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mothersuzanneaubertIn Mass each week, we are praying for the canonisation of Mother Aubert of the Sisters of Compassion.

Suzanne Aubert grew up in a French provincial family. Lyon’s missionary spirit brought her to live with Maori girls in war-anxious 1860s Auckland. She nursed Maori and Pakeha in Hawke’s Bay as the settler population swelled in the 1870s. In the 1880s and 1890s, up the Whanganui at Hiruharama/Jerusalem, she broke in a hill farm, published a Maori text, manufactured medicines, set up the only New Zealand home-grown Catholic congregation, and gathered babies and children through the family-fracturing years of economic depression. The turn of the century sent her windswept skirts through the streets of the capital. There she would be a constant sign of warm caring and tolerance until she died in 1926. [From the Sisters of Compassion website]

For a fuller history of her life, see the link above, or follow the dates in the Sisters’ timeline of Mother Aubert’s life. The Te Ara encyclopaedia also has an excellent article, which gives a good account of her conflicts with government policy, bishops, and others as she worked to provide practical help to those most in need. For example, her order started the nation’s first child care centre, took in foundlings without demanding to know their parentage, and helped anyone who needed help whether or not they were Catholic.

sisters of compassionIn The Story of Suzanne Aubert, Jessie Munro says:

Despite the wealth of spiritual writings, practicality always remained a keynote.  Mother Melchior, a later Mother General, recorded in an interview her first impressions of Mother Mary Joseph when she first met her soon after her return from Rome:

I thought she meant business straightaway.  There was no nonsense about her.  She didn’t say she’d be very pleased to have me or anything like that.  I was coming solely to a life of dedication and Mother made no bones about it.  But [she] was very simple and very lovable and very friendly when one got to know her.

In fact, this combination of attributes appears whenever people described her.  Adjectives of strength and purpose: strong, courageous, thorough, dedicated, stubborn, single-minded, strong-willed, independent, combine with these: warm, affectionate, energetic, thoughtful, caring, simple, loving.

motheraubertMother Mary Joseph died on 1 October 1926 at the age of ninety-one.  Thousands lined the streets for her funeral.  Government offices were closed and even sittings of the Supreme Court were postponed by the Chief Justice.  A Jewish Rabbi and a Moderator of the Presbyterian Church joined the Catholic clergy and the Maori people in the funeral procession.  A workman, on seeing the huge crowds, is reported to have asked: “What religion is this woman being buried?”  A quick reply came: “That’s a question she would never have asked you or me!”

529px-Suzanne_Aubert_and_pupils_1869

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Pope Francis centred the homily of his inaugural Mass on St Joseph, and what imitating St Joseph means for us today.

In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

The Telegraph has a description of the inaugural Mass, and several video clips showing highlights.

Big Pulpit has a roundup of inaugural Mass stories.

And here’s a roundup of my own: video clips showing Catholic joy at the election of a new Pope. As iBenedictines says:

We rejoice because we have a pope. Every single Catholic, whether Eastern Rite or Western Rite, whether attached to labels like liberal or conservative or utterly indifferent to them, rejoices because without a pope the Church is somehow incomplete. Each and every one of us has a personal connection to this man. At times that connection may be expressed negatively, but if so it will be with the negativity of family membership.

First, the reaction of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. H/T Matthew Archibold.

Next the reaction in the Square:

and this one, H/T Lisa Hendy:

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431797_10150623857983387_15337298386_9282229_892989336_nSeveral weeks ago, Joanne McPortland asked for ‘an average Joe’ for Pope. Take a look at her post for her reasons, but here’s the essence of her request:

May the Holy Spirit give us a new St Joseph, guardian of the Church as he was of Mary and her Child—a father, a protector, a craftsman, a man in the world but not of it. It strikes me that the feast of St Joseph the Worker, March 19, may fall within the Conclave. What better time for the Holy Spirit to give us a pope with the gifts of those two Josephs—Roncalli and Ratzinger?

Take a look at what Karl Rahner says in a homily for the Feast of St Joseph, and see if you think she’s got what she prayed for.

CommunionOfSaints3[1]The Catholic Church today [March 19] celebrates the feast of her patron, her heavenly protector. We can understand such a feast only if we believe in the communion of saints, if we know by faith that God is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living, if we confess that whoever has died in God’s grace lives with God and precisely for that reason is close to us, and if we are convinced that these citizens of heaven intercede for their brothers and sisters on earth in the eternal liturgy of heaven.

