Wednesdays: Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph: Patron of the Universal Church, Pray for Us!

"On this Rock I will Build My Church." ©, 2013

“On this Rock I will Build My Church.” ©, 2013

“On this Rock I will Build my Church (Matthew 16:18).”

Perhaps at no other time in my nearly half-century of life have I felt the need to commend my beloved Holy Catholic Church to the tender care of the Holy Heart of her esteemed patron. In 1870, Blessed Pope Pius IX (Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti ) declared St. Joseph to be the Patron of the Holy Catholic Church.

A brief review of history demonstrates that the late 1800’s were indeed a turbulent time both in secular and ecclesiastic history. During the pontificate of Blessed Pope Pius IX, the longest reigning Holy Father in history (32 years), the First Vatican Council was convened from 1869-1870 to counter-act the rising tide of materialism, rationalism, and liberalism. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was declared in 1854, and the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was defined as a fruit of the First Vatican Council. Secular global history was marked by revolutions and changing borders. Truly, the intercession of a powerful advocate was necessary.

As tempestuous as history demonstrates that period of history to have been, today we are faced with even greater trials. Faithful Catholics are confronted daily by a myriad challenges – both from the secular world and sadly also from within the community of believers. One has only to glance at the media feeding-frenzy that has taken place since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to witness a vivid example of these assaults to the Faith.

The Gates of Hell Shall not Prevail Against It ©, 2013.

The Gates of Hell Shall not Prevail Against It ©, 2013.

While devout Catholics have approached these finals days of his pontificate with both a sense of gratitude for the magnificent blessing Pope Benedict XVI has been in our lives, and ardent prayer for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to guide the Bride of Christ into future, we have had to struggle for a sense of peace amid the bombardment of media distractions and a noisy din of secular speculations, Vegas bookies, and conspiracy theorists.

A dear friend and Carmelite friar offered a sage piece of advice last week. He noted that as Catholics we are invited by the Holy Spirit to approach this time as a mystery to be lived rather than a problem to be solved. As we seek to embrace the mystery implicit in being members of the Mystical Body of Christ, let us together invoke the intercession of the Holy Heart of St. Joseph.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, Please Pray for Us! ©, 2013.

St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, Please Pray for Us! ©, 2013.

Dear St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, we seek your guidance and invoke your powerful aid on this the eve of a decisive moment in the history of our beloved Catholic Church. With deepest gratitude, please thank our Heavenly Father for the abundance grace He has bestowed upon the Church, and especially upon the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Through the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoke a blessing upon the inviolate Bride of Christ, and pray that the fullness of the Holy Spirit will descend upon those charged with the responsibility to choose wisely he who will subsequently hold the Keys of St. Peter. St. Joseph, powerful patron, please cradle the Holy Catholic Church close to your Holy Heart.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,



May God bless and reward our cherished Papa, Pope Benedict XVI!

You are Peter! ©, 2013.

You are Peter! ©, 2013.

Listening today to Our Holy Father deliver his final audience, I was struck by the simple beauty of his message. Thus, I am reposting the text of the Final General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI here:

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood! Distinguished Authorities! Dear brothers and sisters!

Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.

Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland.

I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).


At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy. When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!

In Our Hearts and Prayers Forever. ©, 2013

In Our Hearts and Prayers Forever. ©, 2013

At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father’s heart. I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.

At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s greatest figures – from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline. In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.


The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.

Let us invoke the Power of the Holy Spirit. ©, 2013.

Let us invoke the Power of the Holy Spirit. ©, 2013.

Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust.


Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Final General Audience, 27 February 2013

Wednesdays: Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph: Guardian of Virgins, Pray for Us!

Guardian of Innocence Himself, Please Pray for Us! ©, 2013

Guardian of Innocence Himself, Please Pray for Us! ©, 2013

“Keep thyself chaste (1 Timothy 5: 22).”

God calls us to profound purity. In both the Old and New Testaments scripture is replete with exhortations to “Be Holy as I am Holy (Leviticus 11: 44),” and “Be Holy as your Father in Heaven is Holy (Matthew 5: 48).” Likewise in both Testaments we find examples of deep contrition as sinful human nature is confronted with an invitation to encounter the living God.

