For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 7)

This series of posts on St. Joseph has drawn few formal comments to YIM Catholic. But friends have taken me aside, both in person and on line, to say that St. Joseph has attracted their attention. At the end of our visit today, my real-life friend Joan of Beverly noted the remarkable coincidence that devotion to St. Joseph is peaking in an age when the family is under attack more than ever. On-line friends Mujerlatina and Maria have been commenting too. Maria came up with this 100-year-old volume on Devotion to St. Joseph, a treasure I haven’t dug into yet.

The increasing interest in St. Joseph over the past 800 years that I have been detailing is a fascinating case study in how the Catholic Church’s traditions evolve with the times under the influence of the Holy Spirit. If your guiding rule were Sola Scriptura (the Bible is the only authority), you would have little to say about St. Joseph since he has literally nothing to say in the Gospels. But our Church, formed by Christ himself and the first Apostles, led by Peter, takes a broader view.

One of the more interesting testimonies to St. Joseph in recent centuries is the brief account of his early life given by the German mystic and stigmatist Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774–1824). Her four-volume Life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is an epic visionary account of Salvation History from Adam and Eve through the death, burial, and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. It influenced Mel Gibson in making The Passion of The Christ, and it is currently influencing me. I have been reading a little bit of it most days at Adoration, and I’m sure I’ll have more to write at a future date. I hasten to add that Emmerich’s visions are not considered formal dogma or doctrine, any more than St. Teresa of Avila’s visions and voices are highlighted by the Church. But they exist for the faithful to contemplate.

Here’s Emmerich’s brief bio cribbed from the Web link to her book in the preceding paragraph:

ANNE CATHERINE EMMERICH [left] was told by Our Lord that her gift of seeing the past, present, and future in mystic vision was greater than that possessed by anyone else in history. Born at Flamske in Westphalia, Germany, on September 8, 1774, she became a nun of the Augustinian Order at Dulmen. She had the use of reason from her birth and could understand liturgical Latin from her first time at Mass. During the last 12 years of her life, she could eat no food except Holy Communion, nor take any drink except water, subsisting entirely on the Holy Eucharist. From 1802 until her death, she bore the wounds of the Crown of Thorns, and from 1812, the full stigmata of Our Lord, including a cross over her heart and the wound from the lance.

Anne Catherine Emmerich possessed the gift of reading hearts, and she saw, in actual, visual detail, the facts of Catholic belief which most of us simply have to accept on faith. The basic truths of the catechism–angels, devils, Purgatory, the lives of Our Lord and the Blessed Mother, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the grace of the Sacraments–all these truths were as real to her as the material world. Her revelations make the hidden, supernatural world come alive. They lift the veil on the world of grace and enable the reader to see, through Anne Catherine’s eyes, the manifold doctrines of our Faith in all their wondrous beauty.

And here is Emmerich’s account of Joseph’s early life. The image below is based on her description of the home he grew up in:

Among many things which I saw today of the youth of St. Joseph, I remember what follows.

Joseph, whose father was called Jacob, was the third of six brothers. His parents lived in a large house outside Bethlehem, once the ancestral home of David, whose father Isai or Jesse had owned it. By Joseph’s time there was, however, little remaining of the old building except the main walls. The situation was very airy, and water was abundant there. I know my way about there better than in our own little village of Flamske.

In front of the house was an outer court (as in the houses of ancient Rome), surrounded by a covered colonnade like a cloister. I saw sculptures in this colonnade like the heads of old men. On one side of the court was a fountain under a stone canopy. The water issued from animals’ heads in stone. There were no windows to be seen in the lower story of the dwelling house itself, but high up there were circular openings. I saw one door. A broad gallery ran round the upper part of the house, with little towers at each of its four corners, like short, thick pillars, ending in big balls or domes on which little flags were fastened. Stairs led up through these little towers from below, and from openings in the domes one had a view all round without being seen oneself. There were little towers like this on David’s palace in Jerusalem, and it was from the dome of one of these that he saw Bathsheba at her bath. This gallery ran round a low upper story with a flat roof on which was another building with another little tower. Joseph and his brothers lived in the upper story, and their teacher, an aged Jew, lived in the topmost building. They all slept in a circle in one room, in the middle of the story which was surrounded by the gallery. Their sleeping places were carpets, rolled up against the wall in the daytime and separated by removable screens. I have often seen them playing up there in their rooms. They had toys in the shape of animals, like little pugs. [Catherine Emmerich uses this word indiscriminately for any creatures she does not know.] I also saw how their teacher gave them all kinds of strange lessons which I did not rightly understand. I saw him making all kinds of figures on the ground with sticks, and the boys had to walk on these figures; then I saw the boys walking on other figures and pushing the sticks apart, placing them differently and rearranging them and making various measurements at the same time. I saw their parents, too; they did not trouble much about their children and had little to do with them. They seemed to me to be neither good nor bad.