The meaning of such a feast can be grasped only if we believe that after death all the events of this earthly life are not simply gone and past, over and done with forever, but that they are preparatory steps that belong to us for eternity, that belong to us as our living future. For our mortality does not change to eternity in an instant; rather, it is slowly transformed into life.

The blessed men and women with whom we have fellowship in the communion of saints are not pale shadows. Rather, they have brought over into the eternal life of God the fruits of their earthly life, and thus have brought with them their own personal uniqueness.

Their God even calls them by name in the one today of eternity. They are ever the same as they were in the unique history of their own lives. We single out one individual from among them to honor him as our heavenly protector and intercessor, because his own individuality means something unique and irreplaceable to us. We mean that between him and us there exists a specific rapport that makes him a special blessing for us and assigns a special duty to us, if we are to be worthy of his protection.

40758From this point of view, is it possible to think that Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin and foster father of our Lord, is particularly suited to be a patron of a twentieth-century person? Is it possible to think that anyone living today will be able to see himself reflected in Joseph? Are there not people today who, if they are true to their character as willed by God, are a people of small means, of hard work, of only a few words, of loyalty of heart and simple sincerity?

Certainly every Christian and every Christian nation are charged with the entire fullness of Christian perfection as a duty that is never completed. But every nation and every human being have, so to speak, their own door, their own approach, through which they alone can come nearer to the fullness of Christianity. Not all of us will find access to the boundless vistas of God’s world through the great gate of surging rapture and burning ardor. Some must go through the small gate of quiet loyalty and the ordinary, exact performance of duty. And it is this fact, I am inclined to think, that can help us to discover a rapport between earth and heaven, between Christians today and their heavenly intercessor.

The pages of the Bible tell us little about Joseph. But they tell us enough to know something of our heavenly patron. Not a single word of his has been recorded for us. He pondered, yes; that is expressly attested to. But he spoke little, so little that these words did not have to be transmitted to posterity. We know that he was a descendant of the noble lineage of David, the greatest in his nation’s history. But that was the past that the present, in its sober poverty, had yet to make perceptible. This present, however, was the hard life of one insignificant carpenter in a tiny village in one corner of the world. For the poor this present meant paying taxes and standing in line.

migranticonIt was the destiny of the “displaced person,” who had to seek scanty shelter among strangers, until the political situation again permitted a return to his homeland, the homeland that he must have loved, since he renounced living in the neighbourhood of the capital city and stayed in the “province” country of Galilee. He lived very inconspicuously in his Nazareth, so that the life of his family furnished no spectacular background for the public appearance of Jesus (Lk 4:22). However, this humble routine of the life of an insignificant man concealed something else: the silent performance of duty.

Three times the scripture says of Joseph: “He rose up.” He rose up to carry out God’s will as he perceived it in his conscience, a conscience that was so alert that it perceived the message of the angel even in sleep, although that message called him to a path of duty that he himself neither devised nor expected.

According to the witness of the Bible, this insignificant man’s humble routine concealed a further object of value: righteousness. Joseph was a just man, the Bible says, a man who regulated his life according to the word and law of God. Not only when this law suited his desires, but always and at all times, even when it was hard, and when the law judged to his disadvantage that his neighbor was right. He was righteous in that he was impartial, tactful, and respectful of Mary’s individuality and even of that which he could not understand in her.

His loyalty to duty and impartial righteousness, which is a manly form of love, also lived in him with respect to God his Father. He was a devout man and he was manly in his devotion. For him the service of God was not a matter of pious feelings that come and go, but a matter of humble loyalty that really served God and not his own pious ego. As Luke says: “Every year he went to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, according to the custom.” Now we can tell what was the most important element in the life of this man whose everyday life was a life of duty, righteousness, and of manly devotion: this life was given the charge of protecting in a fatherly way the saviour of the world.

holy-cloakHe received into his family the one who came to redeem his nation from their sin, one to whom he himself gave the name of Jesus, a name which served the eternal Word of the Father, the Word who had become a child of this world. And people called their redeemer the son of a carpenter. When the eternal Word was audible in the world in the message of the Gospels, Joseph, having quietly done his duty, went away without any notice on the part of the world.

