Friday, 25 May 2012

St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi

St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, O.Carm.
Painted by Abraham Diepeubeech 1596-1675

Mary Magdalene bore the surname of the noble family of Pazzi in Florence. Already by the 15th century, the Pazzi family exercised great political power. She was born on 2nd April 1566, given a good education and, from her childhood, she had a deep sense of the presence of God, a great love for the Eucharist and a longing to live a penitential life. Contrary to the usual practice but, with the consent of her confessor, she was allowed to make her first communion at the age of ten years. When she was seventeen years, she was accepted by the Carmelite nuns of Saint Mary of the Angels in Florence, her native city. During her novitiate, she had a serious illness which lasted for two months and brought her close to death. As a result, she was allowed to anticipate her profession. However, she recovered and for three years she was assistant mistress of novices, then sacristan, and, for a further six years, mistress of novices. Also, for a period, she had charge of the junior professed and in 1604 she was elected subprioress. Her continuous physical sufferings and severe spiritual trials were a great burden but she was enriched by God with extraordinary graces. She died on 25th May 1607. She was beatified in 1626 and canonised on 22nd April 1669.

In addition to her deep spiritual life, she observed conscientiously her religious vows and led a hidden life of prayer and self denial. She was filled with a burning desire for the renewal of the Church: keenly aware of the urgent need for reform, yearning to see it spread, and offering herself so that the "anointed ones" (i.e. priests) would once again be a witness to the world and that the lapsed would return to the Church. "The central theme in her spirituality (although not thought out in a fully systematic fashion) is love; we are created by God with love and by love, and such is the means by which we must turn to him; love is the measure of how far the soul has returned to God. The principal function of love is to unite the soul to God. The spiritual life is like a circle, inspired by love, which in God has both its point of departure and its moment of arrival." Saint Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi had also a great devotion to Our Lady and she was a significant inspiration in the development of Carmelite Marian devotion to the "Most Pure Virgin", claiming that the beauty of Mary lay in her purity, which was what had made her one with the Word in her divine maternity.
Her mystical experiences were written in five "original manuscripts", that is the notes which were written by her nuns recording all that she did or said during her ecstasies and her "overflowings of divine love". These notes were later revised by the saint herself. They are entitled: Forty Days, Conversations, Revelations and Understandings, Trials and Renewal of the Church, together with her Sayings and Letters

"Come, Holy Spirit. Let the precious pearl of the Father and the Word's delight come. Spirit of truth, you are the reward of the saints, the comforters of souls, light in the darkness, riches to the poor, treasure to lovers, food for the hungry, comfort to those who are wandering; to sum up, you are the one in whom all treasurers are contained. Come! As you descended upon Mary, that the Word might become flesh, work in us through grace as you worked in her through nature and grace. Come! Food of every chaste thought, fountain of all mercy, sum of all purity. Come! Consume in us whatever prevents us from being consumed in you."

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Cabbie and the Rabbi

Someone sent me a link to this great story

I flew into Syracuse, N.Y., on a windy evening in October of 2000. After we landed, I hailed a cab. This not being New York City, where I am from, there was no cab line, no wait and no time to look at the car I was jumping into.

As soon as I was in the cab however, I noticed that pretty much every surface of the car's interior was covered with a JESUS LOVES YOU sticker, that there was a crucifix mounted on the dashboard and there were even little green pocket bibles hanging on strings at the point where the windshield meets the frame of the car. This wasn't just a cab, it was a rolling cathedral!


Part of me thought I should just jump out of the car, but we were already pulling away from the curb and I didn't want to cause any trouble or cost the driver his fare.


As he pulled out of the airport, the cabdriver, a middle-aged man with a scraggly beard, long greasy blond hair and wearing a red checkered shirt, cut off at the sleeves, was checking me out in the rearview mirror. He was actually using his rearview mirror to see if what he thought he saw on the back of my head (a kippah/yarmulke/skullcap) was really there.


Having decided that it was really back there, which it was, he finally asked in the raspy voice of a heavy smoker, "So, what do you do?"


I hesitated. Every fiber of my being said, Lie. In fact, I actually recall thinking of the other careers I had explored, and telling him about one of those. You see, I travel 100 nights a year for the work I do teaching, speaking and consulting, and although I love and miss my wife and kids, most of the time I relish the adventure of connecting with all the different types of people I meet on the road. At that moment, however, I did not want to connect with the cabbie.


All I wanted to do was sit quietly, get to my hotel, brush my teeth, put on a tie, and go give my lecture.


"I'm a rabbi," I said. I couldn't lie. Not because I'm so pious, but somehow, at that moment, it did not feel like the right thing to do.


"A rabbi!" he replied. "There are so many things I want to ask a rabbi."


"I bet there are," I responded, looking once more at my surroundings.


"So", he said, "Can I ask?"


"We are going 65 miles an hour down the highway, where am I going?" I said. "Ask away!"


He studied me. "You believe in the Bible, right?"


"Yes," I said, figuring this was not the time to bring up Old Testament, New Testament ... those distinctions didn't seem relevant.