Joseph, whom I saw in this vision at about the age of eight, was very different in character from his brothers. He was very gifted and was a very good scholar, but he was simple, quiet, devout, and not at all ambitious. His brothers knocked him about and played all kinds of tricks on him. The boys had separate little gardens, at the entrance of which stood figures like babies in swaddling clothes on pillars, but sheltered a little (in niches perhaps?). I have often seen figures like these, and there were some on the curtain which hung by the praying-place of St. Anne and also of the Blessed Virgin, but on Mary’s curtain this figure held something in its arms that reminded me of a chalice with something wriggling out of it. Here in St. Joseph’s house the figures were like babies in swaddling clothes with round faces surrounded by rays. In still earlier times I noticed many figures of this kind, particularly in Jerusalem. They appeared, too, in the Temple decorations. I saw them in Egypt as well, where they sometimes had little caps on their heads. Amongst the figures which Rachel carried off from her father Laban there were some like these, but smaller, as well as other different ones. I have also seen these figures lying in little boxes or baskets in Jewish houses. I think perhaps that they represented the child Moses floating on the Nile, and that the swaddling-bands perhaps symbolized the tightly binding character of the Law. I often used to think that this little figure was for them what the Christ Child is for us.

I saw herbs, bushes, and little trees in the boys’ gardens, and I saw how Joseph’s brothers often went in secret to his garden and trampled or uprooted something in it. They made him very unhappy. I often saw him under the colonnade in the outer court kneeling down with his face to the wall, praying with outstretched arms, and I saw his brothers creep up and kick him. I once saw him kneeling like this, when one of them hit him on the back, and as he did not seem to notice it, he repeated his attack with such violence that poor Joseph fell forward onto the hard stone floor. From this I realized that he was not in a waking condition, but had been in an ecstasy of prayer. When he came to himself, he did not lose his temper or take revenge, but found a hidden corner where he continued his prayer.

I saw some small dwellings built against the outer walls of the house, inhabited by a few middle-aged women. They went about veiled, as I often saw women doing who lived near schools in the country. They seemed to form part of the household, for I often saw them going in and out of the house on various errands. They carried water in, washed and swept, closed the gratings in front of the windows, rolled up the beds against the walls and placed wickerwork screens in front of them. I saw Joseph’s brothers sometimes talking to these maid-servants or helping them with their work and joking with them, too. Joseph did not do this; he was serious and solitary. It seemed to me that there were also daughters in the house. The lower living-rooms were arranged rather like those in Anna’s house, but everything was more spacious. Joseph’s parents were not very well satisfied with him; they wanted him to use his talents in some worldly profession, but he had no inclination for that. He was too simple and unpretentious for them; his only inclination was towards prayer and quiet work at some handicraft. When he was about twelve years old, I often saw him go to the other side of Bethlehem to escape from his brothers’ perpetual teasing. Not far from the future cave of the Nativity there was a little community of pious women belonging to the Essenes, who dwelt in a series of rock-chambers in a hollowed-out part of the hill on which Bethlehem stood. They tended little gardens near their dwellings and taught the children of other Essenes. Little Joseph went to visit these women, and I often used to see him escaping from his brothers’ teasing to go to them and join in their prayers, which they read by the light of a lamp in their cave from a scroll hanging on the wall. I also saw him visiting the caves of which one was afterwards the birthplace of Our Lord. He prayed there quite alone, or made all kinds of little things out of wood; for there was an old carpenter who had his workshop near these Essenes with whom Joseph spent much of his time. He helped him with his work and so little by little learnt his craft. The art of measuring which he had practiced at home under his master’s tuition was here of great use to him.

His brothers’ hostility at last made it impossible for him to remain any longer in his parents’ house; I saw that a friend from Bethlehem (which was separated from his home by a little stream) gave him clothes in which to disguise himself. In these he left the house at night in order to earn his living in another place by his carpentry. He might have been eighteen to twenty years old at that time.

