Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! As deadlines dictate I find myself writing this letter to you on Tuesday evening, March 11th. Like so many of you, I have been so encouraged by our Lenten Retreat, conducted by Father Thomas Cardone. How pleased must Our Lord have been to see so very many coming out on these weekday evenings to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament and to speak with Our Lord in prayer. We at St. Paul’s have been blessed to have welcomed this very holy and Christ like priest into our midst. We will all be very grateful to Father Cardone for being with us.
I would encourage you to be faithful to your Lenten practices and to profit by our parish Lenten activities, namely the Stations of the Cross each Friday evening at 7.30pm and (beginning on March 26th) our Wednesday evening Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel.
For our meditation of today I would like to depart from our Lenten meditations and consider two saints whose feast will occur this week St. Joseph and St. Patrick.
The Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary is kept on the 19th of March. Although it occurs in Lent the priest puts away the somber violet of this season and wears the joyful white vesture. The Gloria, absent since Ash Wednesday, is prayed at the Mass.
As we all know St. Joseph was chosen from all eternity to be the guardian of the Redeemer. Although he was not physically the father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, in every other way he was a father to Our Lord. As he was the protector of the Holy Family on earth, so is he the patron of the Universal Church. We should pray to St. Joseph each day to help us in every need both in the spiritual order and the material order.
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 not 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 Him.
St. 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 Sitters 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
St. Joseph’s Day at St. Paul this year will be very special. At the 8.00am Mass our new statue of St. Joseph will be blessed in the Chapel and placed in its permanent home on the left pedestal in the chapel. This new statue is of exquisite beauty and was hand carved in Italy. It has been given by a very generous parishioner who wishes to remain anonymous but who has given the statue in loving memory of Monsignor Mario C. Costa. May St. Joseph ever be the protector of St. Paul.
As everyone is well aware on Monday we will celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick a saint very dear to us. I have always had a special veneration for St. Patrick and have visited many places associated with his life both in France and in Ireland.
Many think of St. Patrick as a mythic figure, but he was a true and living person. St. Patrick was born and raised in a Christian family on the west coast of Britain in what is today Wales. He was a citizen of the Roman Empire and his first language was Latin. At a young age he was captured in a raid upon his beloved British coast and taken to Ireland. At the time Ireland was not a part of the Roman Empire and had not embraced the faith. St. Patrick was treated in a cruel manner by those who had captured him. However, this did not fill him with bitterness and hatred but brought him closer to God. He learned the language of the people, and vowed to God that he would work for the conversion of the Irish peoples if ever he had the opportunity to do so. He understood that much of their cruelty was borne of the fact that they had not come under the Mercy of God and of His Beloved Son.
Patrick eventually escaped from Ireland and made his way to the island of Lerins off the coast of Marseilles. There he remained for two years praying and studying at a Cicerstian Abbey. He was ordained a Bishop there. I have visited that abbey which is still in existence and there is a beautiful memorial plaque to St. Patrick on the island declaring, From hence did Blessed Patrick depart to convert the Irish People.
After returning to Ireland, Patrick did great penances on an island at Lough Derg. I myself have visited the island. The custom even to this day is to remain there for three days doing penance. The pilgrims are barefoot and fasting for three days. The first night is spent in vigil but one is permitted to sleep during the second night.
Finally. St. Patrick, seeing his wonderful work of bringing the grace of the redemption to the people of Ireland fell asleep in the Lord in 461 in Downpatrick in what is now Northern Ireland. I have prayed at his tomb which is on the grounds of the Protestant Cathedral. Dear St. Patrick, pray for us and give to us the grace never to become bitter in the hardships of life, but rather ever to rejoice in the gift of the redemption.
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda