Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! As a parish, we have just completed celebrating the wondrous feast of Our Lord’s Holy Incarnation. Beginning at the end of November, for four weeks we prepared for Christmas through prayer and eager expectation. Each week we saw the Light of the Advent Wreath grow brighter and brighter until on Christmas Day we beheld the Light of the World, a Light which no darkness will ever extinguish. On Christmas morning we beheld His glory as we knelt with the humble shepherds at the Christmas manger. I was so happy to see so many of you good parishioners, from the young toddlers to the elderly kneeling on the red cushion so close to the Holy Infant and being drawn into the beauty of His gaze. And, as we know, nature itself assisted us as the light returned and grows brighter each day.
Then we moved on to the Wondrous cycle of the Epiphany. Our Lord’s Light shone for all the world to see as in the persons of the three Kings all the nations of the world came to adore Him. Our Lord’s Light shone even in the depth of the sea as he entered the waters of the Jordan, not to be cleansed, but to cleanse the waters Himself. And on the bank of the Jordan the Mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity was made manifest for the first time on this earth, when, the Father’s voice was heard, This is my Beloved Son and The Holy Spirit hovered over Him as a dove.
Now that we have completed this cycle of Christmas we step back and in adoration, joy, and thanksgiving behold the human instruments through which this grace of the Redemption, planned from before Time began, was accomplished. Last week I tried, ever so poorly in the homily, to speak of Our Blessed Mother, the ladder by which God descended to our earth. Today let us all look to St. Joseph, our father and lord.
Very often we may see paintings and images of St. Joseph which depict him as elderly. This depiction, while well intentioned, is very far from accurate. At the time of Our Lord’s birth St. Joseph would have been about 19 years old, in the full vigor of manhood and strength. After all, God Our Lord would never have entrusted His Divine Son to the care of one who would not have been physically capable of fulfilling his mission as Guardian of the Redeemer. We understand why pious artists would have depicted St. Joseph as elderly – it would have been to emphasize the perpetual virginity of Our Blessed Mother. But we must always remember that Holy Purity is a virtue not only for the elderly, but for the young also. Holy Purity in fact leads to one always being young of heart and filled with physical strength and strength of will. I will go unto the altar of God; the God who gives joy to my youth!
St. Joseph was not physically the father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but in every way, other than the physical, he was a father to Our Lord. The way Our lord held the hammer, the way he planed the wood, the way he finished off a cabinet – these all reflected the influence of St. Joseph. I once remember asking a contractor why he hammered the crown molding in a certain way that I had never seen before. He did not give me a lengthy or complicated answer. He simply said, because that is the way my master taught me. And Our Lord would have done his work as his master and guardian, St. Joseph, taught HimSt. Joseph has always been the intercessor and protector of Christians. Pope Pius IX proclaimed him the Protector of the Universal Church. Blessed Pope John XXIII placed his name in the Roman Canon and the present Holy Father, Pope Francis, placed his name in all the Eucharistic prayers of the Church. The Little Sisters of the Poor, with whom I lived for 13 years, had such confidence in St. Joseph that they would simply write on a piece of paper what it was they needed to care for their dear old people, and place the note under the statue of St. Joseph, and he would always grant their prayer, whether it was a spiritual need or a material need. Whenever storms approached, they placed the statue of St. Joseph in the window looking out. We now follow that custom at the rectory and I would recommend that practice to all of you.
To many of the saints God has given the grace to assist us in various ways. But St. Joseph assists and protects us in every way. In my 33 years as a priest he has helped me in innumerable ways, particularly at the time of his feast day, March 19th. Each Wednesday is dedicated to St. Joseph and the entire month of March is dedicated to him
I write of St. Joseph today because today begins the Devotion of the Seven Sundays of St. Joseph. On the seven Sundays preceding his feast (usually beginning at the last Sunday of January or the first Sunday of February) we should honor St. Joseph by mediating upon the seven joys and seven sorrows of his life.
And so, dear parishioners, as your pastor I cannot recommend more highly that you bring to St. Joseph all your needs. You, dear parents, pray to him for your children. You, dear fathers and husbands, ask St. Joseph to help you to raise your sons to be strong and manly Christian gentlemen.
O Glorious St. Joseph, chaste spouse of the Mother of God, and Guardian of the Redeemer, protect us!
Jesus Mary and Joseph, Assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, May I breathe forth my soul in peace with You!
Nos cum prole pia,
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Marry,
Monsignor James F. Pereda