To begin with, I saw him working with a carpenter at Lebona. This was the place where he first really learnt his craft. His master had his dwelling against some ancient walls which ran from the town along a narrow ledge of hill, like a road leading up to some ruined castle. Several poor people lived in the walls. I saw Joseph making long stakes in a place between high walls with openings above to let in light. These stakes were frames for wicker-screens. His master was a poor man, and made mostly only such common things as these rough wicker-screens. Joseph was very devout, good, and simple-minded, everybody loved him. I saw him helping his master very humbly in all sorts of ways—picking up shavings, collecting wood, and carrying it back on his shoulders. In later days he passed by here with the Blessed Virgin on one of their journeys, and I think he visited his former workshop with her.

His parents thought at first that he had been carried off by robbers; but I saw that he was discovered at last by his brothers and severely taken to task, for they were ashamed of his low way of life. He was, however, too humble to give it up; though he left that place and worked afterwards at Thanath, near Megiddo, by a small river called Kishon which runs into the sea. Joseph lived here with a well-to-do master, and the carpenter’s work which they did was of a higher quality. Later still I saw him working in Tiberias for a master-carpenter. He might have been as much as thirty-three years old at that time. His parents in Bethlehem had been dead for some time. Two of his brothers still lived in Bethlehem; the others were dispersed. The parental home had passed into other hands, and the whole family had come down in the world very rapidly. Joseph was very devout and prayed fervently for the coming of the Messiah. He was just engaged in building beside his dwelling a more retired room for prayer, when an angel appeared to him and told him not to do this, for, as once the patriarch Joseph at about this time had, by God’s will, been made overseer of all the corn of Egypt, so he, the second Joseph, should now be entrusted with the care of the granary of salvation. Joseph in his humility did not understand this, and gave himself up to continual prayer, till he received the call to betake himself to Jerusalem to become by divine decree the spouse of the Blessed Virgin. I never saw that he was married before; he was very retiring and avoided women.

This vivid account perhaps has no place in this string of posts about the history of devotion to St. Joseph. But it helps me to remember a simple fact: he was a real guy with real parents, brothers, house, and so on.

O blessed St. Joseph, whose holiness becomes only more vivid the more we study and meditate on you, intercede for us!

Because We Don’t Celebrate Sin

Guest post by Allison 
I don’t have any delusions about the human race. We’ve been messing up our lives ever since Eve ate that apple. While we all keep sinning, in recent years in our popular culture a new trend has taken hold: celebrating sin.

This phenomenon allows us to label some people “bad boys and girls” and leaves the rest of us off the hook. If we are busy laughing at Octomom or Jon Gosselin, we don’t have to spend time contemplating our own failings. I am Catholic because my Church recognizes that we all sometimes fall short of God’s standards. And it offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a way for us sorrowful sinners to redeem ourselves.

For some reason this week, I can’t get Rielle Hunter out of my head. The woman who committed adultery with presidential candidate John Edwards now is featured in the latest issue of GQ, scantily dressed and lying seductively in their daughter’s bed. Have we lost all our shame as a culture?

Please understand, I don’t mean to single out Ms. Hunter for judgment. She is merely one in a long line of lost souls who have gained fame by behaving in ways that, in an earlier generation, would have caused her and her family great shame. She and others have gone on to make money by celebrating their failings. GQ seems to be earning plenty of advertising dollars with this formula: unwed teen father Levi Johnston, who fathered a child with one of Sarah Palin’s daughters, appeared shirtless in their May 2009 issue, holding his baby.

I don’t want to go back to the days where we stoned adulterers. But for all the jabs we hear about  “Catholic guilt,” my Church recognizes that we do sin and offers us, through its Sacraments, an opportunity to get back into God’s sanctifying grace.

Like many parents, I worry about the world my sons will leave home for, a world that makes a mockery of the Ten Commandments, including its admonishments against adultery, and against stealing and lying. It’s a world that thinks it’s entertainment to label, often with those folks’ permission, some souls “bad boys and girls” and put them on display.

I pray that the relationships we cultivate within our parish and our wider community will help our sons understand what has lasting value. I hope they understand that their bodies are beautiful gifts from God and homes for their souls. I hope we are helping them to understand that we are to regret, not celebrate, our own sins.

