582) in her Life wrote,

"I took St. Joseph as my advocate and protector, and recommended myself very earnestly to him. He came to my help in the most visible manner. This loving father of my soul, this beloved protector, hastened to pull me out of the state in which my body was languishing, just as he snatched me away from greater dangers of another nature which were jeopardizing my honor and my eternal salvation! For my happiness to be complete, he has always answered my prayers beyond what I had asked and hoped for. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul."

In more recent times, Blessed Brother Andre Bessette* (d. 1937) had a tremendous devotion to St. Joseph. While he was a young man, he had a dream, seeing a church in an unfamiliar setting. From this dream, he was inspired that a beautiful church be built in honor of St. Joseph on Mount Royale in Montreal, Canada. Today, St. Joseph’s Oratory is the largest church in the world dedicated to St. Joseph. Blessed Andre never spoke of this being “his” project; rather, he said,

“Personally I am nothing. God chose the most ignorant one. If there was anyone more ignorant than I am, the good God would have chosen him.”

Through the intercession of St. Joseph, Blessed Andre performed various cures, but stated, “It is St. Joseph who cures. I am only his little dog.” Blessed Andre’s life reflects true devotion to St. Joseph: the simple, quiet, humble man who served the Lord and His family, the Church.


* Now Saint Andre (and also my cousin (nice to have a saint in the family))

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

St. Joseph - Truly a Husband, Truly a Father

Homily of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Solemnity of St. Joseph
19 March 2001

1. "Here is the wise and faithful servant, whom the Lord has put in charge of his household" (cf. Lk 12: 42).

This is how today's liturgy presents St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Guardian of the Redeemer. He was the wise and faithful servant who, with obedient docility, accepted the will of the Lord, who entrusted him with "his" family on earth to watch over it with daily devotion.

St. Joseph persevered in this mission with fidelity and love. The Church, therefore, offers him to us as an exceptional model of service to Christ and to His mysterious plan of salvation. And she calls upon him as the special patron and protector of the whole family of believers. In a special way, Joseph is presented to us on his feast day as the saint under whose powerful protection divine Providence has wished to place the persons and ministry of all who are called to be "fathers" and "guardians" among the Christian people.

2. ""Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously'...."How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?'" (Lk 2: 48-49).

In this simple, family conversation between Mother and Son, which we heard a few moments ago in the Gospel, we find the characteristics of Joseph's holiness. They correspond to God's plan for him, which he, being the just man that he was, would fulfil with marvellous fidelity.

"Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously," Mary said. "I must be in my Father's house," Jesus replies. It is precisely these words of the Son that help us to understand the mystery of Joseph's "fatherhood." In reminding His parents of the primacy of the One whom He called "my Father," Jesus reveals the truth about Mary's and Joseph's role. The latter was truly Mary's "husband" and Jesus' "father," as she affirmed when she said: "Your father and I have been looking for you." But his being a husband and father is totally subordinate to that of God.

This is how Joseph of Nazareth was called, in turn, to become one of Jesus' disciples: by dedicating his life to serving the only-begotten Son of the Father and of His Virgin Mother, Mary.

It is a mission that he continues to carry out for the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, to which he never fails to give his provident care, as he did for the humble family of Nazareth.

De Nuptiis et Concupiscentia
On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book I, ch. 12-13
St. Augustine

It was not deceitfully that the angel said to Joseph: Fear not to take unto you Mary your wife. (Mt 1:20) She is called his wife because of her first troth of betrothal, although he had had no carnal knowledge of her, nor was destined to have. The designation of wife was neither destroyed nor made untrue, where there never had been, nor was meant to be, any carnal connection. That virgin wife was rather a holier and more wonderful joy to her husband because of her very pregnancy without man, with disparity as to the child that was born, without disparity in the faith they cherished. And because of this conjugal fidelity they are both deservedly called parents (Lk 2:41) of Christ (not only she as His mother, but he as His father, as being her husband), both having been such in mind and purpose, though not in the flesh. But while the one was His father in purpose only, and the other His mother in the flesh also, they were both of them, for all that, only the parents of His humility, not of His sublimity; of His weakness, not of His divinity. For the Gospel does not lie, in which one reads, Both His father and His mother marvelled at those things which were spoken about Him; and in another passage, Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year; (Lk 2:41) and again a little afterwards, His mother said unto Him, Son, why have You thus dealt with us? Behold, Your father and I have sought You sorrowing. (Lk 2:48) . . .

