Today about Joseph, the steady and quiet Joseph.A dream moves Joseph to take care of Mary and
become the legal father of her child Jesus.He is told quite distinctly in the dream that this child is to save the
Jewish people from their sins.
Francis keeps in his own bedroom a statue of St. Joseph reclining in sleep as a
reminder that the Spirit of God sometimes speaks with us in the quiet solitude
of our rest or our prayer.
dream every night.Once in a dream a
few years ago, Pope John Paul ll appeared to my mother and me in her kitchen
and we were supposed to provide him with breakfast.We were totally unprepared.(To be clear, no other recognized saint ever
appeared to me in a dream.)
IN THIS MULTI-MEDIA ON BROWN PAPER, JOSEPH IS SCRATCHING HIS HEAD IN WONDER!
(From the Brady Collection at Wernersville, artist unknown, Dated likely in the 1920's)
Matthew depicts Joseph as silent even when he is not asleep.He has none of his own lines in this drama
of Jesus’ birth and growth.He comes on
stage and does his duty fully and generously.But we never hear him say a single word.In fact after the young family settles in Nazareth, there is only a
brief mention of him, years later, when the townspeople refer to Jesus as the
think of the possibilities.Jesus’
Mother Mary is the one who finally voices the possible and asks Jesus to do the
extraordinary at the Wedding Feast of Cana where she pushes the adult Jesus to
change the water into wine.
what was Joseph thinking all those years before in his carpenter shop?Typically a son like Jesus would have helped
in the shop and would have been a student at a school in the town
synagogue.But Joseph kept it a secret
that his son was destined to save his people from their sins.Joseph accepted patiently the role he was
given.The father in heaven asked him
to live an ordinary life with an extraordinary son.He did
not use this relationship to boost his own standing in the community.He must have been happy to have his son
recognized as a good student and a young man with excellent social skills.But he himself stays in the background.There is no evidence that Joseph even lives
to see their son as a recognized religious leader.
I think of Joseph as a patron saint of shall-we-say ordinary
fatherhood if we can even think of fatherhood as ordinary.He protected his wife and child.He accepted the gift of his wife and loved
her.He taught his child the skills
that he knew, even the social skills at which Jesus excelled.And his patient love helped to build a world
best defined by his son, the gift of God with us.
Nativity image from the Brady art collection at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville.
It fits the season of Advent to pepper the daily readings and
feasts during these four weeks before Christmas with references to the Mother
of God, Mary.And we celebrate in this
season both the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and that of the Feast of Our
Lady of Guadalupe.As a memory of
popular devotion to Mary, I recall celebrating Mass at the Shrine
of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, built where it is said that the Mother
of God appeared to an Aztec native, Juan Diego.Even as we celebrated Mass on the main altar at an early hour young couples approached prayerfully at a side
altar to present their new-born children before the same image of Our Lady that
Juan is said to have found imprinted on his cloak.
There is such an outpouring of affection among the faithful
for Mary that Protestants sometimes accuse us of worshiping her or praying
only to her as if she were the Incarnate God.
We know that we do not worship her but look to her as a saint
in heaven, indeed as a disciple of her Son, a mother who can help us grow in
the graces of discipleship ourselves.Our love for her, however, does raise the question about why indeed she
herself could not have come to us as the Second Person of the Blessed
Trinity.So I ask God why Mary
is not our Incarnate God instead of Jesus.God in Three Persons could certainly have arranged for that.And any child that Mary, as our Incarnate
God and Savior, might have conceived could have been born to be a disciple to
her rather than the other way around.
We cannot question the
freedom of God to arrange our salvation in any way God desires.We know that the Second Person of the
Trinity comes as Jesus.This has been
revealed to us.There are, indeed, some
cultural reasons why God might come to us as a man instead of a woman.One of them, I conjecture, is that women were
far less likely to be crucified in the Roman Empire.And God in the crucifixion of Jesus wanted
us to know the greatness of divine love for us. Jesus
showed us such great love by subjecting himself to the worst possible
humiliation and suffering that the so-called civilized world has devised: Crucifixion.
