Solemnity of Joseph

Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

I really wanted to make it to mass today for the solemnity of St. Joseph, but I didn’t realize that masses are not celebrated after 8:30am on the weekdays in Kansas City!  I thought surely there would be, but nada.  (My fault for not planning ahead.)
So, instead we will do the mass readings here at home to celebrate.
And why celebrate??
Because Joseph was AWESOME! St. Joseph is one of our great models of religious fidelity, for he was a man who “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.”
If we go back to the time of Mary and Joseph and examine what we find in the Gospels readings, we come across something that could’ve become similar to what we find in today’s novellas.  Here we have a young girl (~14) and man who are betrothed.  The young girl comes to the man and explains that she is with child, and the man, (most likely angry and surely hurt) decides to divorce the young woman, leaving her alone and pregnant (Mt 1:16-24). How scandalous!
Now, what seems to be the makings for a great television story, turns out to be the makings of one of the greatest stories ever told. 
In order to understand more clearly how St. Joseph was feeling when Mary told him she was with child, we first need to go back and understand some of the Jewish customs.  When reading or hearing the word “betrothal”, one might be inclined to compare it to our modern day engagements.  However, Jewish custom was a bit different than this.  In the Jewish faith, there were 2 stages to the marriage process: the betrothal stage, and the period where the two would come together.  This is important to distinguish and understand because in the betrothal stage, man and woman exchanged vows, making the union both legal and covenantal.  Though the two were not living together, the man and woman were legally and covenantally married.   Another key thing to understand about this stage is that the two would not have consummated the marriage at this point.  It is in the later stage when the two would come together, live with one another, and have a consummated marriage. 
In understanding this, we can see that Mary’s news would have been all the more confusing and hurtful to Joseph.  As far as he understood, Mary was not merely unfaithful to an engagement period, but rather had committed adultery.  Moreover, they had made a covenantal bond together, and Mary’s pregnancy was an indicator that she had turned completely turned her back on him.  They were bound to one another but had not yet consummated their marriage, and yet Mary was with child?  How can this be?
If this were a story that we were hearing or watching unfold today, we would probably see Joseph publicly shaming Mary—enacting sweet revenge on his unfaithful spouse.  But again, this is not an ordinary story and we know that Joseph decided to quietly divorce her.  Though he found Mary’s pregnancy to be an unacceptable thing, he still did not want to “expose her to shame”. 
If we stopped the story right there, we could already walk away seeing that, clearly, Joseph was a good and righteous man.  Here we find a young man, faithfully committed to his wife, who finds out she is bearing a child that he knows for sure is not his, yet he doesn’t lash out in anger.  He doesn’t bring her to the forefront of gossip, slander, and possibly even stoning.  Rather, he chose to quietly break the bond to save her from shame.  In doing so he would have had to swallow a lot of pride, ultimately being forgiving enough to let her walk away unscathed.
This would be a good story in and of itself, but the story does not end here.  We read in Scripture that while he intended to quietly divorce Mary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
I don’t know about you, but if I were to have this dream I think I might wake up and rationalize and decide for myself the best thing to do, because dreams are just dreams, right? Yet, here we have Joseph who, upon waking up, “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife into his home.”  He did not take a day to ponder what this meant.  He did not try to rationalize away the message that was brought to him in his sleep by following the lead of his feelings instead.  Rather, he quickly and obediently followed the will of the Lord.  Though he may not have fully understood what it meant that this child would “save people from their sins” or that “through the Holy Spirit” this child was conceived, he chose to submit to the Lord’s plan and have faith.
What an incredible man.  For him to have felt unjustly treated, angered and hurt by the one person he was committed to for life, he so easily put aside his own feelings and was obedient and faithful to what the Lord told him.  He didn’t do this begrudgingly, but rather we see that Joseph actually heard the Lord, believed that Mary had conceived through the Spirit, and from this point on lived out his life as a faithful leader of his family.  He took care of Mary, and he made sure that she was always safe.  He ensured that his son met all the Jewish religious customs at the necessary time, and he lived as a great example, being a holy and righteous man. 
Recently I was listening to one of Jason Evert’s talks, and he spoke about St. Joseph.  After hearing what he had to say, the image of St. Joseph in my mind was further transformed, and it added to my understanding of how cool he was. 
Jason spoke of how everyone’s idea of Jesus’ foster father is usually a frail, white haired old man who obediently, prudently, and righteously followed wherever he was called (see picture above).  While Joseph’s righteousness was surely a remarkable trait, the idea that he was a “frail old man” couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Jason describes the badassery of Joseph (the one the Church refers to as both the “Terror of Demons”, and the “Guardian of the Virgin”) pointing out that the long walk Joseph takes his family on (from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth) would have been about 600 miles long; a walk no frail old man could endure.  He also points out that he was not some old rosey cheeked man, but rather a “man’s man”.  He explained that God would not have put a 70 year old man in charge of guarding a teenage virgin and baby, but rather a “tekton”.  “Tekton” was the ancient Greek term for Joseph’s craft; he was not merely a carpenter who sanded out tables, but rather a construction worker, lumberjack, and a carpenter all rolled into one! Tektons would carry wooden beams through the streets, and knock down trees with their own bare hands and ax.  They would build houses with their hands and work with masonry and stone.  They were manlymen. 
[Jesus was also a tekton, and Jason points out how his practice of carrying wooden beams would have prepared him for his walk to Calvary.]
He was a strong man, a leader, a man’s man.  He was a righteous man, and a faithful husband.  These are all the things that make St. Joseph so cool and so worthy of being emulated.  He too was just a man, but he was a man who put the Lord first, and followed wherever the Lord called him, trying his best to live an upright life.
Take a minute today in thanksgiving for his faithfulness and obedience.  Be thankful that our men have a strong example to follow as they lead their families in the faith, as husbands and fathers. 
And also, watch this video and proceed in having an awesome and “happy” day!