But the life of this insignificant man did have significance; it had one meaning that, in the long run, counts in each person’s life: God and his incarnate grace. To him it could be said: “Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.” Who can doubt that this man is a good patron for us? This man of humble, everyday routine, this man of silent performance of duty, of honest righteousness and of manly piety, this man who was charged with protecting the grace of God in its embodied life?

Contemporary Christians might find their way back to what is best in them if the individuality of this man, their patron, were again producing more stature in them. Granted, a nation must have greatness of spirit and pioneers who will lead it toward new goals. Just as much, if not more so, however, a nation needs men and women of lifelong performance of duty, of clearheaded loyalty, of discipline of heart and body. A nation needs men and women who know that true greatness is achieved only in selfless service to the greater and holy duty that is imposed upon each life; human beings of genuine reverence, conquerors of themselves, who hear the word of God and carry out the inflexible decrees of conscience. It needs men and women who through their lives bear the childlike, defenseless grace of God past all those who, like Herod, attempt to kill this grace. A nation needs men and women who do not lose confidence in God’s grace, even when they have to seek it as lost, as Joseph once sought the divine child. Such individuals are urgently needed in every situation and in every class.

Rollini2241PatronChurchRomeSHeartBasilicaWe have a good patron, who is suitable for everyone. For he is a patron of the poor, a patron of workers, a patron of exiles, a model for worshipers, an exemplar of the pure discipline of the heart, a prototype of fathers who protect in their children the Son of the Father. Joseph, who himself experienced death, is also the patron of the dying, standing at our bedside. We have inherited from our Father a good patron. But the question put to us is whether we remain worthy of this inheritance, whether we preserve and increase the mysterious rapport between us and our heavenly intercessor.

Joseph lives. He may seem far away from us, but he is not. For the communion of saints is near and the seeming distance is only appearance. The saints may seem eclipsed by the dazzling brightness of the eternal God, into which they have entered, like those who have vanished into the distance of lost centuries. God, however, is not a God of the dead, but of the living. He is the God of those who live forever in heaven, where they reap the fruits of their life on earth, the life that only seems to be past, over and done with forever. Their earthly life bore eternal fruit, and they have planted that fruit in the true soil of life, out of which all generations live.

And so Joseph lives. He is our patron. We, however, will experience the blessing of his protection if we, with God’s grace, open our heart and our life to his spirit and the quiet power of his intercession.

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Tonight is the vigil for All Saints Day, and also for All Souls Day (since the two feasts are one day after another, and a vigil can’t be celebrated on a feast day).  The two feast days go back over a thousand years. If I understand it correctly,  All Saints Day is for all those saints who are not otherwise remembered, and All Souls Day is for the holy souls in purgatory – those who will be saints when their time of preparation is over.

Catholic Culture tells us about some of the traditions that developed around this vigil and the two holy days:

…how you spent the vigil of All Saints depended on where you lived in Christendom. In Brittany the night was solemn and without a trace of merriment. On their “night of the dead” and for forty-eight hours thereafter, the Bretons believed the poor souls were liberated from Purgatory and were free to visit their old homes. -..

Breton families prayed by their beloveds’ graves during the day, attended church for “black vespers” in the evening and in some parishes proceeded thence to the charnel house in the cemetery to pray by the bones of those not yet buried or for whom no room could be found in the cemetery. Here they sang hymns to call on all Christians to pray for the dead and, speaking for the dead, they asked prayers and more prayers.

Late in the evening in the country parishes, after supper was over, the housewives would spread a clean cloth on the table, set out pancakes, curds, and cider. And after the fire was banked and chairs set round the table for the returning loved ones, the family would recite the De Profundis (Psalm 129) again and go to bed. During the night a townsman would go about the streets ringing a bell to warn them that it was unwise to roam abroad at the time of returning souls.

It was in Ireland and Scotland and England that All Hallows’ Eve became a combination of prayer and merriment. Following the break with the Holy See, Queen Elizabeth forbade all observances connected with All Souls’ Day. In spite of her laws, however, customs survived; even Shakespeare in his Two Gentlemen of Verona has Speed tell Valentine that he knows he is in love because he has learned to speak “puling like a beggar at Hallowmas.” This line must have escaped the Queen.

