I understand that when this year of St. Joseph is done, I should have a deeper, more constant, more fervent devotion to St. Joseph. I understand that I should have spent time meditating on his role and his life, so as to be more familiar with him, and, going forward, to be a closer child and associate.
But how should devotion to St. Joseph change my character? How should it correct how I embrace the faith and approach this task of being a Catholic in the contemporary world?
Do these questions have an urgency with you, as they do for me? Do you sense that there is something maybe harsh and raw, some kind of tone of desperation perhaps, at least, a serious incompleteness – or for others, something dangerously superficial and ignorantly optimistic – about Catholic life in general today, which is in serious need of repair?
I don’t say that anyone in particular assessed the need and prescribed the cure – except maybe the Successor of St. Peter, with the spiritual intuition of his office. But rather that if there is such a need, and St. Joseph is plausibly the cure, then we’d be ignoring the Holy Spirit to ignore this important fact.
Let’s begin with happiness. When I look at St. Pope John XXIII’s remarkable Apostolic Letter of 1961, Le Voci, “For the protection of St Joseph on the Second Vatican Council,” I am struck by how naturally the Holy Father speaks of happiness and contentment (Italian: felice) in relation to St. Joseph. He says, for instance, of Pius XII, who instituted the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker: “Pius XII also took the same fundamental tone as his predecessor in many speeches, all of which were so beautiful, vibrant, and happy.” The “law of labor,” which St. Joseph shows us and to which all of us are subject, “is for all a ‘law of honor, peaceful life, and a holy, immortal prelude to happiness.’”
But how many Catholics do you know today whose manner would first be described as beautiful, vibrant, and happy?
Then, there is serenity, regarded as inseparable from silence. Here, the message is that we can expect our most important work in this life to be unseen and not broadcast. “St. Joseph. . .has a mission to fulfill, but who passes collected, silent, almost unnoticed and unknown in all humility and silence, a silence which was broken, however, by a shout, crying, ‘Glory forever!’”
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