Mary as the Incarnate God could have suffered the same fate
but women were almost always protected from crucifixion. We have in the history of lynchings in the
United States something similar. The victims of lynchings were sometimes women but this was exceptional. Crucifixions and lynchings,
public shows of power, are used to humiliate, intimidate and eliminate
opposition and they typically fall on men.
Women within the cultures that tolerate crucifixion and lynching suffer
humiliations and abuse in other ways and Mary suffered at the foot of Jesus’
cross to represent them.
God chose to come as the man Jesus to take on this
responsibility of sharing the worst effects of human sin that any one of us
could suffer, humiliations and abuse of any kind. Jesus wanted
all of us and especially all those who suffered like pain and humiliation to be
strengthened by the fact that God chose to suffer in the same way. The sufferings of Jesus and the pierced heart
of the Mother of God are 100% sufficient to strengthen and comfort men and
women who have suffered atrocities of all kinds.It is with this man Jesus and his Mother that we will
be saved from our darkness. So we
celebrate in this season the beginning of our salvation in the birth of the
Child and in the generous willingness of His Mother to follow him in hope. They become our hope even as the world
2019 Christmas Card by Sr. Mary Bur, IHM, one of an annual series!
We see this volunteer finding a crack in the stone cloister walk!
Short reflections on
Leisure and “Seeing”from
Josef Pieper’s Only
the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation. Pieper
argues that avoiding idolization of labor today cannot be achieved except by an
objection based on some ultimate truth about human nature (which is therefore
to be taken as of lasting relevance, he assumes). He notes how there are still
vague notions about the seventh day of the week being special and about
holidays and quitting time (in Germany), but that we are ignorant of how the
accumulated wisdom of our Western cultural and existential tradition “as
expressed, say, by Plato, and Aristotle, or the great teachers of Christianity”
“The most important element in this teaching declares: the ultimate
fulfillment, the absolutely meaningful activity, the most perfect expression of
being alive, the deepest satisfaction, and the fullest achievement of human
existence must needs happen in an instance of beholding, namely in the
contemplating awareness of the world’s ultimate and intrinsic foundations.” P.
22. He asks the question what constitutes here and now an activity that is
meaningful in itself, in contrast to an activity that is meaningful for what it
produces, and he answers that it is whenever in contemplation we touch, however
remotely, the core of all things. As Matthew Arnold once wrote, “The touch of
truth is the touch of life.”
He says that in feast days (he glancingly mentions the Sabbath) man has traditionally expressed his
being in harmony and awareness of being surrounded by such fundamental
realities, in non-ordinary ways.
He says, indeed, that wherever there is lacking the attitude of heart and mind
recognizing and seeking to live in harmony with this fundamental truth of human
nature (“even if beheld through a veil of tears”), all endeavors to organize
relaxation techniques turn hectic and, indeed, become an “outright desperate,
form of work”. See me Seeing you! Artist: Eileen Martin
In the second essay, “Learning How To See Again”, Pieper asks the excellent
question “How can we be saved from becoming a totally passive consumer of
mass-produced goods and a subservient follower beholden to every slogan the
managers may proclaim? The question really is: How can man preserve and
safeguard the foundation of his spiritual dimension and an uncorrupted
relationship to reality? He suggests that more and more we tend to see with
less detailed grasp, to hear with less detail (in contrast for example to the
Indians) and to remember with less capacity.....(These weaknesses are related to
the commercial and corrupting images with which materialism has flooded the
He says that fasting and abstention from the “noise” is a
valuable first step but hardly sufficient.
“A better and more immediately effective remedy is this: to be active oneself
in artistic creation, producing shapes and forms for the eye to see.
Nobody (for example) has to observe and study the visible mystery of the human
face more than the one who sets out to sculpt in a tangible medium. And this
holds true not only for the manually formed medium.”
(From a blogger posting as “Infinite Resources”)
We see how the blue sky highlights this red tree entering the winter.