Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 19, 2010
Joseph bent to the will of God's will
The saint illustrated the crucial importance of hearing God's voice
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
As of early July, a fountain dedicated to St. Joseph sits in the Vatican Gardens. After thanking the governor's office of Vatican City State for the gift of the fountain, Pope Benedict briefly spoke of what a fountain dedicated to Joseph might symbolize.
Benedict referenced a key moment in Joseph's life and noted that the events leading to this moment must have placed incredible strain on Joseph's faith. As the Gospel of Matthew describes, Mary is found pregnant and Joseph is disturbed because he knows the child developing is not his own.
Interestingly, while not a word emerges from Joseph in Matthew's Gospel, something of his character does. That Joseph is an able protector is commonly recognized, but the protection that Joseph offers is a result of his sensitivity to the extraordinary. Four times in Matthew's Gospel, central actions of Joseph are made in light of direction he was offered through dreams.
In the first instance, and the one most relevant to the strain placed on his faith, Joseph planned to quietly divorce Mary. However an angel appeared to him and told him that Mary has conceived a child by the Holy Spirit, and that the child will save people from their sins.
With this information, Joseph altered his course of action and took Mary into his home. Mary gave birth and Joseph named the son Jesus.
The seminary I attend in Edmonton appropriately makes use of Joseph's name (as do many other persons, places and things). As much as a person might wish to become a priest, a seminarian should not simply assume that in five or eight years he will emerge as one.
Rather, the point of seminary formation, or a period of such discernment, is to open oneself to the question of what path God is leading one along. Openness to God's special direction is crucial and, in this sense, Joseph is a very important figure for seminarians.
Joseph had planned to quietly divorce Mary, but because of his openness to God's special direction, he altered his course.
Perhaps an individual, for as long as he can remember, thought of nothing else but being a priest. Through the process of seminary formation and discernment, and being open to God's special direction, such a person might find he is not called to the priesthood. While it might be disappointing, he should alter his course.
Joseph's importance extends beyond seminarians. When Joseph found that the woman he was engaged to marry was pregnant, his decision to divorce her was made in good conscience, but made with only partial information. How often do we make determinations or judgements, often-dramatic ones, with only partial information?
While Joseph reminds of the importance of being open to new information, and to adjusting previous notions, his example is also a reminder to demonstrate caution in the way we approach ideas and others. Perhaps even Jesus' own cautioning about judgment finds its source in the wisdom of Joseph.
JOSEPH THE PROTECTOR
Joseph is the patron saint of tradespersons, workers, travellers, the persecuted, Christian homes, families, those engaged to be married, the homeless, the poor, the old, the sick and the dying, as well as a number of countries including Canada. Many of these associations have to do with Joseph's status as a protector. Even the Church has seen wisdom in naming Joseph, the man who so ably protected his wife and her child, as the patron of the universal Church.
However, Joseph's protection is coupled with the example he offers through his demonstrated courage in altering particular courses of action because of his sensitivity to God's special direction. Seminarians, others and even the Church should follow Joseph in this regard.
What does a fountain dedicated to St. Joseph symbolize? Protection, yes, but also an openness to God's special direction and the courage and humility to respond.
(Kelly Wilson is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg who is studying at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton.)
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