 

God Bless!
Lauren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent–Loving the Summum Bonum

 

 

It is in these dark and still nights, these desert times, that the soul experiences its greatest growth.  There, in the inner arena, the soul battles the world, the flesh and the devil—just as Our Lord battled Satan’s triple temptation in the desert.  Jesus’ battle was external, for He could not sin; our battle is interior, but with a hope sustained by the knowledge of Christ’s Easter victory over sin and death.
I just recently spoke with my sister who told me about an incident that occurred in her life.  She told me about a run in she had with someone regarding fasting, particularly for Lent.  My sister, knowing that it was Ash Wednesday, made a comment about fasting from meat on Wednesday and the person (as if offended by the very notion of fasting) said, “You don’t believe in that too, do you?”  The person proceeded to question the whole practice, going as far as saying she quit doing that when she “grew a brain.” 
Hmm.
Aside from the knee jerk reaction (picturing lunging and tackling) that I personally had upon hearing this story, I realized…what a misconception.
When I hear things like this it is so easy to get upset and offended.  It is so easy to write these people off as stupid and ignorant.  It is so easy to be lead by feeling, because the faith that we have is precious and worth defending. 
So instead of tackling physically, I decided to write a post about Ash Wednesday, fasting, and Lent, in order to “tackle” this with facts.
So, what is Ash Wednesday and why is it so important to our faith? 
Ash Wednesday is the call of the faithful to “repent and believe the gospel.” (Mk 1:15)  For the next 40 days, the faithful willingly submit to fasting and to self-denial in order to imitate the Lord’s forty day fast in the desert.  In this penitential season, we have the opportunity to make an annual spiritual “tune up”—a retreat with our Lord. 
The major themes that permeate the Lenten Season are Baptism and Penance.   During Lent we are to recall our baptism (the Sacrament which brings us into the life of Christ), and practice penance (internally and individually, and also externally and socially).  Through these two things, Lent prepares us and disposes us to celebrate the paschal mystery of our Lord come Easter. 
Significantly, the liturgical season of Lent coincides with Spring.  Spring calls to mind images of new life, growth, hope for a new change.  These things should characterizethis time of prayer and penance, and thus should lead to conversion of the heart once again towards Christ.  For 40 days, the Church invites us to start afresh.  During Lent, we are called to “spring” into action, to do the tasks of the season, and to prepare for the graces that are obtained from Easter. 
Why do we wear ashes on our foreheads?  Because they are a vivid reminder of our mortal nature—we are bodies fashioned from dust—they are a symbol of this passing world and reminder of our death, a symbol of penance and sorrow for sins, and a  reminder of the curse in Genesis.  During Lent we are to ask the Lord to protect us in our constant struggle against evil, and help lead us to holiness through our self-denial.   
Why do we fast?  Because in fasting we are admitting to ourselves that nothing, NOTHING, is as good as God.  He is the Summum Bonum—the Highest Good.  Everything else should be ordered according to this fact, and during Lent, we are proclaiming this beautiful reality. 
This is why it is good to abstain from meat, one of the most favored and hearty foods among all people.  This is why during Lent, we should really discern those things which we struggle with—those things we tend to put above God—and give them up out of our love for the Lord. 
In my RCIA class we discussed some things that might be a good idea to abstain from for the 40 days of Lent.  I thought it might be a good idea to post them, because I always struggle with really pinpointing what it is I want to give up for Lent. 
Here are some ideas:
      ·         Sweets

      ·         Warm shower (take a lukewarm shower)
      ·         Smoking
      ·         Alcohol
      ·         Your pillow
      ·         Make-up
      ·         Soda
      ·         Gossip
      ·         Television
      ·         Unnecessary Shopping
      ·         Seconds
      ·         Facebook
      ·         Fried food
      ·         Music in the car (use time for prayer instead)
      ·         Nail polish
      ·         Cologne/perfume

Also, Lent is not only calls us to fast, but also to commit ourselves to prayer and almsgiving. 

Here are some suggestions for enhancing a prayerful life during lent:
      ·         Pray the rosary daily
      ·         Daily mass, or mass more than 1 day a week
      ·         Daily scripture readings
      ·         Lectio Divina
      ·         Weekly stations of the cross
      ·         Spiritual readings/daily meditations  
      ·         Going to confession weekly during Lent
      ·         Visiting the Lord at weekly or daily adoration in the perpetual adoration chapel

Some suggestions for almsgiving this Lent:
      ·         Help out at your local soup kitchen
      ·         Donate to a local shelter
      ·         Volunteer your time at your church (singing, lecturing, become a Eucharistic minister)
      ·         Start tithing if you don’t already
      ·         Bring canned goods to the church for those in need

Have no shame in wearing the ashes tomorrow.  Lent, though marked by penance, self-denial, and suffering, is truly a happytime.  Lent is the season which calls us to seek and develop a closer relationship with God.  There is always room to grow.  There is always more love to take on. 

Commit to the Lord, and whatever you do, you will succeed. 

God Bless,
Lauren