The Church always offers us a chance for redemption. But we need to understand right from wrong and teach it to our children. Let us pray that our souls, and the souls of our fellow travelers, don’t lose their way to Heaven.

For Timely Passages Like These from the LOTH for Today

Its been a while since I did a post on the LOTH, our acronym for the Liturgy of the Hours.  We could have called the Prayer of the Church the DO for Divine Office, but we went with LOTH instead. And shame on me for only just now getting to praying it, but pardon me too: I work for a living.

Knowing the recent news regarding more allegations of abuse coming to light within the Church, the following passages (published how many years ago ?) are in the prayer for Lauds this morning. They couldn’t have come at a better time.

Psalm 100 (101)

The declaration of a just ruler

I will sing of kindness and justice –
to you, Lord, will I sing.
My thoughts shall follow the way of perfection:
when will you come to me, Lord?

I will walk with an innocent heart
through the halls of my palace.
I will allow no evil thing in my sight.
I will hate the man who retreats from perfection:
he may not stay near me.

The wicked of heart must leave me;
the plotter of evil I will not acknowledge.
The man who plots against his neighbour in secret:
I will suppress him.
The haughty of eye, the puffed-up and proud –
I will not support them.

I will turn my eyes to the faithful of the land:
they shall sit with me.
Whoever walks in the way of perfection –

he shall be my servant.
The haughty shall not live in my palace;
the slanderer shall not stand in my sight.
Each morning I will suppress
all the wicked of the land.
I will rid the city of the Lord
of all that do evil.

Followed by this passage I had quoted in my post on Sunday from Psalm 144,

Blessed be the Lord, my help,
who trains my hands for battle,
my fingers for war.
The Lord is kindness and strength,
my refuge and my liberator.
He is my shield, and I trust in him –
he places my people under his rule.

And further on these short passages are timely too. Or is it just me? First from the midmorning reading (Terce),

Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord! Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations.’ -Joel 2:17

then from the noon reading (Sext),

We have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our ancestors from our youth until today, and we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God. -Jeremiah 3:25

and finally from the afternoon reading (None),

Shout for all you are worth, raise your voice like a trumpet. Proclaim their faults to my people, their sins to the House of Jacob. They seek me day after day, they long to know my ways, like a nation that wants to act with integrity and not ignore the law of its God. -Isaiah 58:1-2

From the Office of Readings, we have these thoughts from a Sermon on charity (read love) given by Pope St. Leo the Great (died in 461),

In John’s gospel the Lord says: “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know you are my disciples.” In a letter by John we read: “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”

So the faithful should look into themselves and carefully examine their minds and the impulses of their hearts. If they find some of the fruits of love stored in their hearts then they must not doubt God’s presence within them, but to make themselves more and more able to receive so great a guest they should do more and more works of durable mercy and kindness. After all, if God is love, charity should know no limit, for God himself cannot be confined within limits.

Coincidence? Or the Holy Spirit at work? Mark me down for believing the latter. Please continue to pray for our Church, the victims of sexual abuse and their families, and our Pope and Church leaders as they come to grips with the mutineers.

Pax Christi

YIMC Book Club Roll Call—Final Exam is Thursday

Wow, around the New Year I said this about C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity:

He better be bringing his “Little Deuce Coupe.”

And he has. Or maybe it’s more like an Aston Martin Vantage V-8.  Whatever he’s driving, Jack has been proving something that Chuck Yeager said regarding pilots and aircraft.  Which is more important Chuck?

It’s the man, not the machine. Wait a second, lets see the whole enchilada:

I have flown in just about everything, with all kinds of pilots in all parts of the world—British, French, Pakistani, Iranian, Japanese, Chinese—and there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between any of them except for one unchanging, certain fact: the best, most skillful pilot has the most experience.

So, remember the honeymoon, guys? When C.S. Lewis won the book selection vote by a nose? Here are some quotes to refresh your memory,

Eighty-nine book club votes and counting—can we count on so-many contributions about the segments of the book when we begin club reading-n-reflecting in earnest?

Um, evidently NOT! Roll tape!

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Excuse me Tommy, did you say bunch of babies?! LOL, I thought so.

Prayers were answered with this book club selection?

Oh, thank you! I came down to my computer this morning to a note from my son, saying he wanted to discuss Mere Christianity with me. He’s 21, and searching for God’s place in his life. So my prayer was answered…

Roll tape!

