A Catholic Monthly Magazine

St Joseph and the Three Ps

Fr John Rea sm

Fr John Rea sm

In early October 2012 the Church marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council.  The occasion saw the publishing of a number of books about that Council and a reviewer in the London Tablet suggested that those interested would do well to read the Council Documents again before tackling anything else on the subject.

I don’t know if I will ever read even one book about the Council but the reviewer’s comment led me to read the Documents again.  Before I’d gone far I came upon a paragraph on liturgy that led me to dwell on St. Joseph, his life and his mission.

“The Church has also included in the annual cycle, days devoted to the memory of the martyrs and the other saints.  Raised up to perfection by the manifold grace of God, and already in possession of eternal salvation, they sing God’s perfect praise in heaven and offer prayers for us.  By celebrating the passage of these saints from earth to heaven the church proclaims the paschal mystery as achieved in the saints who have suffered and been glorified with Christ; she proposes them to the faithful as examples who draw all to the Father through Christ, and through their merits she pleads for God’s favours.”

The three words that stand out in this paragraph from the Liturgy Constitution are proclaims, proposes and pleads –– the three Ps.

“The Church proclaims the Paschal Mystery as achieved in (St Joseph).”  God called him to take his own place, in a certain sense, in regard to his Son once the Word became incarnate in Mary. God blessed and anointed him with a share in his own eternal fatherly love for the Son.  As long as the Son remained in his care Joseph, in addition to being Our Lady’s husband was, as it were, the shadow of God the Father.

His God-given mission demanded that he die to all self consideration. Otherwise he could not be totally at the service of Jesus and Mary.  That’s one side of the Paschal Mystery and the Gospels witness to it when they present Joseph to us as a righteous man who promptly obeyed God and lawful human authority.  That obedience in turn was the fruit of unquestioning faith.  Like Moses before him, “he kept to his purpose like a man who could see the invisible.” (Hebrews 11: 27). His faith and his obedience were the means God used to purify him from self seeking.

On the positive side, in living out his vocation Joseph rose to ever greater love for God, love for people and growth in all the virtues.

This leads us to the second ‘P’ (The Church) proposes the saints to the faithful as examples who draw all to the Father through Christ.”

Joseph is the humblest of men. We are humble when we submit to God wherever we find him.  Joseph exhibits this submission in every Gospel event in which he figures.  One of the most powerful is when Our Lady told him she was with child “of the Holy Spirit”. According to saints and scholars, such as St Bernard of Clairvaux and St Thomas Aquinas, he was ready to separate from her out of reverential awe and deepest humility. He did not want to stand in the way of what God was doing.

Joseph is simple in the Gospel sense of the word.  Simplicity is related to truthfulness.  It is truth in action.  We are simple when we are the same on the outside as we are on the inside.  As Justin (the former All Black half back not the saint) wrote about himself, “What you see is what you get.”  This virtue is the opposite of hypocrisy.  There was no play acting about St Joseph.

Many have seen a likeness to our saint in Joseph son of Jacob in the Book of Genesis. God revealed himself and his will to both in dreams.  Both went down into Egypt.  Both were instruments of God’s will.  But for me one of the more telling aspects of the parallel is their trust in God’s loving fatherly care.  When the first Joseph made himself known to his brothers he said, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here: for

God sent me here to preserve life … And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here but God.”  (Genesis 45: 5 and 7).   St Joseph’s trust in Divine Providence is seen especially in his patient and immediate action in situations that in real life  were inconvenient and annoying.  The journey to Bethlehem for the census when the Lord was about to be born is one example.  The Flight into Egypt is another.  The long stay there, at least two years, is a third.

Wisdom is another virtue characteristic of our saint.  Wisdom is born of love and is essentially practical.  Like prudence, another virtue in which St Joseph excelled, it’s about choosing the best way to act in a concrete situation. The guardian of the Saviour Child was wise when he responded to the dream-given warning and decided to settle in Nazareth rather than in Bethlehem.  “And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee.” (Matthew 2: 21-22).  Then with wisdom of the highest order he settled his family in a despised village in a backwater of the far-flung Roman empire. What better way to keep the Lord Jesus hidden and safe from those who would destroy him?

St Joseph models other virtues superbly but let’s leave it at that and turn to the third ‘P.’

“Through their merits (the Church) pleads for God’s favours.”

All the saints are intercessors who share in the one mediatorship of the Lord Jesus himself.  Some of them have a reputation for helping us in a particular way.  St Christopher is the one to approach for a safe journey. St Anthony of Padua helps us find anything that is lost.  St Joseph of Cupertino is renowned for making sure that a candidate in an exam gets the questions he or she knows best.  St Roch is one of several saints who bring healing to the sick.  Our St Joseph, Joseph of Nazareth, is different.   St Teresa of Avila is adamant that this great saint helps us in all our needs. Try him and you will soon find that this is true.

I pray through him for many different things and have learned that he is adept at locating places to park the car even in the most unlikely circumstances. I simply remind him that he has always been good at finding accommodation.  I then ask him to find temporary accommodation for the car.  He always does.

St Joseph we honour you for your faithfulness to your vocation and to grace.  Teach us to love Jesus and Mary as you do.  Obtain for us the most vital of all blessings –– a happy death.  Amen.   joseph_mary_jesus

© Copyright John Rea, SM, 2012

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