The entire good, therefore, of the nuptial institution was effected in the case of these parents of Christ: there was offspring, there was faithfulness, there was the bond. As offspring, we recognise the Lord Jesus Himself; the fidelity, in that there was no adultery; the bond, because there was no divorce. Only there was no nuptial cohabitation.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Authentic Love of Joseph - Loving Without Possessing

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
First Vespers of the Solemnity of St. Joseph

Basilique Marie Reine des Apôtres, Yaoundé, Cameroon
March 18, 2009
I wish to reflect on the figure of Saint Joseph, setting out from the words of Scripture offered to us in this evening’s liturgy. Speaking to the crowd and to His disciples, Jesus declared: “You have only one Father” (Mt 23:9). There is but one fatherhood, that of God the Father, the one Creator of the world, “of all that is seen and unseen.” Yet man, created in the image of God, has been granted a share in this one paternity of God (cf. Eph 3:15).

Saint Joseph is a striking case of this, since he is a father without fatherhood according to the flesh. He is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely. To be a father means, above all, to be at the service of life and growth. Saint Joseph, in this sense, gave proof of great devotion. For the sake of Christ, he experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails. He had to settle far from his native town. His only reward was to be with Christ. His readiness to do all these things illustrates the words of Saint Paul: “It is Christ the Lord whom you serve” (Col 3:24).

What is important is not to be a useless servant, but rather a “faithful and wise servant.” The pairing of the two adjectives is not by chance. It suggests that understanding without fidelity, and fidelity without wisdom, are insufficient. One quality alone, without the other, would not enable us to assume fully the responsibility which God entrusts to us. . . .

Origen writes that
“Joseph understood that Jesus was superior to him even as He submitted to him, and, knowing the superiority of his charge, he commanded Him with respect and moderation. Everyone should reflect on this: frequently a lesser man is placed over people who are greater, and it happens at times that an inferior is more worthy than the one who appears to be set above him. If a person of greater dignity understands this, then he will not be puffed up with pride because of his higher rank; he will know that his inferior may well be superior to him, even as Jesus was subject to Joseph.” (Homily on Saint Luke XX, 5; S.C. p. 287). . . .
When Mary received the visit of the angel at the Annunciation, she was already betrothed to Joseph. In addressing Mary personally, the Lord already closely associates Joseph to the mystery of the Incarnation. Joseph agreed to be part of the great events which God was beginning to bring about in the womb of his spouse. He took Mary into his home. He welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the mystery that was Mary herself. He loved her with great respect, which is the mark of all authentic love.

Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love without possessing. In contemplating Joseph, all men and women can, by God’s grace, come to experience healing from their emotional wounds, if only they embrace the plan that God has begun to bring about in those close to Him, just as Joseph entered into the work of redemption through Mary and as a result of what God had already done in her. . . .

Dear brothers and sisters, our meditation on the human and spiritual journey of Saint Joseph invites us to ponder his vocation in all its richness, and to see him as a constant model for all those who have devoted their lives to Christ in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in the different forms of lay engagement. Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a “just man” (Mt 1:19) because his existence is “ad-justed” to the word of God.

The life of Saint Joseph, lived in obedience to God’s word, is an eloquent sign for all the disciples of Jesus who seek the unity of the Church. His example helps us to understand that it is only by complete submission to the will of God that we become effective workers in the service of His plan to gather together all mankind into one family, one assembly, one “ecclesia.”. . .

In conclusion, let us now turn to the spouse of Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, “Queen of Apostles,” for under this title she is invoked as Patroness of Cameroon. To her I commend the consecration which each of you has received, as well as your desire to respond ever more faithfully to your calling and to the mission entrusted to you. Finally, I invoke her intercession for your beautiful country. Amen.