Recall, in response to a vision of God, Isaiah cries out:

“Woe is me, I am doomed. For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6: 3).”

Likewise, as St. Peter is introduced to the power of Christ, he cries out:

“Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man (Luke 5:8).”

Scripture indicates that God is “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and that nothing which is unclean can exist in His presence and enjoy eternal beatitude with Him forever. Thus, to achieve our destiny to love, honor, serve and obey God in this world so that we can perpetually share eternal bliss with Him, we must strive for the profound purity to which He directs our hearts.

Our good and loving God knows well the challenge posed by His call to “be Holy as He is Holy.” He understands and sympathizes with our fallen nature, and sends us an abundance of grace to overcome the temptations of this transient world. In St. Joseph, God offers us an outstanding illustration of personal purity.

God Our Heavenly Father chose the virtuous St. Joseph to be the guardian of the purity of the precious Holy Family. Under the title “Guardian of Virgins,” St. Joseph offers us a shining example of the value of chastity. Through his holy intercession we have a magnificent channel of grace available to aid in overcoming the myriad of obstacles to virtuous living that confront us each day.

Like the Four Arms of the Cross, there are Four Challenges to Purity ©, 2013. EA photo

Like the Four Arms of the Cross, there are Four Challenges to Purity ©, 2013. EA photo

Like the four arms of the cross, there are four particular areas of chastity to which we are called: that of body, mind, heart and spirit. Accepting the challenge of personal purity is a cross we each bear, but is not one that is either unreasonable nor impossible.

(1) “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul (1 Peter 2: 11).” Bodily purity is the most obvious type of chastity to which we are summoned. Perhaps as in no other time in human history are the affronts to personal purity more evident than they are today. Our culture prizes the sensual and scorns the virtuous. Through the media we are bombarded with a constant flow of licentious images. What decades ago would have been condemned as pornographic, today boldly confronts us (and our children) in glossy displays in the checkout aisle at the corner grocery store. This daily barrage of titillating filth can numb us to beauty of modesty. Supernatural help is both necessary and available in this war between the spirit and the flesh. The Blessed Virgin stands ever ready to assist us in overcoming these assaults to morality. God’s mercy is unfathomable, and should we fall He stands ever ready to forgive our failings. Prayer, penance and sacramental confession are effective remedies for the temptations of the flesh.

(2) “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5: 28).” It is often said that the eyes are the window to the soul; yet, like any window the flow of light (or darkness) is bidirectional. Purity of mind is perhaps even more challenging to achieve than purity of body, yet the two are intimately linked. For if one cultivates a garden of impure thoughts, these thorny weeds are rarely content to be contained merely in the mind, and soon one finds them creeping into the realm of the flesh. Scripture offers the following: “I made a covenant with my eyes that I would not so much as think upon a virgin (Job 31:1).” Thus when one consciously decides to spend time in prayer, and reflects with gratitude on the beauty and goodness of God, these fruits too spill over into everyday life. With humility we are each called to tame our eyes and purify our minds.

Reflections of God's Purity Abound ©, 2013 EA Photo

Reflections of God’s Purity Abound ©, 2013 EA Photo

(3) “Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in His holy place? The innocent in hands and clean of heart (Psalms 24: 3-4).” What does it mean to be clean of heart? We associate the heart with love, thus to be clean of heart can be viewed as loving that which pleasing to God. God is love (1 John 4: 8), and when our hearts are directed to that which is pleasing to God, we share in His Divine love. Yet, when we choose to love those objects which are unworthy, we reject His Love. Through the discipline of this season of Lent we are particularly invited to ask our Lord to create in us a clean heart. As we journey toward the Pascal Mystery, our hearts are being shaped to respond in kind to the Love that is offered for each of us on the cross.

(4) “Blessed are the pure in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3).” An object that is pure is undivided, unsullied. Likewise a pure spirit is one that is undivided: it exists solely for God. In contemplating the life of St. Joseph, we find a man whose love was undivided, at each and every trial he actively sought to do the will of God. We too are called to this level of purity.

