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Quick Q and A on the Feast of St Joseph

JMJQ. March 19 is always the Solemnity of St Joseph, so why is it being celebrated today, March 20?

A. Because March 19 fell on a Sunday this year, this feast day was superseded by the Third Sunday of Lent. The Solemnity of Saint Joseph was thus moved to the following day this year.

Q. When did this feast originate in the Church?

A. Saint Joseph’s feast can trace its beginnings to the 15th century. It became a feast of the Universal Church (which is another way of referring to the Catholic Church as a whole) in 1621.

Q. Is it true that Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church?

A. Yes. In 1847, Pope Saint Pius IX named Saint Joseph patron over the whole Church. He is also the primary patron saint of Canada and many other countries. Pope John XXIII, in the 20th century, included Saint Joseph’s name in Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon). Greater and greater honor has been shown to Saint Joseph over time, as, over the course of centuries, the Church has come to a deeper understanding of the role and importance of Saint Joseph in God’s plan of salvation, and in God’s family.

This is true in a double sense: the Greek word that explains God’s fatherly plan for salvation history is “oikonomia” – literally, “the law of the household”. Saint Joseph had charge of God’s “family” on earth in quite a literal sense – the Holy Family of Nazareth. Joseph was the foster father of the God-Man, Jesus Christ and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

And Joseph is also the protector, by his prayers in heaven, of God’s other “family” on earth, the Church, which is also referred to in the New Testament as “the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19-20). Saint Joseph’s intercession is powerful indeed – we should learn to take more advantage of his help in our daily lives.

With the exception of Our Lady, there is no greater saint in Heaven than Saint Joseph. In her autobiography, Saint Teresa of Avila wrote: “To other saints, Our Lord seems to have given power to help us in some special necessity, but to this glorious saint (I know by my experience), he has given the power to help us in all things. Our Lord would have us understand that, as he was subject to Joseph on earth – Saint Joseph, bearing the title of his father and being his guardian, could command him – so now Our Lord in heaven grants all his petitions.”

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

guadalupe

Matthew Leonard, Executive Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology:

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the native people of Mexico City suffered conquest first by the Aztecs and then by the Spanish conquistadores. It was the custom of the Aztecs to harvest the conquered people as victims for human sacrifice, offered to the snake god Quetzalcoatl (Qweztzel-coh-AH-tul). Think Mel Gibson’s movie “Apocalypto”, though it was about Mayans. Same basic, brutal principle.

By the Aztecs’ own account, this cost a quarter of a million human lives per year. In the dedication of just one temple, a celebration lasting four days, they slaughtered more than eighty thousand men and women. As you can imagine, these native peoples lived a life of natural and supernatural terror. Yet the fear of their idols kept them trapped in idolatry, and they resisted conversion to the Christian faith. The best efforts of brilliant missionaries proved basically ineffective.

Then, in 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in Mexico City to a peasant man named Juan Diego.

Read the rest here.

In Assisi in 2005, my wife and I met an American priest named Padre Sisco. He gave me his contact information, which I, of course, misplaced. This guy was unbelievable – on the off chance any readers out there know him, I’d love to get in touch. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on homilies preached in Mexico following the appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the miraculous image she left behind.

That would make for some pretty incredible reading – over eight million Mexicans, by some accounts, converted to the faith in just a few years as news of these events spread. As Leonard notes, Mexico had been stubbornly infertile mission territory prior to 1531.

I’ve always found it fascinating that, while the Church on the Continent in the 16th century was being fractured by Luther’s revolt and the events that followed, the most effective evangelistic movement in the history of the world was taking place at the exact same time in the Americas.

A Fiery Sword and Tongues of Fire: Pentecost

Pentecost“‘And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:3-4). They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives lustre to the soul. This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles. And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads. A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift” (St Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 17.15).

Happy Pentecost, everyone!

H/T to Father Z for the quote.

Sunday Scriptures: The Baptism of the Lord

Q. This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, which inaugurated Jesus’ public ministry. Can you speak about the connection between Jesus and “John the Baptizer”?

