Last summer during a trip to Minnesota, Fr. Mark McCormick stopped at the church where he was baptized, St. Joseph Parish in Montevideo. He is amazed how often St. Joseph shows up in his life. (Courtesy photo)
I am not sure why I am surprised, although I am, by the fact that St. Joseph keeps showing up in my life. The first time St. Joseph really entered my radar screen, in an intentional way, was several years ago through my participation in three-year certificate in Spiritual Direction program through the Institute of Priestly Formation. The IPF taught me to start seeing my priestly heart as a spousal heart, like that of St. Joseph.
St. John Paul II, in his Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday in 1992, wrote, “The priest is called to be the living image of Jesus Christ, the spouse of the Church. Of course, he will always remain a member of the community as a believer alongside his other brothers and sisters who have been called by the Spirit, but in virtue of his configuration to Christ, the head and shepherd, the priest stands in this spousal relationship with regard to the community …”
“In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ’s spousal love toward the Church, his bride. Therefore, the priest’s life ought to radiate this spousal character, which demands that he be a witness to Christ’s spousal love and thus be capable of loving people with a heart which is new, generous and pure.”
Last March, several diocesan priests along with our seminarians, did a consecration to St. Joseph using the book, “The Wonders of our Spiritual Father” by Father Don Calloway, a priest of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception. It was a grace-filled time to be able to pray with my brother priests and seminarians in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, turning to the intercession of St. Joseph.
St. Joseph Most Courageous, St. Joseph Pillar of Families, St. Joseph Comfort of the Afflicted, St. Joseph Hope of the Sick, St. Joseph Patron of the Dying, St. Joseph Terror of Demons and St. Joseph Protector of the Holy Church are just a few of St. Joseph’s titles that we called upon in preparing to consecrate our hearts to St. Joseph.
This past summer I was visiting a priest friend of mine and several high school classmates in central Minnesota. On my way home, I passed through Montevideo, Minnesota, where I was born and baptized. I stopped and prayed at the church in which I was baptized. For some reason, I did not remember the church’s name, but to my great surprise it is the Church of St. Joseph.
On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, Pope Francis announced the “Year of St. Joseph — Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart). This marks the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal Church.
In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis explained that the aim of this special year is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtue and his zeal.
In that letter Pope Francis describes St. Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, and an accepting father — a father who is
creatively courageous, a working father and a father in the shadows.
In my work as Vocation Director, I see my own spiritual fatherhood continue to deepen and grow as I walk and pray with these young men who are discerning a call to seminary formation and to the priesthood. This past year, I have called more on the intercession of St. Joseph to help me in this essential work in our church, to continue to invite and create a culture of vocations in our families, our parishes and our diocese.
One of the images of St. Joseph that Father Calloway uses in his book on consecration to St. Joseph is to see Joseph as the “Nurturer of the Son of God.” This is a powerful image for all of us and one that calls each of us to action.
This past October, Mark Schlichte, a parishioner of Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, is one who took to heart the call to be “Nurturer of the Son of God.” Mark posted this comment on Facebook when he encountered Bishop Peter standing in the center of our Cathedral, flanked by three seminarians on each side of him.
“I have witnessed courage in battle. Can you imagine the courage of these men, especially in these times, as they discern their vocation? Can you imagine the courage it takes KNOWING that they will have to engage Satan’s attacks that will come? That is unbelievable courage,” Mark wrote. “Pray for them, bless them, make them know you have their backs and pray for more courageous men and women to serve the church. And pray for priests and religious.”
In this year of St. Joseph, I encourage you as a Nurturer of the Son of God yourselves, to pray daily this prayer to St. Joseph, asking for his intercession upon our diocese so that many more of our men and women will not be afraid to act when God calls them.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.
(From Patris Corde)