St. Joseph, Guardian of Virgins, Pray for My Purity ©, 2013

St. Joseph, Guardian of Virgins, Pray for My Purity ©, 2013

As we strive to conquer the temptations of the world, let us seek the assistance of the Holy Heart of St. Joseph. A dear friend transcribed this traditional prayer. Please join me in this short, simple supplication to St. Joseph for the virtue of purity:

O Guardian of Virgins and Holy Father Joseph to whose faithful custody Jesus, Innocence Itself and Mary, Virgins of Virgins were committed, may I, with Joseph’s help, continue to serve Jesus and Mary with pure heart and chaste body all the days of my life. Amen.


Ad Jesum per Mariam,


Wednesdays: Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph: Guide us on Our Lenten Journey

Lead us on the way of Your Cross O Lord ©  2013

Lead us on the way of Your Cross O Lord © 2013

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with the weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever (Collect from Ash Wednesday Mass).

Today we are bid to embark upon a 40-day sojourn with Our Lord Jesus Christ: an intense period of repentance, prayer, penance, fasting and alms-giving. As we accompany our Lord along the Way of the Cross, we are invited to deepen our relationship with Him – we are summoned to allow Him the opportunity to exchange our stony hearts for natural hearts. Neither Our Lord – nor His Holy Church – forces us to repent and change our lives – we are merely invited. The decision is ultimately ours; yet should we choose to accept the summons, and spend these brief winter’s days striving to encounter our Lord, our lives will never be the same.

Repent and Believe in the Gospel ©  2013 (EA photo)

Repent and Believe in the Gospel © 2013
(EA photo)

We begin the journey marked with the Sign of the Cross as ashes are placed upon our foreheads. This visible sign is sealed with the verbal challenge to “repent and believe in the Gospel,” and to “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Before the ashes are distributed, they are solemnly blessed by a priest.

With earnest supplication on our behalf, He prays:

Dear brethren, let us humbly ask God Our Father that He be pleased to bless with an abundance of His grace these ashes, which will be put on our heads in penitence.

O God Who are moved by acts of humility and respond with forgiveness to works of penance, lend Your merciful ear to our prayers and in your kindness pour out the grace of Your blessing on Your servants who are marked with these ashes, that as they follow the Lenten observances they may be worthy to come with minds made pure to celebrate the Pascal Mystery of Your Son. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen. (Daily Roman Missal).

Bless These Holy Ashes Which We Place on Our Heads as a Sign of Penance ©  2013 (EA photo)

“Be pleased to bless with an abundance of His grace these ashes, which will be put on our heads in penitence.” © 2013 (EA photo)

The metaphor of a spiritual retreat, a sojourn through a spiritual desert, is often applied to the Lenten journey. Just as Christ spent forty days in the desert engaged in intense prayer and fasting, we too are asked to follow in His footsteps.

This week I have been prayerfully contemplating my own Lenten journey, I concluded that I need the spiritual support of a guide. I need the intercession of one whose Holy Heart has already been perfected, and one whose protection and guidance I may securely rely upon. My thoughts of course turned to St. Joseph. Scripture tells us that St. Joseph was a “just man” (Matthew 1:19). In his compassion, he sought to do what was right and pleasing to the Lord – even in difficult circumstances (Matthew 1: 20-24, Matthew 2:13-14).

St. Joesph, Be My Protector and Guide! © 2013 (EA photo).

St. Joseph, Be My Protector and Guide! © 2013 (EA photo).

I too endeavor to do what is right and pleasing to the Lord. While St. Joseph was a righteous and good man, Our Lord sought to stretch the capacity of his already holy heart. Scripture tells us: “For whom the Lord loves, He chastises; and He scourges every son whom He receives (Hebrews 12: 6).”

Like so many other beloved servants, it was through trial and suffering that Our Lord chose to perfect St. Joseph as a smith refines the finest silver. I’ve been told that as a silversmith refines an object of silver, he carefully heats it in a flame. The smith must be careful not to overheat the desired object because silver tends to oxidize, and if he is not careful the piece can be ruined if it is left in the flame too long. Thus, the silversmith must be attentive to the process of perfection: his eyes must always remain on the object he is attempting to refine. When the purification is complete, it shines with brilliance, and smith’s own image is beautifully reflected in it.

