For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 9 and His Feast Day)

Two years ago today, I realized that I didn’t want to take Thomas (More) as my confirmation name, I wanted to take Joseph. Taking “A Man for All Seasons” as my patron was aiming too high, I thought: statesman, writer, martyr. Joseph was more my speed: husband, father, worker. It was a fortuitous choice. Three days later was the Easter Vigil, and my father drove up from Connecticut to witness my reception into the Catholic Church. Three months later, Dad was dying of melanoma. I did not know at the time that St. Joseph is the patron saint of a happy death.

All summer long I said prayers for my father before the statue of St. Joseph that stands at the front of our church at the head of the right aisle. That St. Joseph stands watch over this post too. Dad died six months to the day from Easter, a happy man who had a happy death, or so I like to think.

Our late great Pope John Paul II gets a final word in this series of nine posts about St. Joseph, a novena that culminates today. His Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer) was written on the hundredth anniversary of Leo XIII’s encyclical Quamquam Pluries. As I wrote yesterday, Leo’s encyclical began a process of frequent “upgrades” of St. Joseph in the eyes of the Church. Redemptoris Custos summarizes a century of Papal teaching.

It’s late and you don’t need a lecture from me about it, so I’ll just give you the link here. Read it in your spare time. Say a prayer to St. Joseph. And listen to the closing words of a homily to him by Karl Rahner, SJ:

We have a good patron, who is suitable for everyone. For he is a patron of the poor, a patron of workers, a patron of exiles, a model for worshipers, an exemplar of the pure discipline of the heart, a prototype of fathers who protect in their children the Son of the Father. Joseph, who himself experienced death, is also the patron of the dying, standing at our bedside. We have inherited from our Father a good patron. But the question put to us is whether we remain worthy of this inheritance, whether we preserve and increase the mysterious rapport between us and our heavenly intercessor.

Joseph lives. He may seem far away from us, but he is not. For the communion of saints is near and the seeming distance is only appearance. The saints may seem eclipsed by the dazzling brightness of the eternal God, into which they have entered, like those who have vanished into the distance of lost centuries. God, however, is not a God of the dead, but of the living. He is the God of those who live forever in heaven, where they reap the fruits of their life on earth, the life that only seems to be past, over and done with forever. Their earthly life bore eternal fruit, and they have planted that fruit in the true soil of life, out of which all generations live.

And so Joseph lives. He is our patron. We, however, will experience the blessing of his protection if we, with God’s grace, open our heart and our life to his spirit and the quiet power of his intercession.

Blessed St. Joseph, patron of the dying, stand by us now and at the hour of our death!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    Beautiful words from Blessed JP2. Warren, I really appreciate your explicating the role of Saint Joseph and how he can be a comfort and guide in our lives. Before this, I really knew nothing about him except that his solemnity is a chance to eat Italian goodies.Did you know we Catholics do not need to abstain from meat today? Even though it is a Friday in Lent, when a Friday falls on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, we are exempt from this rule. That said, our teen said he still wants to get the fish sandwich at Sonic Drive In tonight on his way to orchestra rehearsal!

  • Webster Bull

    Warren? I'm having steak. LOL

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Webster: My husband is saying – but those tuna melts from the pizzeria are really good!Here is what the Archdiocese of Chicago is saying: FRIDAY ABSTINENCE SUSPENDED THIS FRIDAYFOR THE FEAST OF ST. JOSEPH Since the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19th, falls on a Fridaythis year, the question arises regarding the requirement of abstinence from meat. Since St. Joseph's day holds the rankof a solemnity and the character of a solemnity is one of rejoicing,penitential practices like abstinence from meat are not required. People may choose voluntarily to abstain from meat on March 19, but it is not required. Hence, Catholics can participate in a St. Joseph's table without worrying about breaking the penitential discipline of Lent.See Canon 1251: "Abstinence from eating meat or another foodaccording to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to beobserved on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities;abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Webster: Sorry about that. I was precaffeinated. But I am sure WARREN is inspiring you. Right?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    FYI…Warren is on the lam. He is evading charges of derelection of duty and unauthorized absence from the YIMC Book Club. JEWELL! TURN YOURSELF IN TO THE SP's! That's Shore Patrol for you lubbers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11339567399256589250 Carrie Sue

    Happy Feast Day to you! Thank you, thank you, thank you for these posts. I've actually saved them up to read them all today. (I couldn't handle the waiting each day for more of Rahner's homily.) Each year I pray the novena to St. Joseph in preparation for his feast day and only the Holy Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet exceed it in the peace of heart it brings to me. I wrote my own meager post in honor of this Man for All Men. (Clicking on my name goes to my blog, right? I think so.)Very sadly, I once heard a priest preach AGAINST holding the Holy Family up as the model for all families. "We can never live up to them so why try?" was the attitude he held and proclaimed for the congregation to hear. The mentality of the fallen world rang out in his words. I nearly stood up in my pew and shouted him down. I imagined the wound inflicted on the hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph when that homily was given. What a gift it is to know that this man, Joseph, who was not divine and not immaculately conceived, was a member of this glorious family! God poured out the graces Joseph needed to live that life and He will pour them out upon us too, at the behest of Mary, Joseph and Jesus!

  • Webster Bull

    @Carrie Sue, Thanks for this comment. Joseph gives hope to all of us that, while living an ordinary life, we can participate in something extraordinary, something divine. He was a carpenter who cradled God in his hands.Clicking on your name takes you to your Blogger info page. But clicking here takes you to your very thoughtful blog! I have added it our blog roll at right.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11339567399256589250 Carrie Sue

    Awww, thanks Webster! I'm honored to be included.


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