Category: St. Joseph

When St. Joseph Sleeps

As Head of the Holy Family, extraordinary demands were placed on St. Joseph, and he worked hard at being the best husband and father he could be. This involved not only doing, but listening. St. Joseph was receptive to God’s will, and that set the course for the action he took. His life turned out far differently from the one he had planned. And for that we are eternally grateful!

To be strong yet pliable: the same attitude can guide us as we look after the people entrusted to our care.

During an apostolic journey to the Philippines in 2015, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of St. Joseph, what we can learn from him, and how we can trust in his prayers. His remarks were given at a meeting with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila. Here is an excerpt:

The Scriptures seldom speak of St. Joseph, but when they do, we often find him resting, as an angel reveals God’s will to him in his dreams….

I am very fond of dreams in families. For nine months every mother and father dream about their baby. Am I right? [Yes!] They dream about what kind of child he or she will be… You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies.

So I ask you each evening, when you make your examination of conscience, to also ask yourselves this question: Today did I dream about my children’s future? Today did I dream about the love of my husband, my wife? Did I dream about my parents and grandparents who have gone before me? Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream!

How many difficulties in married life are resolved when we leave room for dreaming, when we stop a moment to think of our spouse, and we dream about the goodness present in the good things all around us. So it is very important to reclaim love by what we do each day. Do not ever stop being newlyweds!…

Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us.

Joseph was chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. As Christians, you too are called, like Joseph, to make a home for Jesus. To make a home for Jesus! You make a home for him in your hearts, your families, your parishes and your communities….

Demonstrating the receptive pose of St. Joseph.

I would also like to tell you something very personal. I have great love for St. Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of St. Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath St. Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him: pray for this problem!

The Value of Work

A good book opens with a good introduction, and the Bible has one of the best.

The stately verses of Chapter 1 of Genesis reveal a truth to remember: God made the universe with coherence and meaning. We can easily imagine the inspired author of the text looking up at the nighttime sky with awe. Existence begins with God saying, “Let there be…,” and is capped with the words, “It is good.” We are hemmed in by His presence. The word of God is beneath everything that is, and everything that is has received His blessing. Nothing is beyond the realm of His care.

Although the Bible says God rested on the seventh day, His creative power never ends. He endowed human beings with the capacity to reflect His divine initiative in creation. That is, God gave us the ability to work. What we can do with both our hands and minds puts us in a unique, and privileged, position in the world. And as always, privilege begets responsibility.

Since we are more than animals — we are imago Dei, the image of God — we can move beyond the domain of instinct. Through our conscious, deliberate activity we can shape the world around us. We can transform the raw material of the earth and create the things we need, even things for the sake of beauty alone.

Ordinarily, work is intentional, it is a choice, and thus it is a moral act. It can be for good or for evil.

We can never think of the value of work and its spiritual and ethical dimensions without calling to mind our beloved Saint Joseph. He is honored with a feast day on May 1 under the title “St. Joseph the Worker” because work is more than just labor, more than just a way to make money. Work helps to make the world more “human.” It provides food and shelter and also creates culture. It unites people, makes us interdependent, and is one of the foundations of family life. Through work, the blessing that God extended over creation can reach everyone.

Work is a way to holiness. It involves the giving of ourselves in some form. There is a reason why God chose the carpenter of Nazareth to be a parent to His Son.

The first of May has always been important to us. Sr. Mary Elizabeth held the dedication ceremony of the first Joseph House in Baltimore on this day in 1966. We continue to celebrate St. Joseph the Worker with a measure of solemnity, but never by taking the day off. According to Sister, it was the perfect occasion to do the chores that never got done, such as cleaning the dust from the ceiling fans!

The ultimate value of a particular type of work is found not in the work itself, but in the people doing it. The Joseph House and the Little Sisters have always called upon their members to exercise a variety of work. Although the work may be humble, it is never without dignity.

The Son of God became man and worked with human hands. Work then has a dignity of its own in God’s plan for creation. — St. John Paul II

Work is a Good Thing

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A number of years ago, a young man went to work in a limestone quarry. He worked all day outdoors in all types of weather. He broke up stone and carried buckets of lime on a wooden yoke across his shoulders. His hands cracked from the labor and bitter cold of the elements. He was a smart man, capable of many things, but harsh circumstances left him few options. He later recalled this time as one of hardship and monotony, the work as alienating and frustrating.

The man persevered, the times changed, and with the grace of God he went on to greater things. From his experiences he learned the value of meaningful work. He would later write:

Work is a good thing for man. It corresponds to man’s dignity, expresses this dignity and increases it. Work is a good thing for his humanity because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but also achieves fulfillment as a human being, and indeed in a sense becomes ‘more a human being.’

These words appeared in the encyclical “On Human Work” written by Pope John Paul II. The document expresses how the Church sees work as fundamentally important to living a fully human life. When a person works, the work in turn “works” on the person. Work shapes us, it forms us, it builds character. Work can also destroy us. Work can be used to degrade and oppress people. The type of work we do, or the lack of work at all, can leave a gaping hole in our humanity. Then we do not experience the dignity of people created in the image and likeness of God. The Pope saw this himself when he became a working man during the Nazi occupation of his native Poland.

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(Pope John Paul II during his time working in a quarry, 1940’s.)

Work is serious business. Ideally work should be an invigorating challenge. We are lucky if it seems like play. Unfortunately for many people, work is a “problem.” Getting trained for work, getting transportation to work, finding work that provides security, work that pays the bills, work that realizes our potential, work that is a blessing to us and to others, work that supports our dignity — these are serious problems for many people today.

For help with these problems, we look to our patron, St. Joseph. God chose Joseph to be a father to Jesus for a reason. God knew that in his workshop, Joseph would not only teach Jesus how to be a carpenter, but how to be a human being. Working side by side with Joseph during the long years of His hidden life, Jesus learned the life of virtue.

Jesus blessed the working life through the Incarnation. Work can be redeeming. It can bring healing and growth to a person’s life.

May 1 is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. We pray:

Good Saint Joseph, with your abilities you supported your family and served your community. In your daily work you made more than tables and chairs; you crafted virtue, and forged your soul. Help me to make my work a means of holiness, too.

Saint Joseph, carpenter of Nazareth, come to the aid of those who are unemployed and those burdened with oppressive work.

Amen.

St. Joseph: Patron of Vatican Council II

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Saint John XXIII had a great devotion to St. Joseph and was sometimes called the Pope of St. Joseph.

On this day in 1961, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, he named St. Joseph as the patron and protector of the Second Vatican Council.

The Council, an opportunity to “throw open the windows of the Church,” addressed the renewal of church life in the modern world. The role of the laity received attention, and it is fitting that St. Joseph was declared to be the Council’s patron.

Consider this passage from Lumen Gentium, one of the principal Council documents. It pertains to the universal call to holiness:

“The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one — that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.”

As the Head of the Holy Family and the carpenter of Nazareth, St. Joseph is the prime example of the holiness found in everyday living.

The above picture shows a mosaic from the sanctuary dome at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC (nationalshrine.com). It depicts St. Joseph as the protector of the church and the patron of families and working people. On the right is John XXIII presiding at the Second Vatican Council.

Our eyes are always drawn to the strong hands of Joseph as he holds the Child Jesus in his arms. We too can rest in the heavenly protection of St. Joseph. Perhaps if you have never been to the Shrine you will one day make a visit and see this magnificent mosaic in person.

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