Thus it is with God. Just as He refined the Holy Heart of St. Joseph through trial and suffering, He offers to perfect each of our human hearts as well. In submitting to the loving hands of the Master Smith, our hearts will bear the beautiful reflection of His Divine visage.

Let Me not Become Distracted, but Seek and Find The Way, The Truth and the Life © 2013

Let Me not Become Distracted, but Seek and Find The Way, The Truth and the Life © 2013

St. Joseph was uniquely qualified for his mission here on earth. He was immediately obedient, accustomed to hard work, chaste, willing to seek the Will of Almighty God in each and every situation. St. Joseph listened more than he spoke, and was ever willing to set aside his own personal plans and in favor of fulfilling the design of God. Scripture tells us that when the Angel of the Lord appears to St. Joseph in a dream and bids him to “Rise, take the Child Jesus and His mother, [and] flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you (Matthew 2: 13),” St. Joseph immediately complies with the command of the angel. Likewise, when the Angel of the Lord reappears in a subsequent dream and announces: “Rise, take the Child Jesus and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the Child’s life are dead (Matthew 2: 20),” again St. Joseph acts immediately and decisively in accordance with the summons of the angelic messenger. Scripture indicates that Joseph again responded to yet another dream and settles with his Holy Family in Nazareth.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years as a result of their disobedience and hard-heartedness (Numbers 32: 11-13).

Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God, has directed your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep His commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to your forefathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. The clothing did not fall from you in tatters, nor did your feet swell these forty years. So you must realize that the Lord, your God, disciplines you even as a man disciplines his son (Deuteronomy 8: 1-5).

These forty years of wandering and discipline stand in stark contrast to the journey of St. Joseph and the Holy Family. While that is not to say their journey was at all easy, it certainly didn’t take forty years. For some objects of silver, the Master Smith must refine them in the flame a bit longer than others…. As I embark upon this Lenten journey through the spiritual desert, I am going to consciously chose St. Joseph and invoke his intercession and aid. Cognizant that he traveled with Our Blessed Lord and Lady, I am sure that he will have the grace to protect me through whatever trials the Lord deems necessary to purify my being as I endeavor to reach the Pascal celebration with a pure and holy heart.

St. Joseph Holf My Hand and Guide My Steps Along this Lentern Journey © 2013 (EA photo)

St. Joseph Hold My Hand and Guide My Steps Along this Lenten Journey © 2013 (EA photo)


Dear St. Joseph,

As I embark upon this Lenten journey, help me to realize that I am not alone. Hold my hand, and guide my steps as you did so long ago for Jesus and Mary. Protect my heart from distractions and dangers as I traverse the sands of time. Teach me to surrender fully to God’s providential care, and to respond immediately to His summons. Help me to repent of the past, and embrace the present in a spirit of prayer and penitence, as we journey toward the Resurrection of your Divine Son. May I learn to embrace Jesus and Mary with love like yours, and may my heart swell to fully reflect the image of the Risen Christ when my journey is complete. St. Joseph, foster-father of Jesus, protector of the Holy Family, be my guide!

Blessed Lenten Journey,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,


Wednesdays: Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph: Week 1: “Go To Joseph!”

To Jesus, Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph © 2013

To Jesus, Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph © 2013

Over a decade ago Fr. Redemptus Short, O.C.D., (a dear Carmelite friend and confessor) offered this sage counsel: “consecrate yourself and your family each and every day to the Holy Heart of St. Joseph.” Fr. Redemptus explained that St. Joseph’s Holy Heart is an abundant source of grace – though unfortunately one which is often over-looked – and he gently urged me to frequently enlist the powerful intercession of this beloved saint.

Fr. Redemptus Short, O.C.D., a wise and saintly Carmleite

Fr. Redemptus Short, O.C.D., my wise and saintly Carmelite friend, ©, 2013.

Whenever Fr. Redemptus spoke, I listened. He was always right. From that day forward I added the consecration to St. Joseph’s Holy Heart (in addition to the consecration to Jesus Sacred and Merciful Heart, and Mary’s Immaculate Heart) to my prayers at rising and retiring, and our family prayers at each meal. It didn’t take much convincing; for I have always had a deep devotion to St. Joseph. Who wouldn’t?

