joseph dying in the arms of jesus and mary

Day 9 – Patron of a Happy Death

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

Saint Joseph is famously the patron of a happy death. What is a happy death, you might ask, and how do we know Joseph had such a death?

Tradition holds that Joseph had died before Jesus began his public ministry. The Bible says nothing about the death of Joseph. The last time we actually see Joseph is when he and Mary find Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51). As Jesus is dying on the cross, he entrusts his mother to Saint John. This gesture makes perfect sense if Jesus is an only child and Joseph has died. Women in the first century needed a male to protect and provide for them; the death of Jesus would have left Mary destitute. As a loving son, Jesus is making sure his mother will be provided for after he has died. This gesture only makes sense if Joseph has died.

Pius artists have therefore depicted Joseph dying at home in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Can you think of a better way to pass into eternity than with the two greatest saints as your bedside companions? Christians have dreamed of just such a peaceful passage and invoked Joseph’s intercession for it.

The modern world tries hard to ignore death. We use every medical option possible to preserve life. When life is no longer an option, we advocate for assisted suicide so that I can control even my death. Then we turn the funeral into a “celebration of life” and scatter the ashes so I don’t have to visit dad at the cemetery.

Christians, on the other hand, not only accept death, but prepare for it. We are encouraged to walk in cemeteries, pray for the dead, bury our loved ones in consecrated ground, and look forward to the coming of Jesus. When I have a funeral for an elderly person who was pius and faithful all their lives, I will tell the congregation: “Jack spent his whole life preparing for this moment.” Can the same be said about you? Good St. Joseph, give us the grace of a happy death.

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Day 8 – Patron of Fundraising

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Did you know that St. Joseph was a patron of fundraising? I didn’t either. In December of 2016, I met with Bishop Ricken to review plans for a new church. The plans gave us a very nice building at a very reasonable cost. But I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to raise the money. The parish community had tried to build once before and had not raised enough money. I asked Bishop for advice. “Go to Joseph,” he said. He then told me a story from his time as Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming. He had prayed for vocations and God had answered by sending him more seminarians than the Diocese could pay for. By chance he was making a retreat at the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal. He entrusted his need to the hands of St. Joseph. On the way home, he felt inspired to ask his people for help. He put out a fundraising appeal and the people gave generously; so generously in fact that he had enough for not just one, but two years of seminary tuition.

The Oratory itself, a legacy of Brother Andre, was also a miracle of fundraising. I would most certainly have made a pilgrimage to Canada if that’s what was required of me. As it turns out, the National Shrine of St. Joseph, is conveniently located in De Pere, Wisconsin. I stopped and prayed at the shrine, lit a few candles, and added my fundraising needs to the prayer book. From that point on, things went very smoothly. Parishioners stepped up and pitched in to hold wonderful fundraising events. People gave what they could and we were able to hit the upper limit of our fundraising goal and move forward with construction.

During these uncertain times, business are closed and many are temporarily out of work. Go to Joseph! Quite literally visit the shrine if you are able (and it hasn’t been closed). Bishop has designated it a pilgrimage destination for the Year of St. Joseph and given a partial indulgence for a visit to the shrine. Entrust your business and your home finances to the intercession of St. Joseph. Do not be afraid for your financial well-being. “Go to Joseph” and he will help you.

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Day 7 – St. Joseph, Patron of Families

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Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. This feast is celebrated 9 months before Christmas, and for good reason. It was the moment when the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary and invited her to become the Mother of God. Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.” At that moment the Word became flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and humanity was joined to Divinity.

If we were to imagine God entering His world in the flesh, we would probably picture a very different scene: perhaps the heavens torn open and an army of angels descending with God riding in a golden chariot, or the God striding forth from a lighting-ringed Temple, or a mystic portal, a primordial Stargate opening to connect Heaven and Earth. But God chose to enter the world through a woman’s womb, and to be caught by her husband Joseph. It was through female fertility and simple family that God entered the world. This gives us a tiny glimpse of how much God values the family. The family was made in the image of the Trinity — three in one. And it was through the family that God would enter human history.