Friday, March 11, 2011

St. Joseph and the Fullness of Love in the Theology of the Body

At first, it appears that we know very little about St. Joseph, and it is true that not much is said about him in the Gospels. Nevertheless, we can discern a great deal from scripture, as well as from Sacred Tradition. But the Blessed Virgin Mary also has something to teach us about her Joseph.

As with Mary, God chose Joseph for his role in salvation history. When an angel appeared to tell him to not be afraid to take the pregnant Mary into his home as his wife, that she had conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that he should name the child “Jesus,” Joseph complied and placed himself at the service of the Lord without hesitation. He took Mary, not only into his home, but into his heart, as his wife, and he took Jesus as his own son, accepting the vocations of faithful spouse and father.

Indeed, one might argue that Joseph’s “Yes” to God was a greater act of faith than the “Yes” given by Mary at the Annunciation. After Mary had disclosed that she was with child, all of the evidence pointed toward Mary being unfaithful -- she was pregnant, he had not been with her, she didn't have a prior husband, she didn't claim to have been accosted, and that story that she was with child through the Holy Spirit lacked all credibility. But Joseph also knew that such infidelity and lying were totally against Mary's character, which he knew to be good (but certainly he could not know exactly how good and holy), and he knew that he loved Mary.

So, he had a quandry. He was conflicted. His head told him one thing, but his heart wanted to tell him something else.

When the angel visited him, Joseph could have very easily disbelieved it as merely an act of his subconscious during a dream. It is true that one in Mary's position could also have easily dismissed the visit from the angel at the Annunciation as an overactive imagination (even though being full of grace), but the message to her was soon confirmed by her pregnancy and the fact that Mary knew that she had not been with a man. However, Joseph had nothing of this world to confirm that she had not been with another man, but had instead conceived through the Holy Spirit. Joseph had only Mary’s word for it, and the word of what easily could have been his imagination in a dream.

Now, the Gospel states that Joseph was a righteous man, a just man. God is also righteous and just, but He tempers His justice with mercy, which, properly understood, does not contravene the Law, but fulfills it. It is interesting, then, that some 30 or so years later, when Jesus was confronted with the woman caught in adultery, the penalty under the Law for infidelity being death by stoning, He would respond in similar fashion, with mercy.

In saving Mary (and the unborn Jesus) from stoning to death – which Joseph had decided to do before the visit from the angel -- his was an act of mercy. It is a mercy born of love. Joseph loved (and loves) Mary, even after the stunning revelation that she was pregnant. Here was evidence of infidelity staring him right in the face, but he did not want to believe it. He loved her, and besides, he knew her character, that she would never do such a thing. So, he acted with mercy, which was the just and righteous thing to do, even if it did not appear so to worldly men, especially since Mary was, in fact, entirely innocent.

After the angel’s visit, notwithstanding good reason for doubt, Joseph placed his trust in Mary and his faith in God. He reasoned with his heart, rather than his head. Instead of demanding proof, instead of putting God to the test, without having any evidence – against the worldly evidence even – Joseph made a supreme act of faith. Joseph acted on love.

It was not until the shepherds showed up at the stable after the birth of Jesus, explaining that an angel had appeared to them announcing the good news of the birth, that Joseph had any tangible confirmation that he was right to believe in Mary – he was right to act on love and have faith in God.

Joseph was a model of love – true love – not the false so-called “love” of feelings and emotions, of making himself happy, of satisfying his own wants and desires, but true and complete love, the intense longing of purified eros and sacrificial gift of self of agape (See Deus Caritas Est). The spousal love of Joseph for Mary, and the spousal love of Mary for Joseph, was made complete by their spousal love for God, and it was in that fullness of love that the virginal marriage of Joseph and Mary was both unitive and procreative.