St. Joseph- The Strong, Silent, Righteous, Chaste, Protector of the Holy Family and the Universal Church © 2013

St. Joseph The Strong, Silent, Righteous, Chaste, Protector of the Holy Family and the Universal Church © 2013

I’ve always seen St. Joseph as the strong, silent, righteous, chaste, protector of the Holy Family, and of the Universal Church. Scripture and tradition portray St. Joseph as the Just Man, full of compassion toward Mary, and unwilling to expose her to the penalty of the law (Matthew 1:19). He is seen as a practical man, a laborer who provides for his family by the sweat of his brow. Yet St. Joseph also possesses the heart of a philosopher and a theologian: he is willing to reflect on his dreams and act upon them in accordance with God’s plan for not only himself, but also for those whom he has been given the responsibility to protect (Matthew 1: 20-24, Matthew 2:13-14). St. Joseph is thorough and decisive: he immediately acts upon the command to flee with the Christ-Child and His Mother that is given in a dream by the Angel of the Lord (Matthew 2:13-14). Yes, St. Joseph is a wise and intrepid protector, but the quintessential virtue of his character is the depth of his love, a love contained within his Holy Heart.

St. Joseph’s profound capacity for authentic love is evident throughout each of the scriptural passages where he is mentioned. In the few short lines of Matthew 2:18-20, we can sense his agony as St. Joseph grapples with a decision to divorce his betrothed unobtrusively, rather than expose her publicly to the capital penalty of the law. He is a just and righteous man, whose human heart must have ached with a sense of betrayal upon discovering Mary’s untimely pregnancy. Yet, scripture offers no hint of a desire for revenge, nor sense of rage. Rather, we see that out of love, St. Joseph is willing to act in a way that will preserve his righteousness, while preventing Mary from being stoned to death for this out of wed-lock birth.

The Quintessential Virtue of St. Joesph's Character is His Holy Capacity for Love © 2013

The Quintessential Virtue of St. Joseph’s Character is His Holy Capacity for Love © 2013

Each time the Angel of the Lord speaks to St. Joseph, his reaction is swift and decisive. He does exactly what the angel commands – immediate obedience. Again, Joseph demonstrates a great capacity for love – he loves God, and is willing to put aside his own human goals, plans, desires, dreams and hopes, and in their stead to embrace the will of God. He accepts Mary’s baby as His own, and loves Him with the deepest love a human father can offer. The physical danger of fleeing Herod’s soldiers, the voluntary exile to Egypt, the daily chores and labor requisite to feed and shelter his family were all embraced within a spirit of holy love.

As Joseph absorbs the predictions of Simeon for both Jesus and Mary, his mind must have been flooded with questions. Scripture tells us: “The Child’s parents were amazed at what was said about Him (Luke 2:33).” Yet, Joseph rests neither in awe nor trepidation. Rather, he chooses to trust God, and thus embarks upon the task of raising the Christ-Child, Who in turn “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him (Luke 2:40).” St. Joseph’s strength and protection, rooted in love, were essential components of the family structure within which God had elected to raise His Divine Son, Jesus.

I can only imagine the depth of anxiety Joseph and Mary experienced searching for the young missing Jesus after the Passover celebration (Luke 2: 41-52). Every parent’s worst nightmare is a missing child. It was pure love that propelled Joseph and Mary to search rigorously for three days – days replete with grief, frustration and exhaustion. The explanation: “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house (Luke 2:49)?” must have seemed incomprehensible at the moment. Yet, because of love, the Holy Family was able to move beyond the exasperation of an agonizing search, and return to Nazareth to live in peace.

St. Joseph, Patron of a Holy Death, Please Pray for Us! © 2013

St. Joseph, Patron of a Holy Death, Please Pray for Us! © 2013

It is precisely because of St. Joseph’s capacity for unconditional love that God the Heavenly Father chose him to head the Holy Family. God the Father willed that St. Joseph be placed in authority over His Divine Son. He willed that St. Joseph would teach the Christ-child – in both word and example – what it meant to be a human man.

God the Father instilled an abundant capacity for love in the Holy Heart of St. Joseph. Through his intercession, we too may receive a plenitude of grace – both temporal and supernatural.