A. Indeed, many scholars call him exactly that – “John the Baptizer” instead of “John the Baptist”, so as not to confuse him with members of the Baptist denomination! At any rate, it is interesting to note the connection between Jesus and John. They are relatives, of course, and in the Gospel of John, the Baptizer is referred to as the “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29), or “best man”, if you will. Jesus, of course, is the Divine Bridegroom.

John, speaking about Jesus in John 3:30, is quoted as saying, “He must increase, I must decrease” (“He must become greater, I must become less”). This, by the way, is a great spiritual “passphrase” of sorts to use when you are walking up and down a staircase – it’s a supernatural reminder we can use throughout the day. Certainly it speaks to the great humility of John. It’s interesting to note how this factors into the Church’s choice of the respective Nativity feasts for both Jesus and John. Michelle Arnold of Catholic Answers explains:

“One reason December 25 may have been deemed suitable (to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ) is its proximity to the winter solstice. After that date the days start to become longer, and thus it is at the beginning of a season of light entering the world (cf. John 1:5). The summer solstice – after which the days start to get shorter – falls near June 24, on which the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist, who declared of Christ, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).”

Q. The Baptism of the Lord reminds me, of course, of my own baptism, and that of my children. I know that the Church teaches that baptism calls us to two things: holiness and apostolate (sharing our faith). Can you speak to these realities, especially concerning my responsibility as a Catholic parent?

A. Let’s speak briefly about Catholic parenting. What God is looking for from you as a parent is much different than what the rest of the world seeks. Other parents may care most about the letters at the end of their children’s names – M.D., M.B.A., or PhD, for example. But Catholic parents care most of all about the letters they hope come before their children’s’ names: ST. Saint. For the goal of Catholic parenting is that your child become a saint.

Who are the saints? The word saint is from the Greek word “hagios”, which means “the holy ones.” And what does it mean to become holy? Does it mean being “weird” or “strange”, like Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons”? No. Being a holy person just means being the best version of yourself. The person you were created to be. The Bible says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This is why we need to share our faith! If we want our kids (and everyone we know and love) to get to heaven, if we want them to see Jesus, they must become saints. And so must we.

You may also like:

Q and A: The Baptism of the Lord

The Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

What does your own baptism mean to you? Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and let the discussion begin! 

Sunday Scriptures: The Epiphany of the Lord

Epiphany

Q. This Sunday, January 3, we celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord (although in many regions it is still celebrated on its traditional date of January 6). What does the Feast of the Epiphany really about?

A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in paragraph 528:

“The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. In the magi, representatives of the neighboring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation. The magi’s coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations. Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament. The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs,” and acquires Israelitica dignitas (are made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”).

Q. Why is Psalm 72 used as the Responsorial Psalm today?

A. Consider these passages from Psalm 72, which were really written about the “Son of David”, King Solomon, but can certainly be applied to King Jesus, the Son of David:

8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9 May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their souls;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live,
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may men blossom forth from the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure for ever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May men bless themselves by him,
all nations call him blessed!

The similarities are obvious: just as “kings” render Solomon precious gifts, including “gold”, the magi bring Jesus gifts. Just as these Kings discovered Solomon enthroned along with the Queen Mother (the Gebirah), Bathsheba, the Magi discover Jesus enthroned with the Queen Mother of his Kingdom, Mary.

Note: Incidentally, the reason Canada is called “The Dominion of Canada” is because of verse 8: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” May that be the case indeed!

Q and A on the Epiphany

Q. Today we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. Can you explain the meaning of this feast?

A. The word Epiphany means “manifestation (of God)”. In Matthew’s Gospel, there is a great concern to reveal, or “manifest” Jesus as the divine yet human “Son of David”, the true heir to David’s throne (Matthew 1:1). It’s interesting to note that the term “Kingdom of God”, so crucial in Jesus’ teaching, does actually have Old Testament roots. However, the key to understanding the phrase is this: the only time it was ever used there was in reference to David’s Kingdom.

This is intentional on Jesus’ part; in fact, as he assembles his New Covenant Kingdom, Jesus incorporates many of the features of the Old Covenant Kingdom of God, David’s Kingdom. For example, Peter as Pope holds the equivalent of the OT office of “Prime Minister” (see Isaiah 22), one of a cabinet of twelve apostles, representing the twelve tribes of Israel in David’s Kingdom.