Our modern world does not value the family. We have been busy promoting just about every alternative lifestyle but the family. And meanwhile, families are struggling. Children are born out of wedlock and raised without fathers. Divorce divides families and children bounce back between one broken home and another. Even intact families have almost no family life. Family meals are no longer a daily, or even weekly, feature of childhood. Family time is stolen by sports and screens. Kids grow up as individuals who happen to share a common roof. I see this moment of safer-at-home as a golden opportunity to value the family again. Suddenly, families are shocked by an abundance of family time. Treasure this time. Have meals together each day. Teach the kids to cook (and make them help clean up). Invest in each other. Make fun memories together. Fathers, lead your families in bedtime prayers each night. Learn to love the family as God loves your family. Pray for families today.

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Day 6 – Patron of Unmarried Women

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

Until I read Bishop’s material on the Year of St. Joseph, I didn’t realize that Joseph was a patron of unmarried women. It makes perfect sense. Joseph and Mary were betrothed but hadn’t started living together. He discovered that his wife was pregnant without his involvement. What was he to do? The Bible says, “Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19) Adultery was not only a sin, but it was also a crime, punishable by stoning. Whether the town would have actually stoned her, or just shunned her, is a matter of debate. Either way he held her life in his hands. Joseph decides to divorce her but without denouncing her as an adulteress. The whole town would have assumed that Joseph was the father of the child and that he was a deadbeat dad unwilling to raise his own child. In other words, he would bear the shame himself. It’s an incredibly brave and selfless act, done to protect a woman that Joseph thinks has utterly betrayed his trust.

I just listened to a BBC report on countries in Africa experiencing epidemics of teenage pregnancy. The article treats pregnancy as a women’s problem that can be solved by access to contraceptives. No where did it bring up the involvement of men and their responsibility towards women and children. The “#MeToo Movement” would never have existed if the “Me First” culture of contraceptives and Playboy and porn hadn’t existed first. Joseph shows a man willing to stand up for women, to take responsibility even when it’s not his problem. Every woman should be loved, cherished, and respected, regardless of the circumstances of her life. A woman should feel safe around men, knowing that they will protect her dignity; she should not be afraid of being used and discarded. A strong man protects and cares for women and children both. Saint Joseph, pray for us.

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Day 5 – St. Joseph, Model of Manhood

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“What kind of man would you like to be?” I was at a conference once and the presenter asked us all that question. My mind began to focus on someone tough, powerful, and impossible to hurt — basically, Superman. Then we were asked, “What kind of man do you admire?” My thoughts shifted to a man who has been on the walking pilgrimage with me. He is tough and dependable, but he is also thoughtful, kind, patient, and understanding. He doesn’t compare himself to others, and he never makes others feel inadequate. He is there for you.

I hope all of us know a man like that. True manhood is not about being powerful or invincible. True manhood is using the power you have to serve and protect others. A good man is defined by his self-sacrifice. This is why a the perfection of manhood is found in fatherhood. A father is a man who uses his strength and gifts in the service of those who are weaker than himself. A man will only truly be a man when he learns to lay down his life for others. Pray for all men today that they might follow the example of St. Joseph.

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priest in rose vestments preaching in a chapel

Spring Training: How to See the World Through God’s Eyes | #1019

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Ordinary Time, 4th Sunday (A) The Sunday before Ash Wednesday, I warned people to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Little did I know that within four weeks the whole world would be turned upside-down. Dr. Li Wenliang was like the blind man who could see more clearly than the authorities, when he warned fellow doctors about an alarming new virus emerging in China.

Jesus performs an act of creation, making as it were ‘new eyes’ for the blind man. All of us need to see the world as God sees it. Follow these four simple steps: Acknowledge what you are experiencing, Relate it to Jesus, Receive his loving care for you, and Respond back to him. Keep doing this every day you will start seeing things with God’s eyes.

(22 Mar 2020)

Going Deeper: Read my article on Relational Prayer and practice it today.

Day 4 – St. Joseph a Model for Priests

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

Fatherhood can be terrifying. You literally hold a fragile little life in your hands — and you realize you have no idea what you’re doing! Something like that was my experience as a newly ordained priest. Suddenly you’re responsible for the spiritual health and well-being of a couple thousand people. Some of them are older than your parents, many are little kids, and lots are broken and needy. But you’re broken and needy too.