St. Teresa of Avila possessed an abiding devotion to St. Joseph, and instructed those in her care to “Go to St. Joseph” with their necessities.

St. Teresa of Avila, The Holy Mother © 2013

St. Teresa of Avila, The Holy Mother © 2013

In Chapter 6 of her Autobiography, St. Teresa states:

“I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and commended myself earnestly to him; and I found that this my father and lord delivered me both from this trouble and also from other and greater troubles concerning my honor and the loss of my soul, and that he gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succor us in some of our necessities but of this glorious saint my experience is that he succors us in them all and that the Lord wishes to teach us that as He was Himself subject to him on earth (for, being His guardian and being called His father, he could command Him) just so in Heaven He still does all that he asks. This has also been the experience of other persons whom I have advised to commend themselves to him; and even to-day there are many who have great devotion to him through having newly experienced this truth.”

St. Joseph is a powerful protector, patron and intercessor. As such, I am initiating a new series on this blog: “Wednesdays: Through the Holy Heart of St. Joseph.” This series will be an attempt to combine prayer, theology, philosophy, reflection, photography, and art to render glory and honor to God, by focusing on the merits of the Holy Heart of St. Joseph.

May St. Joseph carry you and yours in his Holy Heart with the tenderness with which he carried the Christ-Child in his capable arms.

May St. Joseph Carry You and Yours in His Holy Heart as He Carried the Christ-Child in His Capable Arms © 2013

May St. Joseph Carry You and Yours in His Holy Heart as He Carried the Christ-Child in His Capable Arms © 2013


Ad Jesum per Mariam,


Lord, My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

A Light for Revelation

A Light for Revelation. . . ©, 2013.

Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to Your people Israel, Lord (Canticle of Simeon, Nunc dimittis, Luke 2: 29-32).

Yesterday, February 2, we celebrated the rich and ancient feast of Candlemas, which is commemorated in both the Western Roman Rite Church and as well as the Eastern Church. This liturgical festival is known under a variety of titles, and its early existence is verified in the homilies of many ancient bishops including: St. Methodius of Patara (C. 312), St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 360), St. Gregory the Theologian (c. 389), St. Amphilochius of Iconium (c. 394), St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 400), and St. John Chrysostom (c. 407).

Candlemas Celebration, Holy Hill, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2012, ©, 2012-

Candlemas Celebration, Holy Hill, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2012, ©, 2012-

In the Western Roman Catholic Latin Rite this feast is known as: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, and the Presentation of the Lord. For the Eastern Orthodox and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, this feast is celebrated as one of the Twelve Great Feasts. It is the Hypapante which is Greek for “Encounter. As such, it celebrates the encounter of the Christ-Child and Simeon ( the Just Man) and the Prophetess Anna, as recounted in the Gospel (Luke 2: 22-40). For the Byzantine Catholic and Greek Orthodox this feast is also unique because it is celebrated as both a Great Feast of Our Lord, and a Great Feast of Our Lady, the Theotokos, and is known as: “Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple” or as “The Meeting of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.” In the Eastern Rite, this beautiful festival is celebrated with a forefeast of one day, and an after feast of seven days (thus, I can assure myself that even though this post is late, it is still relevant….). Often candles are blessed during the liturgical rites of this celebration and distributed among the faithful.

Candlemas Celebration at Holy Hill, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2013 ©, 2011-2013.

Candlemas Celebration at Holy Hill, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2013 ©, 2013.

In his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, the Holy Father, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, notes that three specific events are celebrated on the fortieth day after Christmas: “the “purification” of Mary, the “redemption of the first-born child Jesus through an offering prescribed by the law, and the “presentation” of Jesus in the Temple (p. 58).”

The Book of Leviticus (12:1-4) stipulates that after giving birth to a male child, the woman was considered to be impure (excluded from taking part in public worship) for seven days, the child himself was to be circumcised on the eighth day, and the woman was to remain at home for an additional span of thirty days, in purification of her blood. After this time, she was to present a purification sacrifice – a burnt offering – of a young lamb, as well as a sin-offering of two turtle doves or young pigeons. The poor were absolved of the need to bring the young lamb. Thus, St. Luke stipulates that Mary and Joseph brought the offering of the poor: two turtle doves or young pigeons. In his book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict notes that the entire Gospel makes it clear that Jesus and His family belonged to the poor of Israel, and it was therefore through the poor that the long awaited Messiah would fulfill the promise of salvation. It is precisely through the poor that God chose to offer His gift of salvation for all humankind.