The spousal meaning of the human body, male and female, is not merely one of complimentariness, but shows that we are made for relationships that are (a) unitive, which brings about, not simply a partnership, but communion with the other, a mystical transcendental joining with the other such that many become one, and (b) creative, a fruitfulness that is not limited to the biological (sexual), but is transcendent; it was by the love of the Logos that the universe itself was created. In this way, although Mary and Joseph never “consummated” the marriage in the flesh (i.e. sexually), one can say that the marriage was a real marriage, made complete and whole spiritually, in the spirit of love. Their virginal marriage was unitive and fruitful in that very virginity, i.e. in their complete gift of self to God and, therefore, complete gift to each other, intimately receiving the other’s heart into his or her own person in the fullness of love.

The Holy Family is the “Church in miniature” and, together with Jesus, Joseph and Mary mirror the Trinity, a loving communion of three persons in one family, one body. Their spousal love resulted not only in communion with each other and God, but was fruitful — not only the Child they raised together and shared in spirit, if not the flesh (cf. St. Augustine, De nuptiis et concupiscentia, I:12-13), but also all those children who call His Father their Father. Joseph is protector and defender of, and provider for, Mary and Jesus and, hence of the entire Church. As such, he is a father to the children of the Church.

There is also an eschatological significance to their relationship, that is, their marriage looks forward to the New Jerusalem when we will not be given in marriage in heaven. That is, relationships will not be sexual, but will be as the virginal spousal love between Mary and Joseph. If we wish to know what eternal life in the resurrection of the body will be like, we do well to look at Joseph and Mary, a loving communion of persons, a love that is more complete and bears more fruit than any that can be conceived of in this world.

The Eschatological Significance of the Marriage of Joseph and Mary
Venerable Pope John Paul II
Catechesis on the Theology of the Body, March 24, 1982
In the kingdom of heaven “they take neither husband nor wife” (Mt 22:30). It is a charismatic sign. The human being, male and female, who, in the earthly situation, in which “they take wife and take husband” (Lk 20:34), freely chooses continence for the kingdom of heaven, indicates that in that kingdom, which is the other world of the resurrection, “they will take neither husband nor wife” (Mk 12:25), because God will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

This way of existing as a human being, male and female, indicates the eschatological “virginity” of the risen man, in which, I would say, the absolute and eternal spousal meaning of the glorified body will be revealed in union with God Himself, by seeing Him “face to face,” glorified moreover through the union of a perfect intersubjectivity that will unite all who participate in the other world, men and women, in the mystery of the communion of saints. . . .

Mary's motherhood is virginal, and to this virginal motherhood corresponded the virginal mystery of Joseph, who, following the voice from on high, did not hesitate to "take Mary...for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:20). . . .

The history of the birth of Jesus is certainly in line with that "continence for the kingdom of heaven" of which Christ will speak one day to his disciples. However, this event remained hidden to the men of that time and also to the disciples. Only gradually would it be revealed to the eyes of the Church on the basis of the witness and texts of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The marriage of Mary and Joseph (in which the Church honors Joseph as Mary's spouse, and Mary as his spouse), conceals within itself, at the same time, the mystery of the perfect communion of the persons, of Man and Woman in the conjugal covenant, and at the same time the mystery of this singular “continence for the kingdom of heaven”: a continence that served the most perfect “fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit” in the history of salvation. Indeed, in a certain sense it was the absolute fullness of that spiritual fruitfulness, since precisely in the Nazareth conditions of the pact of Mary and Joseph in marriage and in continence, the gift of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word was realized. (emphasis added)


See also Pope John Paul II, Mary and Joseph Lived Gift of Virginity
Fr. Walter Schu, Virginity and Theology of the Body
Fr. Florent Raymond Bilodeau, The Virginity of Saint Joseph in the Latin Fathers and Medieval Ecclesiastical Writers

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Finding Hope in the Faith of Joseph

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Mass on the Solemnity of St. Joseph

Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaoundé, Cameroon
March 19, 2009
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Praised be Jesus Christ who has gathered us in this stadium today that we may enter more deeply into his life!

Jesus Christ brings us together on this day when the Church, here in Cameroon and throughout the world, celebrates the Feast of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Virgin Mary. I begin by wishing a very happy feast day to all those who, like myself, have received the grace of bearing this beautiful name, and I ask Saint Joseph to grant them his special protection in guiding them towards the Lord Jesus Christ all the days of their life. I also extend cordial best wishes to all the parishes, schools, colleges, and institutions named after Saint Joseph. . . .