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I agree! Get outta the tree, people (Cubs fans—sheesh)! We’ve only got one more meeting to go folks, and like Webster and I have been saying, Jack saved his best stuff for last. He’s driving his Lola-Cosworth at break-neck speeds and setting track records and living to tell about it.

Roll tape!

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Yeah, Jack looks good in British Racing Green, and heck, maybe it’s Irish green. Either way, he is flying toward the finish line this week and so are we. Did you see him pass that guy like he was standing still? Was that you?

Roll Call:

EPG
Warren Jewell
Mary P
Matthew
Webster (say it ain’t so Mav!)
Michelle
Janet
El Bollio Tejano
Sandy
Anonymous(?!)
Turgonian

Not exactly 89!, LOL. After all, this film ending is more like it.  Roll tape!

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Sometimes you just have to switch to manual. See you all Thursday (and leave your Blue books and Scantrons at home!).

Thanks to My Jewish Neighbors

Guest post by Allison 
People who visit my town on a Saturday might think it’s a “Jewish town.” That is because a sizable number of residents are Orthodox Jews who observe the Sabbath, in part, by walking to synagogue. This town is extraordinarily diverse and includes graduate students, recent immigrants from China and Mexico, college professors and a generations-old African American community. But at a time when Americans talk about declining morals and values, my Orthodox Jewish neighbors are among those who have inspired my family to greater religious devotion to our Catholic faith.

My husband and I moved here fifteen years ago, drawn to the community’s strong public schools, its proximity to a train line into Manhattan and its walkability. The Catholic Church where we worship, for example, is an easy mile-and-a-half walk from our house. All the public schools are within walking distance of our home.

Our town has two Kosher Dunkin’ Donuts, a Kosher grocery store, a candy store and pizzeria. It is home to five Orthodox synagogues, as well as a Conservative synagogue and an egalitarian minyan.  In our years here, we’ve been to more brises than baptisms, more Bar and Bat mitzvahs than Confirmations, and we have made more shiva visits than attended Catholic funerals.

Our immersion in Jewish culture has enriched our family’s own Catholicism. This is because our boys are growing up seeing examples every day of friends and neighbors who are open and enthusiastic about their faith and willing to make adjustments to their personal convenience for the sake of their own beliefs. This makes it much easier, for example, to take our children to church for Sunday Mass and for Holy Days of Obligation, to attend Vespers and Stations of the Cross, and to understand that faith sometimes requires us to forego temporary pleasures for greater spiritual benefits.

Learning more about Jewish traditions and cultures helps me understand Our Lord’s childhood and gives me a greater appreciation of Catholicism’s roots. Both faiths teach the importance of how we treat others.

Both of our next-door neighbors are married Orthodox Jewish couples. On one side are two retired public-school teachers whose three daughters all live in Israel. When Roger and his wife traveled to Israel to attend their sixth grandchild’s bris, he emailed me to ask if he could bring me back some religious objects.He offered to travel into the Old City of Jerusalem to purchase them. We were deeply moved when he returned to New Jersey with a beautiful crucifix and a statue of Saint Anthony of Padua.

On Saturday, while sitting in our bedroom during a rainstorm, I heard a huge crunching sound. I looked out our bedroom window to see that a mighty oak tree had fallen onto our next-door neighbor’s deck, pulling down power lines and narrowly missing their home. I realized that the young couple on the other side of us would not be able to call the police or the electric company. So I threw my clogs on and ran to their house in a panic.

Avi, who is in his midtwenties, opened his door with a big smile and let me in. “Do you need me to make a phone call?” I asked. “That would be great,” he said. What astonished me was the sense of calm that prevailed in that home. His wife was all smiles, as were the other couple visiting with their infant child. A massive tree had come within feet of hitting their home and yet they projected calm, not panic. “Aren’t you freaking out?” I asked Hava. “You seem so calm!” “Well,” she said, “this is what homeowners insurance is for.”

Their equanimity astonished me. I thought I knew its source, but I gave a call to a local rabbi to check. Rabbi Steven Miodownik leads Congregation Ahavas Achim, which served Central New Jersey Jews for more than 120 years. I don’t know if this couple are members of this particular synagogue, but I figured he might have some insight into why a devout couple could stay so calm after a near-tragedy.

“We teach the relative unimportance of possessions,” the rabbi told me. “We take with us to the next world the good deeds that we did. We don’t even take the socks on our feet. The attitude of mimimizing the physical probably contributed to that calm you saw. If it’s just sticks and stones, they had good reason not to be flipping out. This world is a temporary one. The next one is where we are heading.”