Candlemas Celebration, Holy Hill Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2012 ©, 2012.

Candlemas Celebration, Holy Hill Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2012 ©, 2012.

The Holy Father goes on to state that:

“Mary does not need to be purified from the birth of Jesus: his birth ushers the purification of the world. But she obeys the law, and in this way she serves the fulfillment of the promises (p. 59).”

Our Lady is a model of poverty and obedience. She did not excuse herself from the precepts of the law rather, in her holiness, she perfectly fulfilled scripture.

Hail Full of Grace ©, 2011-2013.

Hail Full of Grace ©, 2013.

One might also consider that while because of her poverty, Our Lady was absolved of the requirement under the Mosaic Law to bring a young lamb to the temple as a purification sacrifice, in actuality He Whom she (and St. Joseph) brought to the temple IS the Ultimate Purification Sacrifice: the infant Lamb of GOD. It is precisely because of Our Lady’s spiritual poverty, her willingness to empty herself totally, and be filled with the grace of God (Hail Mary Full of Grace… kechatitomene – Kεχαριτωμένη-) that this privilege was bestowed upon her by Almighty God.

In Mosaic Law, the first-born male was to be redeemed, and a price of five shekels was to be paid to a priest. The first-born male child was thus to be given unreservedly to God: “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord (Exodus 13: 2).” In his text, the Holy Father points out that this prescribed action did not necessarily have to take place in the Temple. Yet, in Jesus’ case the Temple setting is absolutely essential to God’s plan. Recall, the Temple was considered to be the “footstool” of God’s presence for the people of Israel. In an authentic way the Temple was an indication of the validity of God’s presence among His people. In this encounter, The Redeemer of the World is redeemed according to the law, and by virtue of this act, Jesus is publicly handed over to God His Father. As Jesus is presented in the Temple, in a real way the Son of God is presented to God the Father. Thus, both acts are completed in this encounter in the Temple, the prescribed redemption under the law, and the Presentation of the Son to God the Father.

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, ©, 2011-2013.

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, ©, 2013.

These significant events unfold fulfilling both scripture and the letter of the law against a backdrop of prophesy. First, Simeon the “Just Man” is described in scripture as “righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel (Luke 2: 25).” It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. On this particular day, Simeon came to the temple “in the Spirit of the Lord (Luke 2:27).” Upon seeing the Child Jesus, Simeon took the Child Jesus in His arms and blessed God, proclaiming:

“Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to Your people Israel Lord (Canticle of Simeon, Nunc dimittis, Luke 2: 29-32).”

Mary and Joseph are amazed at this public proclamation regarding their infant son. As Simeon blesses them, he continues to prophesy, saying specifically to Mary:

“Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed (Luke 2: 33-35).”

Simeon’s prophesy indicates the truth that the cross is intimately intertwined with the Messianic mission. Yes, the Christ-Child is the Salvation of Israel – and of all people – but to embrace the glory of Salvation, the Cross is essential.

Candlemas celebration, February 2, 2013, Holy Hill, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians ©, 2011-2013.

Candlemas celebration, February 2, 2013, Holy Hill, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians ©, 2013.

Like Simeon, Anna the Prophetess, is equally pious, leading a sacrificial life of prayer and penance (Luke 2: 36-38). Like Simeon, she steps forward at the moment Jesus is presented in the Temple, to thank God, and to speak “about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2: 38).”

This beautiful feast is replete with grace and meaning. Scripture is fulfilled and we are invited to bear witness to the true Light which has come into the world. Just as Simeon and Anna encounter Christ, we too are invited to “see” Who He truly is – with the grace of the Holy Spirit – to encounter Him. Like Simeon, we are also invited to “take the child into our arms” and bless God. Embracing Christ and His Cross, we too are invited to praise God for the gift of the Incarnate Word – Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Blessed Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple; Joyous Candlemas!