How can we enter into the specific grace of this day? In a little while, at the end of Mass, the liturgy will remind us of the focal point of our meditation when it has us pray: “Lord, today you nourish us at this altar as we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph. Protect your Church always, and in your love watch over the gifts you have given us.”

We are asking the Lord to protect the Church always – and He does! – just as Joseph protected his family and kept watch over the child Jesus during His early years. Our Gospel reading recalls this for us. The angel said to Joseph: “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home,” (Mt 1:20) and that is precisely what he did: “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Mt 1:24).

Why was Saint Matthew so keen to note Joseph’s trust in the words received from the messenger of God, if not to invite us to imitate this same loving trust?

Although the first reading which we have just heard does not speak explicitly of Saint Joseph, it does teach us a good deal about him. The prophet Nathan, in obedience to God’s command, tells David: “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins” (2 Sam 7:12). David must accept that he will die before seeing the fulfilment of this promise, which will come to pass “when (his) time comes” and he will rest “with (his) ancestors.”

We thus come to realize that one of mankind’s most cherished desires – seeing the fruits of one’s labours – is not always granted by God. I think of those among you who are mothers and fathers of families. Parents quite rightly desire to give the best of themselves to their children, and they want to see them achieve success. Yet make no mistake about what this “success” entails: what God asks David to do is to place his trust in Him. David himself will not see his heir who will have a throne “firm for ever” (2 Sam 7:16), for this heir, announced under the veil of prophecy, is Jesus. David puts his trust in God.

In the same way, Joseph trusts God when he hears his messenger, the Angel, say to him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt 1:20). Throughout all of history, Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust, even in the face of such astonishing news.

Dear fathers and mothers here today, do you have trust in God who has called you to be the fathers and mothers of His adopted children? Do you accept that He is counting on you to pass on to your children the human and spiritual values that you yourselves have received and which will prepare them to live with love and respect for His holy name?

At a time when so many people have no qualms about trying to impose the tyranny of materialism, with scant concern for the most deprived, you must be very careful. Africa in general, and Cameroon in particular, place themselves at risk if they do not recognize the True Author of Life!

Brothers and sisters in Cameroon and throughout Africa, you who have received from God so many human virtues, take care of your souls! Do not let yourselves be captivated by selfish illusions and false ideals! Believe – yes! – continue to believe in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – He alone truly loves you in the way you yearn to be loved, He alone can satisfy you, can bring stability to your lives. Only Christ is the way of Life.

God alone could grant Joseph the strength to trust the Angel. God alone will give you, dear married couples, the strength to raise your family as He wants. Ask it of Him! God loves to be asked for what He wishes to give. Ask Him for the grace of a true and ever more faithful love patterned after His own. As the Psalm magnificently puts it: His “love is established for ever, His loyalty will stand as long as the heavens” (Ps 88:3).

Just as on other continents, the family today – in your country and across Africa – is experiencing a difficult time; but fidelity to God will help see it through. Certain values of the traditional life have been overturned. Relationships between different generations have evolved in a way that no longer favours the transmission of accumulated knowledge and inherited wisdom.

Too often we witness a rural exodus not unlike that known in many other periods of human history. The quality of family ties is deeply affected by this. Uprooted and fragile members of the younger generation who often – sadly – are without gainful employment, seek to cure their pain by living in ephemeral and man-made paradises which we know will never guarantee the human being a deep, abiding happiness. Sometimes, the African people too are constrained to flee from themselves and abandon everything that once made up their interior richness. Confronted with the phenomenon of rapid urbanization, they leave the land, physically and morally: not as Abraham had done in response to the Lord’s call, but as a kind of interior exile which alienates them from their very being, from their brothers and sisters, and from God himself.

Is this an irreversible, inevitable development? By no means! More than ever, we must “hope against all hope” (Rom 4:18).

Here I wish to acknowledge with appreciation and gratitude the remarkable work done by countless associations that promote the life of faith and the practice of charity. May they be warmly thanked! May they find in the word of God renewed strength to carry out their projects for the integral development of the human person in Africa, especially in Cameroon!

