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"Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone's duty: yours and mine."  ~Mother Teresa

Feast of St. Joseph 2019

 

Feast of St. Joseph 2019
40th Anniversary of the Founding
of the MCC Contemplatives

 

19 March 2019

The feast of St. Joseph was accepted at Rome for the first time on the 19th March, 1479. Five hundred years later exactly on the same date, i.e. on the 19th March, 1979, the Society of the Missionaries of Charity Brothers Contemplative was founded in Rome, although we did not know the providential coincidence then, but God knew.

 Interestingly enough the Vicariate of Rome had asked whether we wanted the foundation of the Contemplative branch on the 25th March or on the 19th March. We, however, preferred to have the date of our foundation on the solemnity of St. Joseph, the Patron, Protector and Intercessor of the Universal Church.

On Tuesday 19 March, 2019, our Contemplative branch completes 40 years since its foundation. For us it is a great thanksgiving day for all the graces and blessings our Society has received for the past forty years. In Rome we have the solemn thanksgiving Mass presided over by his Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, cardinal emeritus, after which he will have the evening meal with our Casa Serena men and Brothers.

Being a solemnity, the feast of St. Joseph is celebrated in every community, every parish church, thanking St. Joseph for his heroic charity, profound humility, positive silence and prompt obedience… If he were not a holy and God-fearing man, he would have made a mess of Mary’s life, and our salvation history would have taken another direction. Let us pay attention to the words of the Gospel: “Joseph, her husband, since he was a just man (upright and holy), yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly…” (Mt 1: 19). Pope St. John Paul II writes: “In Joseph the apparent tension between the active and contemplative life finds an ideal harmony that is only possible for those who possess the perfection of Charity” (Redemptoris Custos, no. 27).

Why does St. John Paul II speaks of the active and contemplative life of St. Joseph? It would have been impossible for Joseph to handle the situation if he was not a man of contemplation. A contemplative is the one who consults God first and foremost before he reacts to adverse situations. A contemplative person has no other desire except to accomplish God’s most holy will as perfectly as possible. A contemplative person thinks of the good of other persons more than thinking of himself. A contemplative person is ready and willing to face the challenges and the consequences of following Jesus and the cost of discipleship. For St. Joseph, God’s will was the center of his life. Neither Mary nor Joseph had any other desire except the perfect accomplishment of the will of God!

A contemplative person is ready to take any risks for the work of God, like Mary and Joseph did. Both had unquestionable faith, undaunted courage, unconditional love, profound humility and prompt obedience. Both trusted blindly more in God than in human power, human intelligence, ability and gifts. They believed that God could do what was impossible for them.

The example of St. Teresa of Calcutta is very evident. Towards the end of her life she used to wonder and say: “Father, who ever thought that our Congregation would reach this far and the work will reach out to the ends of the earth?” The M.C. Sisters work in Siberia, in Iceland, in Mongolia, in Yemen and in every nook and corner of the world, at the cost of their lives. Without blind trust in the power of the promises of God, no one can do what many religious and priests are doing from one end of the world to the other.

To understand the kind of person St. Joseph was, it is enough to read the first two chapters of St. Matthew’s gospel. It is very clear that St. Joseph was a man of profound silence, but at the same time a man of action. We can see how he reacted to all those difficult and very demanding situations:

  • When Joseph found out that his fiancé was with child (cf. Mt 1: 19).
  • How he responded to the dream. He did as the angel of the Lord had said to him in a dream to do. He took Mary as his wife without any questions (cf. Mt 1: 24). His obedience was prompt and without questions or murmuring, or complaining unlike us!
  • When Joseph had to go to Bethlehem with Mary, who was about to give birth (cf. Lk 2: 6-8).
  • When Joseph was asked by the angel to get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt (cf. Mt 2: 13). Joseph got up, took the child and his mother and left that very night for Egypt (cf. Mt 1: 14).
  • When Joseph was asked to return to Israel from Egypt (cf. Mt 2: 19-20). Joseph took the child and his mother and went back to Israel.

If Joseph was like many of us, God could not have accomplished his plan and project. No wonder then , that God chose St. Joseph to accomplish his mission on earth. We could easily say that God chose St. Joseph even before the foundation of the world to accomplish his mission. God cannot work with reactionaries, questioning all the time the how, why, where and what. Today travelling has become faster and one reaches the desired destination within hours, but not in the time of the Holy Family. Today we become impatient if the flight is delayed for whatever reasons or the train or bus is delayed for whatever reasons valid or otherwise.

