St. Joseph, “blessed spouse of Mary”

August 2013 Editorial

Scripture and sacred tradition do not tell us too much about Joseph.  Yet, all we need to know is that the heart of his life beats between Mary and Jesus, how he found his truest self between our Lady and her God.

St. Joseph and the Baby Jesus

August is a month of transitions.  It is when we honor our Lady’s Glorious Assumption and her Coronation as Queen of heaven and earth. It is also the month most families begin to worry about school supplies, new schedules, and the stresses of having summer come to a close.  August also witnesses the vows of many men and women religious as well as the entrance of new novices into their communities.  It is when our diocesan seminarians report for duty.  And this just in: August has recently outpaced June as the top month for weddings.  It is truly a time of change and hopeful expectation.

To contemplate our Lady’s role in heaven this month is to recall how she intercedes for all of us in all of these various circumstances here on earth.  As we all pray for our new classes of religious and seminarians, for schoolchildren’s safety all around the world, and for all this month brings, I am grateful that St. Joseph now has a more a visible—at least, a more audible—part of our daily worship.  For behind Mary’s tender care of Christ stood Joseph, that “just man” extolled in the scriptures.  Joseph was no doubt the first one to whom Mary revealed her Immaculate Heart, trusting his strong silence as a place where her most intimate secrets and hopes for this new mystery inside of her would be safe.

On June 20 of this year, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments declared that the name of St. Joseph “blessed spouse” of Mary, was to be added to the canon of the Mass, added to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV of the Roman Missal. (One wonders why Rome could not have made this decision last year when the new {and expensive} Missals were being printed, as this was a change already being talked about at the beginning of Emeritus Benedict’s pontificate.)  As a universal and mandatory change, we should now hear at every Mass:

Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
and Blessed Joseph her spouse,
with the blessed Apostles, and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages…

The Vatican decree can be found here:
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20130501_san-giuseppe_en.html

The exact English phrase has not been established by our bishops yet.  The Latin in Eucharistic Prayer II is: “ut cum beáta Dei Genetríce Vírgine María, beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, beátis Apóstoli.” In Eucharistic Prayer III, it reads: “cum beatíssima Vírgine, Dei Genetríce, María, cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, cum beátis Apóstolis.” In Eucharistic Prayer IV, it reads: “cum beáta Vírgine, Dei Genetríce, María, cum beáto Ioseph, eius Sponso, cum Apóstolis.

The Congregation for Divine Worship, working with native speaking bishops in each language, will soon publish the vernacular; I do think, however, we can be fairly sure “with Blessed Joseph, her spouse” will stand.

Regardless of the final wording, this is the perfect time to call upon St. Joseph’s intercession.  As our government forces conscientious Catholics to pay for atrocities against our faith and rights, we invoke St. Joseph the Patron of the Unborn.  As so many dads today struggle to understand their role and their importance, we invoke St. Joseph the Patron of Fathers.  When our land is debating the rights of those who have crossed our borders without the proper documentation, we invoke St. Joseph the Patron of All Immigrants. We also invoke him as the Patron of Workers and of a Happy Death, two everyday occurrences that stand in constant need of consecration and constant intercession. Finally, at each Mass, we now vocalize the nuptial holiness between man and woman that Mary and Joseph represent in the Holy Family.

Admittedly, scripture and sacred tradition do not tell us too much about Joseph.  Yet, all we need to know is that the heart of his life beats between Mary and Jesus, how he found his truest self between our Lady and her God.  Perhaps, we imagine him a bit older, realizing only later, that his life would matter only as he chose to serve these two, Mother and Son, God and man, divinity and humanity, heaven and earth.  He would be called to spend his final years here.  Instead of hardening his heart because he was not the ultimate focus of either his bride-to-be, or his adopted son, he learned the beauty of surrendering to the only true Father.  Through these two, Joseph learned the glories of self-gift and the dignity of surrender.

In those early days, while Christ grew inside of our Lady, she alone could realize how only love can touch what is most intimate within each of us.  Only that interiority could have enabled Mary to trust that Joseph would take care of her; that he would not expose her to the law but, instead, would spend his life reverencing her, and the new life within her. For when real poverty finally reaches the core of who one is, one finally knows the same trust which enabled Mary to say “yes.”  Is this not the same trust of the Father which her Son would translate into his own willingness to suffer for his beloved?  Joseph was present for neither the Annunciation nor the Crucifixion, but between them he lived, and for them he too gave his life in the way the Father asked.

At every Mass, we now ask St. Joseph, if for only a second, to show us this way.  He intercedes now more explicitly for Christ’s Church, showing us how we, too, should never divide heaven and earth, God and man, Mother and Child.  He provides us with an example of intimacy and abandonment, of commitment and freedom, of silence and strength. Because of Mary’s vow to the Father to allow the Christ to be formed in her, Joseph’s entire life changed.  He was shaped more by Mary’s promise than by any of his own choices.  Out of the selfless love he was given for this woman, Joseph freely received the grace to overcome his initial confusion and possible bitterness.  His heart was changed because of the faith she had in their God.  Like many of us, he looked toward Mary to lead and, even though he may not have understood exactly what was occurring, he trusted her enough to say, “Let it be done to me” as well.

Other changes from the Vatican mark these latter days of summer as well.  As you read this, Holy Father Francis will have completed his first World Youth Day by returning to his native South America for the first time to inspire the next generation of saints in Christ’s Church.  Scholars will have had time to examine the latest encyclical, Lumen Fidei.  This is the first to be “the work of four hands,” rounding out Benedict’s desire to write on all three of the theological virtues—Deus Caritas Est on charity, Spe Salui on hope, and now the Light of Faith brings us more deeply into the mystery of divine trust.  Finally, we now await the canonizations of two Blessed Popes, John XXIII and John Paul II.

By any account, but especially for an institution usually criticized for stagnation and inaction, this is a maelstrom of activity, only confirming that Christ’s Church continues to grow in her witness to the world.  Some clergy may have given scandal and terrible witness these past few decades, but the Church carries on under the unassailable protection of God’s Holy Spirit.  We continue to preach the Gospel, to teach “in and out of season,” and to hold up exemplary and saintly lives for all to emulate.  Behind all of this activity and this growth is a silent and just protector, a man who watches over Mary and her child.  That is why Joseph is the Patron of our Universal—Catholic—Church.

St. Joseph, pray for us. 

In Christ,
Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J.
HPR Editor

 

Bookmark and Share
avatar About Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ

Fr. David Meconi, S.J. is professor of patristic theology at St. Louis University and editor of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review (HPR). Fr. Meconi would like you to know that he offers Mass each month for readers of HPR; please be assured of his prayers for you.

Comments

  1. avatar John Kippley says:

    Thanks for this reassuring article about the man who kept saying yes. St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, please keep praying for the conversion of the enemies of the Church all throughout the world and for the repeal of the Obama birth control mandate in our country.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] August 2013 EditorialScripture and sacred tradition do not tell us too much about Joseph.  Yet, all we need to know is that the heart of his life beats between Mary and Jesus, how he found his truest self between our Lady and her God. St. Joseph and the Baby Jesus …read more [...]

NeverWinter Astral Diamonds