The just man shall blossom like the lily (Divine Office, Feast of St. Joseph).
Heaven and earth united in heartfelt joy yesterday, as the Solemnity of St. Joseph was celebrated as never before. On this solemn feast day, set aside to reverence the merits of St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis was inaugurated as the 266th man chosen to fill the sandals of St. Peter, and Shepherd the Holy Catholic Church.
The Solemnity of St. Joseph has always been among my favorite feast days. I love St. Joseph, and especially since the death of my own father, have felt deep closeness to this formidable saint. I recognize his presence in my life, and the lives of my family, and feel a deep sense of gratitude for the gifts God bestows upon us, through his powerful intercession. As a family with deep ties to Carmelite Spirituality, St. Joseph is a revered patron. Several years ago, one of my sons specifically chose to make his First Holy Communion on the Feast of St. Joseph at Holy Hill Basilica, as a reflection of his devotion to this powerful saint. Celebration of St. Joseph’s feast is also therefore a celebration of that important anniversary in our family history. Thus, here in the middle of winter, and the long penitential weeks of Lent we revel in the joy of this great solemnity. St. Teresa of Avila, the Carmelite Holy Mother, directed that St. Joseph’s Feast be celebrated with the “highest Solemnity” in all of her monasteries, so great was her personal devotion to this beloved intercessor.
Who are we to argue with the Holy Mother? As this special feast was accentuated by the inauguration of our new Papa, Pope Francis, yesterday we celebrated in grand fashion. The older kids, three Labrador Retrievers and I camped on the family room floor in front of the T.V. to watch the Inauguration Mass; it began at 3 a.m. our time. Outside, the wind howled and the thermometer read a balmy 11 degrees Fahrenheit (with wind chill we were definitely subzero). Our dogs eagerly shared their floor space with the kids and I as we huddled around the television to witness history and to pray for our new supreme pontiff. The Holy Mass was beautiful! We were particularly moved by the scene of our Holy Father praying outside of the tomb of St. Peter, and the long procession of cardinals prior to Mass – an unbroken succession stretching from the tomb of he who had been told by Our Lord: “You are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it! (Matthew 16:18)”- through Pope Francis and extending toward the horizon of the future.
Later, we headed to Holy Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill to celebrate with the Carmelite Community. Our prayers rose with incense in the sanctuary at Holy Hill, just as the prayers of 1,000,000 Catholics rose in St. Peter’s square as Pope Francis celebrate Mass there. Truly from sunrise to sunset a perfect offering is made around the world, and Heaven and Earth united in glory, praise and thanksgiving to the one True, Triune God. The mystery of salvation is unfathomable and wondrous to contemplate!
After Holy Mass we headed home and celebrated with a few little treats throughout the day, as we embarked upon our daily tasks – homeschool, chores, and prayer. At meals we chatted eagerly about our new Pope – enumerating his virtues: humility, wisdom, simplicity, poverty of spirit, compassion, zeal. . . . The children and I have been impressed by the manner in which Pope Francis conveys the relevance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The EWTN footage of the Holy Father winding through St. Peters Square yet stopping to greet a disabled gentleman and kiss babies moved us all as profoundly beautiful and relevant. Like St. Joseph, Pope Francis possesses the unique ability to demonstrate the Gospel through actions even in moments of verbal silence. As our family discussed our aspirations for Pope Francis and shared hopes for the renewal of our Church, it became evident that among the Christian community there is a hunger for the authentic Gospel, and even in his first few days as pontiff this Holy Father is truly feeding and leading his sheep as commanded by Christ.
For a taste of the spiritual direction that Pope Francis has already offered his flock, I invite you to read the full text of yesterday’s inaugural homily: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-TxSJa5tpCmE/UUiX0aZByRI/AAAAAAAAPLo/ouDCTY_j1l8/s1600/pf1in3.jpg (provided through Whispers in Loggia) and the full text of his Lenten message as Cardinal Bergoglio http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XBNBP3VukYE/UUmB35e6ZXI/AAAAAAAAPME/6HL5faPfS-8/s1600/f1sbi.jpg .
Yes, just as St. Teresa of Avila specified, our Feast of St. Joseph was commemorated with the “highest Solemnity”: we witnessed the Inauguration of the Holy Father, assisted at Holy Mass, attended to our daily duties, and celebrated with sweet treats on a cold, blustery March 19th. As twilight turned to night, a herd of nine deer munched seed from the bird feeders on our back porch, we gazed through the window at their serenity as we enjoyed a slice of blackberry cheesecake and chocolate éclairs in honor of the sweetness of the feast day. A single flame glowed in the St. Joseph candle on the kitchen table, as together in gratitude and supplication we prayed:
Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Please, St. Joseph, do assist me with your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, all possible spiritual blessings. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and the child Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – Pray for me.
May the Holy Heart of St. Joseph be a source of blessing and inspiration for each of you and your loved ones. Happy Feast Day!
Ad Jesum per Mariam,