Once again, I saw parallels between Judaism and Catholicism. One piece of wisdom from my priest has stayed with me for years. During a homily about the transience of the material world, he cited an old Spanish proverb: “There are no pockets in a shroud.”

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 6)

My novena to St. Joseph is nearing the end. His Feast Day crowns the week, on Friday. The devotion for today brings me to the heart of my love for St. Joseph—as the Patron of Families. “St. Joseph,” it begins, “I venerate you as the gentle head of the Holy Family. The Holy Family was the scene of your life’s work in its origin, in its guidance, in its protection, in your labor for Jesus and Mary, and even in your death in their arms.”

I am twice blessed in my family: first in the family of my parents, Dave and Nan Bull, and their six children; and second in the smaller family Katie and I have led, with our daughters, Martha and Marian. Every family falls short of the ideal of the Holy Family, of course, and my families have been 100 percent “fallen” people. I can give you details. I mean, the story about . . .

But this is the important thing: Bonded together as a family, we have added up to more than our sum. My parents and Katie’s parents both believed fully in the family—in the traditional family, yes, in a family led by a man and a woman—and they embodied the ideal well enough that, despite their many failings, something of their faith in family was transmitted through us to our children. No doubt, with the help of the Holy Family and its silent father, Joseph.

While St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales were increasing devotion to St. Joseph in the Old World, explorers of and missionaries to the New World brought this devotion with them. Spiritually, in New Spain and New France, whole communities were founded on the love of St. Joseph and a devotion to the Holy Family. According to an essay on the Holy Family Devotion by Joseph F. Chorpenning, OSFS, which I have been citing, the First Provincial Council of Mexico (New Spain), declared St. Joseph patron of the ecclesiastical Province of Mexico in 1555. His feast day immediately became a holy day of obligation for New Spain, 66 years before Pope Gregory XV designated it for the Universal Church.

The Flemish lay brother Fray Pedro de Gante (1486–1572) especially spread the cult of St. Joseph in Mexico. He had been educated by the Brethren of the Common Life, who esteemed the writings of Jean Gerson (1363–1429), one of the first to foster devotion to St. Joseph. In the late 1520s, Fray Pedro placed the first school founded to instruct native children of New Spain under the saint’s protection. By the end of that decade, only the second or third church ever dedicated to the saint, St. Joseph of Bethlehem of the Natives, was dedicated in Mexico City.

And so it went, from one community, chapel, or city named for San José to another. Meanwhile, in modern-day Canada (New France). Chorpenning writes: “History repeated itself when New France followed New Spain’s example and chose St. Joseph as its patron in 1624. Moreover, the cult of the Holy Family which is implicit in the devotion to St. Joseph that flourished in New Spain becomes explicit in New France.” Ancestors of present-day Canadians celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family two full centuries before it was recognized by the Universal Church.

Here in New France a French Ursuline nun, Blessed Marie of the Incarnation (1599–1672), was the first woman missionary to the New World. According to her own writing, God commanded her “to build a house in Canada in which He would be adored and praised in company with Jesus and Mary—with with St. Joseph who should never be separated from them.” A tradition of devotion to St. Joseph extends through Canadian history toward our time, reaching its high point with the life of Blessed (soon to be Saint) André Bessette (1845–1937) (left), whom I have written about previously and with affection.

To continue the homily for the Feast of St. Joseph by Karl Rahner, SJ:

[St. Joseph’s] loyalty to duty and impartial righteousness, which is a manly form of love,also lived in him with respect to God his Father. He was a devout man and he was manly in his devotion. For him the service of God was not a matter of pious feelings that come and go, but a matter of humble loyalty that really served God and not his own pious ego. As Luke says: “Every year he went to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, according to the custom.” Now we can tell what was the most important element in the life of this man whose everyday life was a life of duty, righteousness, and of manly devotion: this life was given the charge of protecting in a fatherly way the savior of the world.

Blessed St. Joseph, Patron of Families, pray for our families. May they be modeled after your own at Nazareth!

