Greetings my brothers and sisters,
Happy Month of Mary! Happy Feast of St. Joseph the Worker! Happy Feast of St. Joseph Marello. May means all of this for us as Catholics in this Year of St. Joseph and as Oblates of St. Joseph. The feast of our founder, usually on May 30, is moved to May 29 this year in order not to conflict with the celebration of Pentecost. Seeing as Marello was so in tune with the Holy Spirit as to receive a special charism as founder of a religious congregation, I do not think he will mind! We begin the month, however, with St. Joseph as a man of labor.
The liturgical celebration of St. Joseph the Worker dates back only to 1955, but the desire to seek in him a model for human labor predates this by many centuries. This makes sense as Joseph is described in the Gospels as a carpenter (artisan) and it has been the teaching of the Church that through this labor he provided for his family and made it possible for Jesus to grow in wisdom and strength. It is easy to imagine that this work of Joseph was a times arduous. Yet, he did not shrink back from it but accepted it as part of his role as Husband of Mary and Guardian of the Redeemer. And, this was not a reluctant acceptance but responsible, joyful and courageous.
This is how Pope Francis describes St. Joseph in his Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde, at number 4. Why is this disposition of acceptance important? In reference to taking Mary his wife in to his home, the Pope writes: “Joseph accepted Mary unconditionally. He trusted in the angel’s words”. Acceptance demonstrates a trust in God and an unconditional acceptance of God’s will and plan. Pope Francis continues: “Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history.” Recent events in our country and world surrounding the Covid 19 pandemic have given us opportunities for “disappointment and rebellion”. How have we responded? St. Joseph gives us a model of how we might choose to move forward so as not to become “hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.” My expectations are to be questioned, whereas God’s will is to be accepted.
“The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning.” Am I willing to wait out God’s plan as it unfolds, accepting whatever might come as a result? Joseph had such a disposition, yet this was no passive resignation to fate! No, he is “courageously and firmly proactive”: he does as the angel tells him and immediately in all instances. Relating this to our present day experience, the Pope states: “In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.”
This being the case, then everything that happens has the potential to bring me and all closer to God: “In this greater perspective, faith gives meaning to every event, however happy or sad.” Of course, this will mean some struggles and difficulties and that is fine. “The faith Christ taught us is what we see in Saint Joseph. He did not look for shortcuts, but confronted reality with open eyes and accepted personal responsibility for it.” This also means accepting every person in our lives as they are, knowing that we are all created good by God and God can bring good out of each one of us.
Fr. Brian, OSJ