The first priority will consist in restoring a sense of the acceptance of life as a gift from God. According to both Sacred Scripture and the wisest traditions of your continent, the arrival of a child is always a gift, a blessing from God. Today it is high time to place greater emphasis on this: every human being, every tiny human person, however weak, is created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:27).

Every person must live! Death must not prevail over life! Death will never have the last word!

Sons and daughters of Africa, do not be afraid to believe, to hope, and to love; do not be afraid to say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that we can be saved by Him alone.

Saint Paul is indeed an inspired author given to the Church by the Holy Spirit as a “teacher of nations” (1 Tim 2:7) when he tells us that Abraham, “hoping against hope, believed that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, ‘So shall your descendants be’” (Rom 4:18).

“Hoping against hope”: is this not a magnificent description of a Christian? Africa is called to hope through you and in you! With Jesus Christ, who trod the African soil, Africa can become the continent of hope!

We are all members of the peoples that God gave to Abraham as his descendants. Each and every one of us was thought, willed and loved by God. Each and every one of us has a role to play in the plan of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us praise and thank Christ for having drawn so close to us, and for giving us Joseph as an example and model of love for Him.

Dear brothers and sisters, I want to say to you once more from the bottom of my heart: like Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary into your home, that is to say do not be afraid to love the Church. Mary, Mother of the Church, will teach you to follow your pastors, to love your bishops, your priests, your deacons and your catechists; to heed what they teach you and to pray for their intentions.

Husbands, look upon the love of Joseph for Mary and Jesus; those preparing for marriage, treat your future spouse as Joseph did; those of you who have given yourselves to God in celibacy, reflect upon the teaching of the Church, our Mother: “Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but presupposes and confirms it. Marriage and virginity are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the Covenant of God with his people” (Redemptoris Custos, 20).

Once more, I wish to extend a particular word of encouragement to fathers so that they may take Saint Joseph as their model. He who kept watch over the Son of Man is able to teach them the deepest meaning of their own fatherhood. In the same way, each father receives his children from God, and they are created in God’s own image and likeness.

Saint Joseph was the spouse of Mary. In the same way, each father sees himself entrusted with the mystery of womanhood through his own wife. Dear fathers, like Saint Joseph, respect and love your spouse; and by your love and your wise presence, lead your children to God where they must be (cf. Lk 2:49).

Finally, to all the young people present, I offer words of friendship and encouragement: as you face the challenges of life, take courage! Your life is priceless in the eyes of God! Let Christ take hold of you, agree to pledge your love to him, and – why not? – maybe even do so in the priesthood or in the consecrated life! This is the supreme service.

To the children who no longer have a father, or who live abandoned in the poverty of the streets, to those forcibly separated from their parents, to the maltreated and abused, to those constrained to join paramilitary forces that are terrorizing some countries, I would like to say: God loves you, He has not forgotten you, and Saint Joseph protects you! Invoke him with confidence.

May God bless you and watch over you! May He give you the grace to keep advancing towards Him with fidelity! May He give stability to your lives so that you may reap the fruits He awaits from you! May He make you witnesses of His love here in Cameroon and to the ends of the earth! I fervently beg Him to give you a taste of the joy of belonging to Him, now and for ever. Amen.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Now Showing on Cinema Catechism:
Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church

Father John Cregan speaks about the Blessed Sacrament parish community.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Joseph is a model of love – true love – not the false so-called “love” of mere feelings and emotions, of merely making himself happy and satisfying his own wants and desires, but the true and perfect love of consciously deciding to empty himself and make a gift of self in seeking the good of others.

In complete fidelity, Joseph placed himself entirely at the service of Mary and Jesus. As the model husband and father, in addition to servant, Joseph was defender, protector, and provider. He took Mary and Jesus into his home and into his heart. He found shelter when there was no room at the inn; he took his family to Egypt when Herod was determined to destroy the Messiah in Bethlehem; he kept them safely in Egypt until Herod’s demise, when they could safely return home to Nazareth; and he worked as a craftsman, a carpenter, to provide a home for his family. When Mary and Jesus encountered the hardships of everyday life, it was Joseph who stood at their side, providing them help and encouragement.

