Tuesday, May 1, 2012

St. Joseph the Worker

Together with the Virgin Mary, his wife, all holiness flows into the life of the Church. He was the head of the Holy Family and so was the head of the Head of the Church, a ministry far beyond the work of a priest or Pope. He ministered also to Mary, our Mother, as any good husband does and enabled her who is full of grace beyond imagining to increase in grace as she capacitated him to do the same. Marriage is a communion of life and love.

For someone whose words do not exist in the scriptures, it is remarkable that he takes on such an important role in Heaven as Patron of the Church, of which our province is a part thereof. Yet he spoke to us by doing the will of God when he had his annunciation, so to speak. The angel told him to take Mary as his wife and Jesus as his son and name Him. He did not divorce his wife quietly as he had planned when seeing her pregnancy. And, like any married man he had his joys and sorrows and worked hard to support the family as a carpenter which included in those times someone who could fix things. Being in the hidden life of a family, we can all feel Joseph understands us. As the Catechism says about Jesus,

During the greater part of His life Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labour. His religious life was that of a Jew obedient to the law of God, a life in the community. From this whole period it is revealed to us that Jesus was "obedient" to His parents and that He "increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man."[222. Lk 2:51-52.]

Reading the gospels of Christ's public ministry, we discover something of Joseph's character based on the concept: like father, like son. Jesus knew how to act like a male in His society, not afraid of confrontation, argumentation and possessed a deep self-assurance. Some of this undoubtedly came by osmosis from Joseph because normally the father would take over a boy's education and training as a carpenter from about the age of six or seven. Again the Catechism has a wonderful number for our reflection on this:

The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life: The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus - the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May we esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us. . . A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character... A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the "Carpenter's Son", in you I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work. . . To conclude, I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern their brother, who is God.[225. Paul VI at Nazareth, 5 January 1964: LH, Feast of the Holy Family, OR.]

While he was not present at his son's passion and death, yet the incarnation and the redemption are indissolubly linked together. He prepared his son for our sake. Our province has been blessed to have him as our patron and we await the day when one of our Friars may even be canonized a saint because of Joseph's intercession and presence to us throughout our history as contemplative preachers.

Fr. Basil Cole, O.P.