Introducing Ollabelle (Music for Mondays)

Since hearing them last year on Pandora Radio, I have been a big fan of the largely invisible musical quintet “Ollabelle.” Here’s their Wikipedia page, which has about as much info as I’ve found anywhere. The notable member, perhaps, is Amy Helm, daughter of The Band drummer Levon Helm, though I’m not really a music junkie, so Glenn Patscha, Byron Isaac, Fiona McBain, or even Tony Leone may be somehow more important. Anyway, what is it with these people? There’s nothing overtly Evangelical, and certainly nothing Catholic, about their story, but tell me they aren’t “religious”!

Sorry in advance for the poor video quality, but these people have been flying under the radar—

What could be more Lenten than a song called “Get Back Temptation”?

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Do you have “Jesus on the Main Line”? Ollabelle does.

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Listen to this cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Soul of a Man” (with a momentary change of scene) and tell me these people don’t know something about the Holy Spirit.

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And how about my favorite Ollabelle tune, “Down by the Riverside,” one of the great Negro Spirituals?

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Let’s finish with a “band of angels” in “Gone Today,” taking Ollabelle to heaven, where I say they belong.

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To Teach the Faith to Teens

Guest post by Allison 
On Friday, which marked the two-month anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, our parish youth group met in our parish hall to fast and pray and raise money for Haiti. It was a quiet, meditative evening for the handful of teens and their parents who gathered to offer up our temporary discomfort as a prayer to relive the suffering of the 200,000 Haitians who died in the earthquake and of the millions who survived. No matter how inconsequential we feel on this planet, faith gives us the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. I pray we pass on the Church’s spiritual gems to the next generation of Catholics.

With our pastor’s blessing, a parish friend, Vicki, and I restarted the youth group about a year ago. It had not been active in at least five years. We started off slowly, hoping to build a sense of belonging among the teens. Deliberately, we’ve offered more social than spiritual activities: board game nights, hikes, barbecues, and ice skating. Friday was the first time we hit them with spirituality straight on.

The evening opened with reading A Prayer After the Earthquake in Haiti, written by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is chairman of Catholic Relief Services. I had found his prayer on his blog. This beautiful prayer reads, in part, “As the things we have built crumble about us, we know too well how small we truly are on this ever-changing, ever-moving, fragile planet we call home. Yet you have promised never to forget us. Do not forget us now. “

Next, a young mother in the parish, also named Allison, explained to us all how our fasting is a form of prayer. Allison outlined the seven corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. Then, she talked to us about the exquisite Catholic notion of redemptive suffering.

Allison, a philosophy doctoral student, went on to explain to us how whenever we suffer in life, we can choose to give it meaning, by offering it back to God—to save someone’s soul, ease someone else’s pain. She read to us from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, which he wrote during his imprisonment in Rome. In that letter, Saint Paul talks about in which says: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister.”

The teens listened without speaking, nodding as the parents then talked about some of the difficulties they had faced as adults and how it was a comfort to know they could offer their suffering to ease the pain another soul was enduring. Later, we walked through the rain to our Eucharistic Chapel for Stations of the Cross. We ended the evening back in the Parish Hall, watching a few short videos culled from youtube about Catholic Relief Services’ work in Haiti.

This youth group began because many adults in our parish are troubled about the precipitous drop in Mass attendence that happens, paradoxically, after children make their Confirmation. Not unusually, even parents stop attending Mass once Confirmation is “over.” We also saw the teens lacked a sense of Catholic identity and community. Ours is a small, older parish in a town of 20,000 residents and five Jewish synagogues.

Friday night’s Fast for Haiti brought out a smaller number of teens than most other youth-group activities. Some of our regulars had “Bye Bye Birdie” rehearsal at the high school, one was at an NHL game to celebrate his16th birthday party, and still another one was training for a national swim championship. My own son couldn’t make it because he had an orchestra rehearsal. To top it all off, the evening was rainswept, almost forlorn. But our parish measures success, not by the number of teens who show up for various youth group activities, but by whether the ones who do have fruitful experiences.

It’s tough to tell with teens how much impact we are having. By introducing some Catholic spiritual disciplines to them on Friday night, we hope our parish will begin to be a place not only where teens can play pingpong, but also where they can start to find comfort and meaning in the sacramental and devotional life of the Church.

A Former Anglican Answers: What About a Non-Catholic Spouse?

EPG’s latest question from the opposite bank of the Tiber, about how a convert should deal with a non-Catholic spouse, has drawn some useful comments, with a particularly powerful testimony from Mary P. Coincidentally, I encountered another answer to the question Saturday morning, when convert and distinguished author Dr. Thomas Howard (left) talked before our men’s group about his “Path to the Ancient Church.”

