Sunday, March 16, 2008

Buona Festa di San Giuseppe

This year the Solemnity of Saint Joseph was moved from Wednesday, March 19th to Saturday, March 15th, since it fell on Holy Week. While that may not have bothered some people, those of Italian (especially Sicilians) heritage still had our St. Joseph tables (La Tovala di San Giuseppe) loaded with Sfinge and Zeppole (cream puffs filled with either custard or sweetened ricotta). When this feast is not pre-empted by Holy Week, it is a Solemnity which means that Canon Law dispenses all Catholics from fast and abstinence if this feast falls on a Friday in Lent. This is because Saint Joseph is the Patron of the Universal Church.

Sadly, San Giuseppe has fallen on hard times. First of all, although the 1983 Code lists March 19th as a Holyday of Obligation (Can. 1246), the national conferences of bishops of every country got Rome to dispense them or commute the precept. Hence, only in Vatican City is it a day of obligation. Second, most Americans are more familiar with March 17th, the Feast of Saint Patrick, due to the wave of Irish immigrants in the late 19th century. Yet, the spouse of Our Lady has been neglected time and time again. His statues are missing in many churches; his litany is rarely recited anymore. Pope John Paul the Great (of hapy memory) wrote an eloquent encyclical Redemptoris Custos in 1989, but it is not as well read as is Redemptor Hominis or Redemptoris Mater.

It is the patronal feast of Pope B16 since his baptismal name is Joseph (Ratzinger). Pope John XXIII added him to the Roman Missal in the Eucharistic Prayer I (Roman Canon) in November 1962. Pope Benedict XV had previously inserted Saint Joseph into the Divine Praises at Benediction in February, 1921.

Saint Joseph is conspicuously quiet in the Bible. Some contemporary theologians try to persuade people to believe that he was previously married and had some children before being widowed and then marrying the Virgin Mary. This is a bizarre attempt to protect the perpetual virginity of Mary while maintaining the Jesus had several stepbrothers and stepsisters when the Gospel refers to the 'brothers and sisters' of Jesus. While a better explanation than the Protestant theory that Joseph and Mary had other children AFTER the birth of Christ, it is not based on sound evidence. The 'brethren' of Jesus listed in Mk. 6: 3, 3: 21, 31, Mt. 13: 56, Jn. 7: 5, Gal. 1: 19 are ADELPHOI in Greek, which is the plual of ADELPHOS. It can be translated as brother but also as cousin, relative, kinsman, as we see in Sacred Scripture when Abraham and his NEPHEW Lot (the son of Abraham's brother, Haran) in Genesis 11 & 14. Renown Scripture scholar, Saint Jerome, taught that the alleged siblings of Jesus were actually cousins, sons of Joseph’s brother or Mary’s sister. Hence, Jesus had many RELATIVES (cousins, kinsmen, etc.) but He had NO biological or half-brothers nor half-sisters.

We need a renewal and renaissance of devotions to Saint Joseph (like his litany but also the Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph) so that more husbands and fathers will look up to this unque person as a true rold model of how REAL MEN love and protect their families. Priests, too, can benefit from imitating the chastity and humility of Good Saint Joseph and staying close to Our Lady and Our Divine Lord.

1 comment:

GOR said...

Just found your site, Father (courtesy of Fr. Z's site), so I'm a bit late with this.

I agree that devotion to St. Joseph has lapsed in recent decades. He is the original "Quiet Man" (pace John Wayne...) and a wonderful example for men, both fathers of families and spiritual fathers.

Devotion to him used to be very strong in Italy when I was there 40 years ago. Also, in Ireland it was customary to say the Prayer to St. Joseph after the Rosary: To thee O Blessed Joseph we have recourse in our tribulation and, while imploring the aid of thy Most Holy Spouse, we confidently invoke thy patronage also..."

Are you familiar with it? When we said the family Rosary years ago in Ireland my Dad always led that prayer. We all knew it by heart and I still say it after the Rosary.

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