Begging at the door grew from an ancient English custom of knocking at doors to beg for a “soul cake” in return for which the beggars promised to pray for the dead of the household. Soul cakes, a form of shortbread–and sometimes quite fancy, with currants for eyes–became more important for the beggars than prayers for the dead, it is said. Florence Berger tells in her Cooking for Christ a legend of a zealous cook who vowed she would invent soul cakes to remind them of eternity at every bite. So she cut a hole in the middle and dropped it in hot fat, and lo–a doughnut. Circle that it is, it suggests the never-ending of eternity. Truth or legend, it serves a good purpose at Halloween…

…Charades, pantomimes, and little dramas, popular remnants of the miracle and morality plays of the Middle Ages, commonly rehearsed the folk in the reality of life after death and the means to attain it. It is probably from these that the custom of masquerading on Halloween had its beginning. The folly of a life of selfishness would be the message pantomimed by the damned; the torment of waiting, the message of the souls from Purgatory; the delights of the beatific vision, the message of the Heaven-sent. Together they warned the living to heed the means of salvation before it was too late. Doubtless the presence of goblins and witches with cats (ancient symbols of the devil) were remnants of pagan times bespeaking to Christians of spirits loosed from hell to keep track of their own and herd them back at cockcrow…
…The familiar harvest fruits, cornstalks, and pumpkins were seasonal. Although there is an old Irish legend about a miser named Jack who was too stingy to go to Heaven and too clever to go to hell, so that he had to spend eternity roaming the earth with a lighted pumpkin for a lantern, the appearance of jack-o’-lanterns has always seemed much more reasonable than that. These were ages when death was a serious and acceptable meditation. Christian art shows skulls and bones as a commonplace of interior decoration, at least in the cells of the convents and monasteries. Vigils were kept by the graves, and lights and bread left for the dead, all for the twofold purpose of recalling those dead and remembering that one day you would be dead. Surely it was some bright boy, stumbling over a pile of pumpkins by his father’s barn, who hit on the notion of carving a grinning death’s-head to carry, lighted by a candle, under his arm. If you know small boys, this is the most reasonable of all explanations.

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St Joseph’s church, the first built by St Damian when he arrived at Molokai

Today is the feast day of St Damian of Molokai.

Born Josef De Veuster in Belgium in 1840, he began his novitiate with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1859. In 1863, he took the place of his brother (who had fallen ill) on a trip to Hawaii to serve as a missionary.

At that time, the population of Hawaii were suffering the effects of contact with European diseases, including Hansen’s disease (leprosy). There was no known treatment for leprosy, and it was believed to be highly contagious. The Hawaiian authorities decided to quarantine anyone with leprosy on the island of Molokai, where they would be left to their own devices, except for supplies dropped from time to time. Over 8,000 people were sent to the island between 1865 and 1869, where they coped as best they could without medical care, government, adequate supplies, or hope.

In 1873, the bishop asked for volunteers to serve as priests on the island, knowing that it could be a death sentence. St Damian was one of the first to volunteer.

St Damian began by building a church. Under his spiritual direction, the small colony began to enforce basic laws. Shacks became painted huts; they built a school and planted gardens and organised working farms. St Damian didn’t just give spiritual direction: he dressed ulcers, built homes and beds, built coffins and dug graves. Following his example, others came to nurse, to teach, and to work on construction and maintenance.

St Damian died of leprosy on April 15, 1889, aged 49, and was laid to rest by the community he had transformed through the power of Christ’s love.

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I missed commenting on the Feast Day of St Joseph the Worker. It was a week ago – May Day; international Labour Day.

O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God, to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties, to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death.
– Composed by St. Pius X

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Happy feast day of St Athanasius, resolute defender of the faith.

Athanasius was born in Alexandria in the year 296 A.D. and from his early childhood had an inclination to the spiritual life. He was a deacon to Archbishop Alexander and accompanied him to the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.]. It was at this Council that Athanasius became renowned for his learning, devotion to and zeal for Orthodoxy. He contributed greatly to destroy the heresy of Arius and to strengthen Orthodoxy. He wrote the Symbol of Faith [The Creed] which was adopted at the Council. Following the death of Alexander, Athanasius was elected Archbishop of Alexandria. In his calling as Archbishop of Alexandria, he remained for forty years, although not for the entire time on the archepiscopal throne of the archbishopric. With few exceptions, throughout his life he was persecuted by heretics. Of the emperors, he was persecuted mostly by Constantius, Julian and Valens; of the bishops, by Eusebius of Nicomedia and many others; and by the heretic Arius and his followers. Athanasius was forced to hide from his persecutors, even in a well, in a grave, in private homes and in the deserts. Twice he was forced to flee to Rome. Only before his death, did he live peacefully for a while as the good shepherd among his good flock who truly loved him. Few are the saints who were so mercilessly slandered and so criminally persecuted as St. Athanasius. His great soul patiently endured all for the love of Christ and, in the end, emerged victorious from this entire, terrible and long-lasting struggle. For counsel, for comfort and for moral support, Athanasius often visited St. Anthony, whom he respected as his spiritual father. For a man who formulated the greatest truth, Athanasius had much to suffer for that truth until in the year 373 A.D., the Lord gave him repose in His kingdom as His faithful servant. [From the Prologue of Ohrid, St Nikolai of Zica]