Raised in an Evangelical family where each meal included prayers as well as hymns accompanied by Mother on the piano, Dr. Howard taught from 1970 to 1984 at Gordon College, a “multidenominational Christian college” in Wenham, Massachusetts. A scholar of English literature with books on CS Lewis and novelist Charles Williams, Howard taught an elective on Lewis and JRR Tolkien at Gordon that drew as many as 200 students. By this time, having spent some time in England, he had become an Anglican. It was at Gordon College, he told us, that he began reading his way into the Catholic Church by studying the Fathers and early Church history. In 1984, he was asked to tender his resignation when he announced that he was going to be received into the Catholic Church. Gordon accepts Catholic students but not Catholic professors.

Howard was 50 years old and out of a job, thinking he “might have to sell pencils on the street.” Instead, a dean from St. John’s Seminary in Boston knocked at his door one summer day and asked if he would be interested in teaching English there. This solved Howard’s job dilemma but it did not solve what might have been a thorny problem in his family: his wife had not converted with him.

The Howards were blessed. When Howard told his wife that he “had to be Catholic,” she accepted it quietly. Not long afterward she told him, “The Lord has given me wings of joy about your becoming a Catholic.” Yet she did not cross the Tiber with him for 10 years, saying she was “not ready yet.” Meanwhile, Dr. Howard began writing successful books from a Catholic perspective, including Evangelical is Not Enough, On Being Catholic, and Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome.

About his wife’s waiting to become Catholic, Howard said, “I never bugged her about it. I never even prayed that she would become a Catholic.” One day, in 1994, Mrs. Howard told her husband, “I’ve decided I want to be an old lady who goes to Mass every day.” And so, he says, she is. Dr. Howard quipped that his wife is “much farther along in the Salvation sweepstakes than I am!”

So there you have it, converts with non-Catholic spouses: You may not even have to pray. Just “don’t bug her,” and try to act with half the dignity and kindness that seem to pour naturally from Dr. Thomas Howard. Who, by the way, drew quite a crowd to our men’s group as our first official guest speaker. Here’s another picture, courtesy of my friend Michael Joens:

For the Love of St. Joseph: A Novena (Day 5)

I  can’t imagine living without the saints—real men and women who have proved the Christian claim for 2000 years—and yet that’s just what I did as a Protestant for the first 56 years of my life. I didn’t pay them any attention. How could I have lived without St. Joseph alone? On what grounds? He is the model of fatherhood (I have two daughters whom I adore), of what it means to be a husband (and a wife I double adore), of working hard (don’t we all?), and of a happy death (in the arms of Jesus and Mary). Why would I not be interested in St. Joseph? Why would anyone not?

Continuing my running account of how the devotion to St. Joseph developed from the late middle ages through the time of St. Teresa of Avila, we come to St. Francis de Sales (1567–1622). According to Joseph F. Chorpenning, OSFS, St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life (1609) “develops a positive and practical spirituality for married people and families” by focusing on the Holy Family and, by extension, on the centrality of St. Joseph. “Who can doubt,” he wrote, “that when this holy father came to the end of his years, he in turn was carried by his divine foster Child on his journey from this world into the next, into Abraham’s bosom, from there to be translated into the Son’s own bosom, into glory, on the day of His Ascension?” Just 300 years before St. Francis de Sales, no one in Christendom would have placed St. Joseph, the “silent man” of the Gospels, so close to the center of Salvation history.

And to continue the homily for the Feast of St. Joseph by Karl Rahner, SJ, here’s the next installment:

Three times the scripture says of Joseph: “He rose up.” He rose up to carry out God’s will as he perceived it in his conscience, a conscience that was so alert that it perceived the message of the angel even in sleep, although that message called him to a path of duty that he himself neither devised nor expected.

According to the witness of the Bible, this insignificant man’s humble routine concealed a further object of value: righteousness. Joseph was a just man, the Bible says, a man who regulated his life according to the word and law of God. Not only when this law suited his desires, but always and at all times, even when it was hard, and when the law judged to his disadvantage that his neighbor was right. He was righteous in that he was impartial, tactful, and respectful of Mary’s individuality and even of that which he could not understand in her.

[To be continued tomorrow]

St. Joseph, most blessed of all male saints, model for fathers and husbands and workers everywhere, pray for us!


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