Thursday, May 01, 2008

St. Joseph the Worker

Here are some thoughts from Father Isaac Hecker on St. Joseph and the holiness of lay people, which I thought would be appropriate for reflection today, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

The ideal of Catholicity is the union of religion with intelligence and liberty in all their completeness. Man renders to God that perfect worship when he offers the homage of his entire intelligence and liberty.

In view of these considerations, the life of St. Joseph is both interesting and instructive. St. Joseph, it is true, was no martyr in spilling his blood for the faith, but he exercised a martyr's fidelity to the convictions of his conscience and the purity of his faith. Unaware of the miraculous conception, while yet unmistakable signs told that Mary was with child, he never faltered in his truth in her spotless innocence and chastity. Called by the voice of God to leave his friends, home and country, he obeys instantly, and without a murmur! What faith! What obedience! What disinterestedness!

To find God and be one with God, a solitary life in the desert was not necessary for St. Joseph. He was in the world, and found God where he was. He sanctified his work by carrying God with him into the workshop. St. Joseph was not flower of the desert, or plant of the cloister, he found the means of perfection in the world, and consecrated it to God by making its cares and duties subservient to divine purposes. The home of St. Joseph was his cloister, and in the bosom of his family he practiced the sublimest virtues. While occupied with the common, daily duties of life, his mind was fixed on the contemplation of divine truths, thus breathing into all his actions a heavenly influence. He attained in society and in human relationships a degree of perfection to to be surpassed, if equaled, by the martyr's death, the contemplative of the solitude, the cloistered monk, or the missionary hero.

Our age is not an age of martyrdom, nor an age of hermits nor a monastic age. Although it has its martyrs, its recluses, and its monastic communities, these are not, and are not likely to be, its prevailing types of Christian perfection. Our age lives in its busy marts, the counting-rooms, in work-shops, in homes and in the varied relations that form human society, and it is into these that sanctity is to be introduced. St. Joseph stands forth as an excellent and unsurpassed model of this type of perfection.

These duties and these opportunities must be made instrumental in sanctifying the soul. For it is the difficulties and hindrances that Christians find in their age which given the form to their character and habits, and when mastered, become the means of divine grace and their titles of glory. Indicate these, and you portray the type of sanctity in which the life of the Church will find its actual and living expression.

This, then, is the field of conquest for the heroic Christian of our day. Out of the cares, toils, duties, afflictions, and responsibilities of daily life are to be built the pillars of sanctity of the Stylites of our age. This is the coming form of the triumph of Christian virtue.
("The Saint of Our Day," Sermon VI, Sermons preached at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, New York, during the year 1863.)

[Along with others such as Cardinal Newman, Fr. Hecker is also considered to be a forerunner of some of the views that found their expression in the Second Vatican Council. From what little I know of him, I see a lot here that is akin to the views of St. Josemaría Escriva. Of course, when I mentioned this in the Novitiate, it didn't exactly go down well ... :)]

1 comment:

Fr. Andrew said...

Beautiful by Father Hecker: He was in the world, and found God where he was...the home of St. Joseph was his cloister...occupied with the common, daily duties of life, his mind was fixed on the contemplation of divine truths, thus breathing into all his actions a heavenly influence.

Now if only I can foster that monastic and hermit heart in my diocesan priesthood!

[What didn't they like about murdering albino monks?]