There is much to learn from the silent example of St. Joseph, who was a man of action more than words. He was a contemplative missionary whose desire was to do his duty as best as possible, always in accordance with God’s will. He was a man who understood the weight of his call. He knew who called him and for what purpose. It is in this sense that we can say that he was a contemplative missionary more than a missionary contemplative. He followed the principle of “see, reflect, judge and act”, because he knew what he wanted and how he could achieve it. He wanted to do God’s will and the means he used was by way of contemplative prayer.

There is an interesting little story about St. Peter and St. Joseph in heaven. One day St. Peter got so upset with St. Joseph. The reason was that so many souls were coming to heaven through the intersession of St. Joseph. St. Peter said to St. Joseph: I am really tired of opening and closing, opening and closing the gate of heaven for souls. If you don’t stop helping souls, who do not even seem to deserve to be in heaven… Rather you help them somehow to come to heaven. If you do not stop, I prefer that you go out of heaven. St. Joseph not being a reactionary, but being a “just man”, said to St. Peter that he would willingly go out of heaven. St. Peter felt very relieved. As St. Joseph reached the exit gate to go out, he said to St. Peter: “I have my wife Mary, so she also should come with me”. St. Peter said: “Take her with you”. She was called to the exit door of heaven. When Mary came to the gate, she said to St. Peter: “I have my son, he should come with us”. St. Peter said: “Take also him with you”. So Jesus came to the gate and said: “I have twelve apostles and I would like to take them with us”. St. Peter began to tremble. He knew that he was the first one among the apostles. He realized that he couldn’t any longer play with St. Joseph. He now understood St. Joseph: he was a very silent man on earth, but very powerful in heaven. St. Peter, being a humble man knelt down at St. Joseph’s feet and asked for forgiveness.

St. Joseph is, no doubt, the greatest and the most beloved of all saints of the Catholic Church, next only to Mary. His greatness and that of Mary is measured by their closeness to Jesus Christ while he came to earth two thousand and more years ago to impart eternal life to all who believe in him. There is no wonder that Pope blessed Pius IX, on the 8th of December, 1870, during the first Vatican ecumenical Council proclaimed St. Joseph the patron saint of the universal Church.

The Litany of St. Joseph summarizes the person, vocation and mission of St. Joseph. His vocation and mission were not limited to take care of Jesus and Mary at Nazareth. It should be said that the vocation and mission of St. Joseph like all the saints continues even after their going home to God. St. Joseph must be delighted to know that his devotees often pray the Litany to him!

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who was on her way to Rome, asked the protection of St. Joseph. She writes: “ I also asked St. Joseph to watch over me, since early childhood my love for him has been inseparable from my love for the Blessed Virgin. Everyday I uttered the prayer: ‘O, St, Joseph, father and protector of virgins,…’ So I felt well looked after and safe from harm” (The autobiography of St. Thérèse: The story of a soul, chapter 6, paragraph 7, translated by John Beevers). St. Thérèse of Lisieux herself said that her heaven will consist in doing good on earth, which she is doing much more from heaven than she did while she was on earth.

St. Teresa of Calcutta used to say that “When I die and go home to God, I can help you much better…” She, too, is spending her heaven by helping souls, especially the souls of the poor to go to heaven. Even if saints die, their love for God and for their neighbour doesn’t die. So we can easily say that St. Joseph was chosen by the eternal Father not only to be the guardian and protector of Jesus and Mary, but to collaborate with them to save souls until the end of time.

I would like to conclude these reflections with the words of St. Thomas of Aquinas. He says: “Some saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking”.

To each and everyone I wish a very happy and holy feast of St. Joseph. For the Missionaries of Charity Brothers Contemplative it is a great thanksgiving day. The prayerful presence of many of us in body or in spirit on that day in Rome around the altar in union with his Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who presides over the Eucharistic celebration will become a real Pentecostal experience for all the participants and a new Pentecost for our Society and all those who are associated with us in one way or another. Happy feast to all those who are named after St. Joseph. Love and prayers.

God bless you.
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, M.C.