Feast of St. Joseph
2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a, or Luke 2:41-51a
"Behold a faithful and prudent steward whom the Lord set over his household." (Luke 12:42. Entrance Antiphon)
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A little over a month ago, I was standing in front of the Cathedral dedicated to St. Joseph in Beijing, China. I was surprised to learn that the Chinese Catholic community had a long standing devotion to St. Joseph. I also came across another Cathedral dedicated to St. Joseph and a newly ordained Bishop by the name of Joseph. All of this renewed my hope for the Catholic Church in China.
The Opening Prayer (Collect) for today’s Mass states: "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that by St. Joseph’s intercession your Church may constantly watch over the unfolding mysteries of human salvation, whose beginnings you entrusted to his faithful care." We are well aware that St. Joseph’s role at the beginning of our human salvation was critical, vital and so important that without his willingness to cooperate with God’s plan for Mary, his Spouse, the Incarnation would not have unfolded as it did. There is no doubt that our Catholic faith and our Catholic Church had mysterious beginnings. And from what I have seen from my travels around the world, we continue to grow in mysterious ways.
No matter where we are in the world, whether we live here in the United States or live in China, Vietnam, Indonesia or any of the many places I’ve visited over the last five years, the growth of the Church is complete mystery. By all human measures, we should not exist. We are too radical for some and we are too conservatives for others. Some governments are overtly antagonistic toward the Church and some are covertly so, hiding behind false understandings of personal and community rights. We have also experienced the human frailty of human failure. Some of our leaders have made wrong and bad decisions, covered up for the wrongdoing of others and treated the faithful unjustly. Good and faithful people have been deeply hurt by all of this.
And yet the Church continues to grow. I am more and more convinced that St. Joseph has had a vital role in bridging the follies of a human institution into the divine reality of the Sacramental Church. How else can we explain the great devotion that the people of China have for St. Joseph? Why is that that Chinese Catholics have risked their lives and families to gather for prayer and Mass, even when there was a strong persecution taking place against them? Why is it that young men and women still yearned to enter into the convents and seminaries to do the Lord’s work? God’s grace is beyond human comprehension.
On this feast of St. Joseph, then, let us deepen our devotion to him. Let us steep ourselves into the spirit of St. Joseph and allow ourselves to be guided by courage, prudence and love. Truly, St. Joseph is a faithful and prudent steward.
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.