Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hurray for St. Joseph!

In a decree released yesterday on June 19, by the Vatican Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Holy See announced that the name of St. Joseph will be added to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV (St. Joseph was already added to the ancient "Roman Canon," by Pope John XXIII in 1962. The Roman Canon is now referred to as Eucharistic Prayer I)
All the Priests of the Diocese of St. Augustine received notice also yesterday that the mention of St. Joseph’s name should be added immediately to the Mass, and so this morning, after the mention in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Virgin Mary, I added the new "with Blessed Joseph, her Spouse..."
The decree also said "this Just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed as guardian over God the Father’s most precious treasures. Therefore he has been the subject of assiduous devotion on the part of the People of God throughout the centuries, as the support of that mystical body, which is the Church." (Recall I wrote about the Mystical Body last week)
I cannot describe adequately the deep tenderness and devotion I feel for St. Joseph, Our Lady’s "Most Chaste Spouse." He is a model for fatherhood and also reflects the love of God the Father.
St. Joseph Shadow of the Father
St Andrei Rublev Icons
Sometimes St. Joseph is described as "the Shadow of the Father," and there is both a book and an icon that bears this title. I looked up the various definitions of "shadow" and the relevant ones for this description are "a mirrored image or reflection; shelter; protection."
St. Joseph was the first "reflection" of God the Father’s love in the life of Jesus. He must have been a very good father because the image of fatherhood was strong in the spiritual life of Jesus. (Obviously Mary’s role in Jesus’ life was formative also).
In an article about St. Joseph, it says "Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him." (See article HERE) Indeed, early images of Joseph in the first centuries of Christianity showed him as a young man. Only later (4th century) does he begin to be portrayed as an older widower with children from a previous marriage before he married Mary. But that is unlikely and has no Scriptural basis.
Happily, the trend today is to image Joseph as a young man, a carpenter of humble means, married to Mary, also a young woman, for people married in their teens in those days.
When we do look at the virtues of St. Joseph from the Scriptures we see that he was a companionate and caring man (at first he didn’t understand Mary’s pregnancy before their marriage but was not going to expose her to public shame, see Matthew 1:19-25 HERE). He was obedient to God and trusted God’s guidance for his family (see Matthew 2:13-23 HERE). He loved Jesus as his own son and Jesus was known as "a carpenter’s son." (See  Matthew 13:55 HERE)
I would add that Joseph was also "a family man." He not only protected Mary and Jesus and provided for them, he also is essential to the Holy Family. Though it is not always achieved, God’s desire for our families is that a child live in a home with a loving father and mother. I recently read
"Half of today's American children and increasing numbers in other countries will spend time in a single-parent family, because 5.5 times as many live with their mothers as with their fathers (Myers, 2000). Of those living with their mothers, only 1 in 5 see their fathers at least weekly. In a typical year more than 35 percent never see their fathers" (See "The Developing Person: Father Care," HERE)
Perhaps our young generation needs St. Joseph more than ever.

One of my favorite icons of the Holy Family
Notice Joseph looks with affection upon Mary
while his hand is on Jesus' heart
and he appears to be kissing the head of the Infant