"What do you think of Jesus?" he asked.


"Oh, an easy question" I deadpanned. "If you are asking me if I believe that Jesus is God's only son and the only way we can find salvation, no, that's not what I believe about Jesus. If you're asking if I believe that Jesus is one of humanity's great teachers from whom we all can learn, then yes, I believe in that Jesus."


A long silence followed my response to his question, followed only by a very loud "huh" from the front seat of the cab. I didn't know whether he was impressed or offended. Perhaps he felt I was mocking Christianity.


"But if you think Jesus is so great, shouldn't he be your path to salvation? Why if you believe the first thing, don't you believe the second, and why if you don't believe the second thing, do you believe the first?"


"I can believe that Jesus is a great teacher without believing that he is God's son and the only path to salvation. One truth doesn't negate the other. I can love Jesus in my way. And you can love Jesus in yours. There is room for both of our understandings of Jesus. I don't believe that you have to be wrong for me to be right."


"Whoooah" he said. "A rabbi who loves Jesus!" He was watching me so intently in his rearview mirror that he drifted off the road. Chunks of gravel flew up from under the wheels as we veered onto the shoulder and then back onto the highway. Was the price of my honesty going to be death by car wreck? I actually thought about all those times I had commented on God having a wicked sense of humor, and that this might be one of those times.


Eventually both the cabbie's breathing and his driving returned to normal. We were back on the road and staying in one lane, mostly. With that, my own breathing returned to normal, apparently enough for my driver to notice and continue our conversation.


"Rabbi" he exclaimed, "That whole you-don't-have-to-be-wrong-for-me-to-be-right thing, I've never heard anything like that before! Now there are so many more things I gotta ask you."


I didn't explain that I had never said it quite that way before -- I didn't see how that would help. I was struck however by the fact that in many ways, much of my life and work had been leading up to that formulation for most of my life. It was, it turns out, a momentous occasion for both us.


Even as I clutched the armrest and prepared myself for whatever was coming next, I empathized with the cabbie. I suspected that he lived a life in which his way was the only way, and it was incomprehensible and not just a little bit maddening that everyone didn't share his particular point of view.


I had been there. In the early 1980s, when I was a teenager, I had been a religious fanatic. I had left my family's upscale North Shore Suburban Chicago neighborhood to join a group of settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron. I felt absolutely sure of myself, absolutely sure of the meaning and purpose of my life, absolutely sure that my way was the only way to live.


I led tours for Jews through Hebron, with a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other, pointing out every building with a niche for a mezuzah, the handwritten scroll that marks the door of a Jewish home. I showed them that regardless of contemporary maps, this land was ours. The Bible was our deed, because, according to the Book of Genesis, Hebron was the place where Abraham, the first Jew, had bought land for the tomb of Sarah, his wife. It is the place where Genesis says Abraham, Sarah and their children are buried.


Then something happened that shook me to the core. A group of Jewish settlers was attacked. In running down one of the assailants, three of the settlers fired into a school and killed two Palestinian students.


I was stunned by their deaths. When I sought the advice of one of the settlement movements leaders, he said, "Yes, this is a problem, but it is not a 'fundamental problem.'" That was when I knew something horrible had happened. Staying in Hebron was destroying the very things that had brought us there: the desire to take back power and walk the land our ancestors had. These are good things. But even the best things have limits. A lesson that I learned in Hebron was that the best things can become the most seductive and deadly -- great dreams become absolutist dogmas and people suffer on all sides.


The deaths of those students cracked me open. I realized that perhaps I didn't have all the answers, and the beliefs that had been driving my life were deeply flawed, or at least the entire program of their implementation was. I found myself suddenly outside the fold of the settlers' movement, and I felt desolate and not just a little bit lonely.


I tried to stay in Israel after the incident, but it wasn't working for me. The feelings of disillusionment and alienation persisted. So I came home. America, even with all of its materialism (much of which I happen to like) and consumerism, its culture of Coca-Cola and McDonald's, felt more spiritually healthy to me than the Holy Land. Because with all of its problems, this is basically a pluralist, inclusive culture; or at least more of its members aspire to that ideal than do the members of any other society I've experienced. I enrolled in the University of Chicago to study religion while remaining a traditionally observant Jew; I wanted a wider perspective on the forces and beliefs that had run my life. I wanted to explore the forest and not just hug one particular tree.


The University of Chicago provided that for me. I was influenced by Jonathan Z. Smith, who gave all religions a hard time but respected them as well. He moved with ease from Cargo Cults to ancient Israel to medieval Islam to the letters of Paul. I was also influenced by Jon Levenson, a warm engaging man with a wicked, and sometimes cutting, sense of humor. I decided to continue on with my studies, and I enrolled in the doctoral program at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. I wanted to go into academia. I had no interest in becoming a rabbi.