 

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Each year on the feast of the Annunciation, Universalis posts a meditation on Mary’s ‘yes’. Go look at the whole thing (it’s quite short), but here are some highlights:

If we believe that the most important decision in the history of the world was in fact inevitable, that it couldn’t have been otherwise, then that means it was effortless.  Now we have a marvellous excuse for laziness…  If God really wants us to do something he’ll sweep us off his feet the way he did Mary, and if he chooses not to, it’s hardly our fault, is it?

…When we fail to seek our vocation, or put off fulfilling some part of it, we try to justify ourselves by saying that someone else will do it better, that God will provide, that it doesn’t really matter.  But we are lying.  However small a part I have to play, the story of the Annunciation tells me it is my part and no-one else can do it….There is one more truth that the Annunciation teaches us, and it is so appalling that I can think of nothing uplifting to say about it that will take the sting away: perhaps it is best forgotten, because it tells us more about God than we are able to understand.  The Almighty Father creates heaven and earth, the sun and all the stars; but when he really wants something done, he comes, the Omnipotent and Omniscient, to one of his poor, weak creatures — and he asks.

 

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Taken from the 2009 homily for the Feast of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Virgin Mary, given in Yaoundé Cameroon.

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?

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 God 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 God’s 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.

Do not let yourselves be captivated by selfish illusions and false ideals! Believe – yes! – continue to believe in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – God alone truly loves you in the way you yearn to be loved, God 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 God for the grace of a true and ever more faithful love patterned after his own. As the Psalm magnificently puts it: God’s “love is established for ever, his loyalty will stand as long as the heavens” (Ps 88:3).

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 Africa, 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!

“Hoping against hope”: is this not a magnificent description of a Christian? Africa is called to hope through you and in you! 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, 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).

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As the Irish recover from their St Patrick’s Day celebrations, the Italians launch into celebrations for St Joseph’s Day.

Many Italian St. Joseph’s Day traditions stem from the middle ages. During a famine in Sicily, when food was scarce and many people were starving, the poor people had only their faith to rely on. St. Joseph was known as the protector of the Holy Family; thus, Italians with strong family relationships prayed for St. Joseph to intercede for them, in an effort to ensure successful crops. Their prayers were answered, and the famine came to an end. In gratitude, people promised to make annual offerings of their most precious possession – food – in St. Joseph’s honor.

Little is said in the gospel about Joseph, except that he was a descendant of David and a carpenter by trade. Legends provide additional details about Joseph’s life. He supposedly was a widower of advanced age when he was chosen by God to wed Mary.

According to one legend, Mary’s many suitors left their staffs in the temple one night so that God could indicate who she should marry. The next morning, Joseph’s staff blossomed with white flowers and leaves and sent forth a white dove, indicating that he was the chosen one. This explains why statues of St. Joseph typically show him holding the Christ Child and a stalk of white lilies and why this day is a common celebration of fathers throughout the Christian world. [chiff.com]

Was Joseph a carpenter? The Gospels use the Greek word TEKTON, which means “builder,” as in “architect.” Some have suggested that he may have been a mason or a metalworker, or a building contractor. Justin Martyr, who was born in Palestine, probably around 100, tells us that he has seen plows and ox-yokes still in use which were said to have been made in the carpenter-shop at Nazareth. While this may not be accurate, it does indicate that the Christians of Palestine in the early second century believed that Joseph was a carpenter, so this idea may have been handed down since the time of those who knew the family.

St Joseph is a patron of the Church, of families, of workers, and of those seeking work. One Novena prayer addresses him by a different title for each of the nine days: foster father of Jesus, virginal husband of Mary, man chosen by the Holy Trinity, faithful servant, patron of the Church, patron of families, patron of workers, friend in suffering, and patron of a happy death.

Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, obtain for me a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine Will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

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