Who was the original “Son of David”? Solomon. Solomon, like Jesus, was known as an exorcist, although Jesus’ powers are orders of magnitude greater in this regard. Solomon also was known for his exceptional wisdom, and once again Jesus bests him in this arena, too (think of, for example, Jesus’ brilliant answer to the question about paying taxes to Caesar).

Q. Who was the Queen in Solomon’s Kingdom, and is there a corresponding office in Jesus’ Kingdom?

A. Solomon, of course, had many wives and concubines, which was utterly displeasing to God. However, this was a common practice for kings in antiquity, as marrying foreign wives was a way to consolidate power by means of political alliances. But these wives ultimately turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord, contributing to his downfall.

This gave rise to a very practical question: with so many wives, who would be the queen? It’s not as if there would be a mud-wrestling match of sorts between them all to determine which woman would gain the throne next to that of the king. The answer to the dilemma was very simple: the queen would be the queen mother, known in Solomon’s Kingdom as the Gebirah. In Solomon’s case, the Queen Mother was Bathsheba, and the Old Testament shows how people would approach her in order to receive an appointment with, or gain favours from, the king.

The New Covenant example is obvious: Matthew takes great pains to show how Mary is the Queen Mother of the Kingdom of the new Son of David, Jesus. In Chapter 2:1-12, international figures pay royal tribute to the new king, seated with his mother. Solomon and Bathsheba are “types” prefiguring Jesus and Mary.

Psalm 72 (of Solomon, no less), is about kings from distant lands who pay tribute to the Davidic King:

1 (A Psalm of Solomon.) Give the king thy justice, O God, and thy righteousness to the royal son! 2 May he judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with justice! 3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! 4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor! 5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations! 6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth! 7 In his days may righteousness flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more! 8 May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! 9 May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust! 10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! 11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! 12 For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. 15 Long may he live, may gold of Sheba be given to him! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day! 16 May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may men blossom forth from the cities like the grass of the field! 17 May his name endure for ever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May men bless themselves by him, all nations call him blessed! 18 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. 19 Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may his glory fill the whole earth! Amen and Amen! 20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.

Of special note are these verses: “May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!” (vv. 10-11), and “Long may he live, may gold of Sheba be given to him!” (v. 15a). This episode from Solomon’s reign, is, in a sense, being recapitulated in Jesus’ life. The message is clear: Jesus is the King; he can be found close to his Mother, our Queen, who gains access for us to the royal “Throne Room”, where we pay Jesus the tribute of our lives, make our requests known to him, and receive his favor.

Queen Mother

“And a great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1).

Today’s feast of the Queenship of Mary celebrates the coronation of Mary as Queen of the universe. This is another Marian teaching of the Church that non-Catholics have trouble with, because it’s scriptural roots aren’t as obvious as they often are for other doctrines. A proper understanding of typology, however, makes the Queenship of Mary stand out in sharp relief as one reads the sacred page.

What is typology? As one writer put it, “God writes the world the way humans write with words.” Human writers can use literary devices like foreshadowing to tip the reader off to what’s coming in the future. When God acts in the history of salvation, he works in a similar fashion. He uses not words, but events, places, and people during Old Covenant times to foreshadow even greater realities – events, places, and people – of the New Covenant.

One of those realities is the position of Queen. In the Old Covenant Kingdom of David, the Queen was not the wife of the King, but his mother – the Queen Mother. This position began under King Solomon, the son of David. Solomon had, of course, many wives, so rather than have them slug it out in some sort of mud wrestling match for the title, the crown went to Bathsheba, the king’s mother, who sat at his right hand.

In a similar way, the one the New Testament hails as “the Son of David” rules a Kingdom. Jesus calls it “the Kingdom of God – exactly what David’s kingdom was called in the OT. That kingdom has a Prime Minister, which we saw in this past Sunday’s readings is Peter, who holds the “keys of the kingdom”, like Eliakim did in Isaiah 22.

This Kingdom also has a Queen – a Queen Mother, Mary. This is why foreign dignitaries pay homage to Jesus as to a king, alongside his mother after his birth (Matthew 2:11), just as other rulers would have done in earlier times for Solomon in the presence of his mother.