By my third year of priesthood, I felt more and more that I was the one needing help. And I turned to St. Joseph. He had to raise the Son of God, while being married to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Oh, and the local king decided to kill the child. St. Joseph became my inspiration for how a man should live priesthood. Priests are called to chastity in all their relationships. They should be strong protectors and good guides for children. Above all they should listen well to the voice of God. I wrote a Priest’s Prayer to St. Joseph that summed up my thoughts. I’ve been praying it every day since then. Please continue praying to St. Joseph each day. Please dedicate today to all the priests who are having a hard time not being able to celebrate Mass with a congregation.

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Count your #covidblessings

Day 3 – Count your #covidblessings

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

Did you ever make plans, only to have God throw you a curveball?

Saint Joseph knows how you feel. I can count at least four ways his life was interrupted by curveballs from God, starting with his wife inexplicably becoming pregnant. Saint Joseph always embraced the burdens and never complained about them. In doing so, the burdens became blessings, both for him and indeed for the whole world.

We’ve all experienced unprecedented disruptions to our normal routine. From inconveniences to unemployment to changed wedding plans, we’ve been seeing lots of complaining on social media. However, if we’re honest we have to admit that there are a surprising amount of blessings along the way. But as of this posting, Twitter has only a handful of posts tagged #covidblessings. Let’s change that. I practice social distancing on both Twitter and Instagram, so my posts will never go viral. You’re welcome. But yours could. Go ahead and share about your unexpected #covidblessings. Let’s start a movement of gratitude.

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three people wood working

Day 2 – St. Joseph the Worker

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

Yesterday we started a Novena to St. Joseph for our families and our world. St. Joseph was known for his trade as a carpenter (Mathew 13:55). The word in Greek is “tekton” and means a workman or builder, but specifically a builder in wood (as opposed to a stone mason or a blacksmith). He taught his foster son Jesus the same trade (Mark 6:3). Don’t think of the quaint pictures of tidy workshops. Rather, think of a man driving a beat-up work truck full of tools — that’s probably our best modern equivalent.

“Work” for many Americans is less about building things and more about logging on and clicking things. Even priests are finding themselves “working from home,” live-streaming Masses and homilies to crowds hundreds or thousands of miles away. Interestingly, tekton is also related to our words technique and technology. St. Joseph is a patron not just of working men, but of all those who earn a living with their hands and their skills. How does the work you are currently doing “build up” the Christian community and better your neighbors? If you are suddenly out of work, say a prayer to St. Joseph. Look for some manual labor you can do, perhaps raking the neighbor’s leaves or doing a little work around your own home. Let me know in the comments the work you are engaged in. And if you find yourself struggling with technology, maybe instead of dropping some curse words, you can say a prayer.

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prayer to st joseph with picture of joseph and jesus

Pray to St. Joseph for Our Families and Our World

Fr. Joel Church meets World 1 Comment

With schools closed and parents working from home, everyone is suddenly getting a lot more family time. How about praying together as a family? I have been devoted to St. Joseph since the early days of my priesthood. I felt the weight of trying to care for God’s people. I also felt the challenge of learning to love in a chaste way the women with whom and for whom I offered ministry. I was inspired by St. Joseph’s chaste love of Mary, his wife, and his loving care for the Son of God. Joseph is a reminder to all Christian men of what true manhood looks like.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of St Joseph. The Diocese of Green Bay is also beginning a year dedicated to St. Joseph. Please join me in praying the Diocesan Prayer to St Joseph for health and blessings on all families and for a swift deliverance from pestilence, fear, and pandemonium in these trying times.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Good St. Joseph,
as you led the Holy Family, watch over our families.
Help our family and all families to know and share God’s love.
In our family relationships, may we find healing and seek to be holy.

May our fathers help us to become faithful disciples of Jesus
who share our love for Him.
As a foster father of Jesus,
watch over all who serve as spiritual fathers.
In a special way, bless our Holy Father, our Bishop, and our priests.
May they follow your humble example in their fatherly care
for the people of God, the Church.

With Mary, you raised Jesus the High Priest.
You know our need for priests.
Please raise up good and holy priests from our families
to serve the people of our diocese.
May our children and grandchildren hear and say “yes” to the call of Jesus, just as you and Mary did.

Good St. Joseph, pray for us.