Ecclesiam res et talia sermocinamur -

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Solemnity of St. Joseph

"Blessed be St. Joseph, Her most chaste spouse."

That's St. Joseph's one line in the Divine Praises, and it is rather reminiscent of his presence in the Church as a whole -- always present, but almost always in relation to the other members of the Holy Family and never doing much. (The exception, perhaps would be the devotion of people selling their homes). Not to say that St. Joseph isn't important -- rather, his importance is enormous, and in many ways out of line with the attention he receives. He's the Protector of the Blessed Virgin, Patron of the Universal Church, as well as the patron of a veritable laundry list of people and places spanning all of life and the entire globe. His feast is a solemnity.

Yet, all that we know of the man can be recounted in two lines. The Gospels fail to recount any words spoken by him. It seems that this most spectacular of men is checkmated merely by the company he kept -- even the most virtuous of men fades when placed alongside the Virgin Mary, just as She herself fades from the Gospels in the brightness of Her Son. And unlike his Immaculate spouse and Divine adopted Son, Joseph has not seen fit to add to our body of knowledge of him through personal revelation. And perhaps it is fitting that Joseph is this way, and that we do not know more of him for certain than we do. For his role is not one of self-importance, or of advertising his station, just as no man's role is such. His position in earthly life was to watch over and guard God's great gifts to this world, and he discharged this duty faithfully and, we can infer from the silence that surrounds it, humbly. That job is now complete, and by his silence St. Joseph leaves us with the inferred and tradition-delivered example of quiet and unquestioning dedication, while those he looked over in life now look down upon the world. And so, while we hear so little from St. Joseph, I do not think that this in any way diminishes that which we can learn from him. In his silence, in his quiet devotion, in his sometimes almost-forgotten guarding of the carpenters and fathers of the world, he gives to us an example to follow, if only we ourselves can be still and quiet enough to hear the words it speaks.

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