This past week, in the cycle of readings for ferial Masses, we read the story of the Patriarch Joseph. It is a story rich in meaning and in typology. In the Patriarch Joseph we see a type of Our Lord who like him was betrayed, but whose betrayal worked for the good. By God’s appointment, Joseph son of Isaac became the administrator of the Egyptian granaries. In him we also see a type of Joseph, son of David, chaste spouse of the Virgin Mary, and the virginal father of Jesus here on earth. To this Joseph was entrusted the ‘granary’ of the Redemption, for the Child born of Mary has become for us the very Bread of Life.
More than thirty years ago, Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful Apostolic Exhortation on the role of St. Joseph in the Mystery of Christ and the Church; in it the pope observed that St. Joseph is an exceptional teacher in the service of Christ’s saving mission which is the responsibility of each and every member of the Church. (Redemptoris Custos, August 15, 1989, Apostolic Exhortation, On the Person and Mission of St. Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church). Our Lady and St. Joseph teach us how to receive the Mystery of Christ in the intimacy of our own life and also how to serve this Mystery at work in and through us with humility, prompt obedience and charity. Countless saints have been inspired to work for God’s greater glory and the salvation of souls by following the example of St. Joseph. St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal stands as a monument to depth of devotion to St. Joseph in our country. The number of hospitals throughout the country that bear his name also bear witness to charity inspired by the Guardian of the Redeemer. As we see witness hostility and violence directed against the Church in Canada and calls for a repudiation of Christ’s saving mission as historically exercised in our nation, we do well to go to Joseph; that we may obtain protection for the Church in our country and peace among our citizenry.
Churches in our country have been set ablaze and vandalized, and the response of the civil authorities is at best distant. What should not be tolerated towards any group religious or otherwise is ignored and what is more, encouraged. ‘Burn it all down!’ This is what we have read and heard. It amounts to criminal incitement to hate. Yet, in a culture of outrage defined also by historical illiteracy, the destruction of symbols and structures associated with the past is deemed a worthy and virtuous pursuit. We have become a culture that increasingly replaces evidence with narrative.
Many have weighed in on this unfortunate turn of events and voices of reason have rightly called for a sober and measured consideration of what has often been reported untruthfully and sensationally. Whatever the motivations and timing of this cause celebre may be, we do well to remember that ours is not simply a struggle with political and cultural forces inimical to the Christian faith. St Paul reminds us: For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). A narrative is being spun that demonizes those who brought the Christian faith to our country and the very foundations of our nation that are unmistakably Christian are being denounced as inherently racist and unjust. A cultural revolution is being fomented. This is nothing new in itself since it is always part of the Marxist game plan to distort the past for their own purposes. Nevertheless, the power of this narrative is such, that the evidence of history is often ignored and suppressed. For example, most of the social agencies and services that we take for granted in our country have their origin in the inspiration and work of Christians, specifically in the exercise of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. As David Warren has wisely observed, there is always a gap between aspiration and achievement consequent upon human imperfection. We are all too often reluctant to acknowledge this in our own undertakings and all too eager to pass judgment on those who have gone before us.
As Catholics who value and recognise the importance of Tradition, we are aware that our task in the present is to receive what has been handed on to us and to make it better, more splendid, more convincing, more reflective of the goodness of God who has embraced the human condition by a bond that can never be broken. The history of Christian missionaries is the story of men and women who placed their lives at the service of the Gospel. Some, like our Canadian Martyrs, gave their lives so that others might be delivered from the cruelty of paganism. This is the pattern in almost every nation on earth, whether the first preaching of the Gospel took place long ago or recently.
Our beautiful country is privileged to have as its patron St. Joseph, the virginal father of Jesus on earth. We do well at this particular juncture in our nation’s life to seek his powerful intercession and protection. In the communion of saints that is the Church, we seek the intercession of the saints so that the grace of God may supply where our human efforts are wanting. This Year of St. Joseph has done much to introduce greater devotion to our national patron. Among the prayers and devotions to the foster father of Our Lord is a devotion known as The Holy Cloak of St. Joseph. It is a devotion comprised of a series of prayers and invocations that are recited for thirty consecutive days, in memory of the thirty years that St. Joseph spent in the company of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Lady. It is called the Holy Cloak because it seeks the protection of the Guardian of the Redeemer as a shield against all ills, both material and spiritual. The prayers of this devotion are humble and confident, full of trust in the workings of Divine Providence and the protection and aid of St. Joseph, Protector of Holy Church. Therefore, we go to Joseph in our needs; and from his silence we learn to trust in the loving Providence of God with a spirit of faith and trust.
The gift of the true Faith in Christ Jesus is our greatest blessing for there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). The Canadian Martyrs gave their lives so that the native peoples of our nation might come to know the saving wisdom of Christ. The Saints and Blessed Servants of God who followed the example of the martyrs in witnessing to the joy and charity of the Gospel, including St. André of Montreal, the inspiration for the building of St. Joseph’s Oratory heroically served Canadians of every ethnic origin so that we might become a just and peaceful land. This they did, often in difficult circumstances, in the face of prejudice and economic hardship. We are heirs of their sacrifices; and perhaps what is most needed from us in our time is a rediscovery of the spirit of sacrifice and of confidence in the Providence of God. Our faithful and prayerful response in this time of trial may serve as an opportunity for us to renew and deepen our Catholic faith which has been of so much benefit to the social and moral fabric of our nation. We pray earnestly for reconciliation and peace in our nation. Peace, as Saint Augustine reminds us however, is the tranquility of order and so we pray for an end to violence and hatred and above all, that the splendour of truth may guide all of us. May the example and prayers of St. Joseph, Terror of demons, Patron of the Universal Church and of Canada obtain for us the wisdom of faith, perseverance in our good deeds and the grace of final perseverance (Supplications in Honour of St. Joseph’s Hidden Life with Jesus and Mary, The Holy Cloak of St. Joseph).
Copies of the Holy Cloak of St. Joseph are available from St. Joseph’s Workshop (http://www.st-josephsworkshop.com/) Cost: $5 (includes postage and handling).