Joseph was also counsellor and teacher to the young Jesus, providing Him the usual education, instructing Him in a trade, and proclaiming the faith to Him. Joseph arranged for the circumcision of baby Jesus, the entrance into the covenant with God, and he presented Him to the Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem. Joseph took Jesus to the synagogue to hear the word of God and, each Passover, Joseph took his family on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where, at age 12, Jesus was found discussing the faith with teachers in the Temple.

Aside from Mary, Joseph was closer to and knew Jesus more than any other person in history. Until his death, Joseph observed, participated in, and knew all the intimate details of Jesus’ life. It was Joseph who, together with Mary, most influenced and prepared Jesus for His adult and public life. Whereas John the Baptist prepared the world for Jesus, preparing the way for the Lord on a public level, it was Joseph who prepared the way for the Lord on a private level.

Indeed, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are the family of God. In them is the Church in miniature, the model for all of us in faith, love, hope, and truth.

Now, Joseph could have said “No.” Just as Mary the Immaculate retained free will, so too did Joseph have the freedom to refuse to be husband and father. He had the freedom to reject the message of the angel and allow Mary (and the unborn Jesus, because the Incarnation had already occurred) to be stoned to death, thereby defeating God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Just as God placed Himself at the mercy of Mary, making Himself small and defenseless in her womb, so too did God entrust Himself to Joseph, totally and completely vulnerable and defenseless. But God also knew that Joseph was just and righteous and, just as He chose Mary, the Father of Jesus in heaven specifically chose Joseph to be the father of Jesus on earth.

God knew, as we know now, that Joseph was and is a model of love and fidelity, a good and righteous man to whom He could entrust His Son. And so, we understand that, because he was protector and defender of Jesus, so too is Joseph protector and defender of the Church. Thus, as with Mary, we can turn to St. Joseph in heaven to protect us always.

Father, you entrusted our Savior to the care of St. Joseph. By the help of his prayers may your Church continue to serve its Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

It Wasn't His Child (ad may play first)
Trisha Yearwood


A Prayer and a Reflection

St. Joseph, pray for Marilyn and bring her to meet your Son, Jesus.

See also, A Daughter at the Foot of the Cross

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Humility and Hiddenness of St. Joseph

Catechesis of Pope Benedict XVI
Sunday Angelus, March 19, 2006
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 fulfill God's will with confidence and love, thereby cooperating in the fulfillment of the work of salvation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The World Needs the Silence of St. Joseph

Catechesis of Pope Benedict XVI
Sunday Angelus, December 18, 2005
Today, I would like to turn my gaze to the figure of St. Joseph. In today's Gospel St. Luke presents the Virgin Mary as "a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David" (cf. Lk 1: 27). The Evangelist Matthew, however, places a greater emphasis on the putative father of Jesus, stressing that through him the Child belonged legally to the lineage of David and thus fulfilled the Scriptural prophecy that the Messiah would be a "son of David."

But Joseph's role cannot be reduced to this legal aspect. He was the model of a "just" man (Mt 1: 19) who, in perfect harmony with his wife, welcomed the Son of God made man and watched over his human growth.

It is therefore particularly appropriate in the days that precede Christmas to establish a sort of spiritual conversation with St. Joseph, so that he may help us live to the full this great mystery of faith.

Beloved Pope John Paul II, who was very devoted to St. Joseph, left us a wonderful meditation dedicated to him in the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, "The Guardian of the Redeemer."

Among the many aspects on which this Document sheds light, the silence of St. Joseph is given a special emphasis. His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to the divine desires.

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; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of his holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence.

It is no exaggeration to think that it was precisely from his "father" Joseph that Jesus learned - at the human level - that steadfast interiority which is a presupposition of authentic justice, the "superior justice" which he was one day to teach his disciples (cf. Mt 5: 20).

Let us allow ourselves to be "filled" with St. Joseph's silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God's voice, we are in such deep need of it.