I felt that rabbis just persuaded other people to imitate the rabbi; that they scored points by getting you to join their institution, and measured success based on how many people they signed up. While that was different from what was going on in Hebron, it seemed so to me only in degree, not in consciousness. I now know that many rabbis aren't like that, but I still feel that too often success for religious leaders of any faith is about getting their students to look, act and think more as they do. I aspire to use what I know to help people look more like the person they want to be; to find, to use an overused term, "their best self." I try to offer my teachings as a way to do that, not as an instrument of affiliation.


When I gave the cabbie my take on Jesus that night in Syracuse, I was speaking to him through the prism of my Hebron experience and how it had changed me. I was trying to help him see that my way was not the only way, and that although each of us was deeply committed to a particular tradition, we could remain open to the wisdom found in other traditions. I wanted him to appreciate that I could love and learn from his tradition, and that we did not need to agree in order to share that love.


I assumed the cabbie's strong reaction had to do with the fact that, as he said, he had found a rabbi who loved Jesus. But it was more than that.


"Rabbi" the cabbie said "Can I ask you another question -- it's about my wife."


Although I didn't say it, what I thought was, can I just have another Jesus question, please. But what I said in response was simply, "Sure."


The cabbie said that for years and years he had been a drug addict and an alcoholic. He had been in and out of detox programs. He had suffered relapses and broken countless promises to himself and others. He had been unable to hold a job and was often in trouble with the law. He had lived his life that way for as long as he could remember. And then he had been introduced to his church and his pastor, had found Christ, and had become clean and sober. Jesus had saved him.


I've talked to many addicts over the years, and I know what a difference Jesus can make in their lives. In Jesus they find a source of unconditional love-an affirmation of human dignity and infinite worth, no matter what transgressions they have committed -- an image of someone who suffered more than they have, no matter how much they have suffered. And in Jesus they find someone who literally came back from the dead, who was reborn.


Jesus had showed the cabbie how he could start over, and evangelical Christianity had been his salvation. But, he told me, he had a problem: his wife of 20 years wanted nothing to do with his religion, church or pastor. "She doesn't go to church with me, and she doesn't want to go to church with me," he said. "She doesn't believe what I believe. But she never gave up on me, through all the dark times. She stuck with me. And now..." His voice broke and he couldn't get out the words. "Plus," he finally added, "My pastor says that if she doesn't get the Message, then maybe I should get a new wife."


I could feel how torn he was. His most important teacher had told him that he had a choice to make. He felt pulled in different directions by the two things that mattered most in his life: his wife and his faith. Nobody had told him that his wife could be completely with him on his journey even if they were never going to be in complete agreement. My teacher in Hebron, for whom any difference was an excuse for disconnection, expressed the same mind-set. Either the cause was perfect and for everybody, or it was flawed and therefore for nobody.


"Look" I said to him, "I can't tell you what to do, but I can tell you this -- you are a very lucky man. You are doubly blessed; first you were saved by your wife and then you were saved by your faith. I can't imagine why you would give up on either one of them. You can make room for both of them and for each other."


"Whoaaaaaa!" He shouted, and again we were swerving sharply to the right and heading off the road. I couldn't believe it -- I thought I was handling things so well, and for the second time in one day, I was about to die in the back of this guy's cab! Bu it turned out that while he was very excited about my response to his question, and was moving very fast, we were turning into the driveway of my hotel.


"Can I still pray for her?" he asked.


"For her to see the light? To believe what you believe? I guess so," I replied. "You probably wouldn't be you if you didn't pray for her. But if your praying starts to make you appreciate her less or any less able to sustain your relationship, then you are praying too much. Your wife doesn't have to be wrong for you to be right, and when it comes to Jesus, you don't have to wrong for me to be right either."


Having arrived at the hotel, I thought that we were done. I was wrong. As he screeched to a halt, he jumped out of the car and was coming around to open my door. He was moving with such speed and determination, that I thought this time I really had offended him. He threw open my door and was literally reaching in for me!


As I got out of the cab, I realized he wasn't upset at all, but he was shaking. He literally fell into my arms and put his head on my shoulder. It was only moments before I felt my collar wet with his tears.


So there we were, two middle aged men standing in the parking lot of a Syracuse hotel, hugging each other. We must have made quite a picture. After what seemed like a very long time but was probably only a couple of minutes, the cabbie pulled himself together, stood facing me as he sniffled a bit and wiped his eyes. He straightened himself, brushed his hair of his face, tucking it behind his ears, and stared at me hard in the eyes.


"Rabbi," he said "You'd make a good pastor!"


I felt honored -- it was his highest form of praise. I gave him one last hug and we were each on our way.

I have no idea what became of the driver, but I carry the lessons of our ride with me each and every day, and now you can too.


 This column is an excerpt from 'My Neighbor's Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation.'  The Huufington Post

Brad Hirschfield.

Rabbi, Author and Expert on Religion and Public Life

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Praying into Pentecost

O Lord Jesus Christ,
give us a measure of your Spirit
that we may be enabled to obey your teaching:

to pacify anger,
to take part in pity,
to moderate desire,
to increase love,
to put away sorrow, to cast away vain glory
not to be vindictive,
not to fear death;
ever entrusting our spirit to the immortal God
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
world without end.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Praying for the Olympics

Loving God,
as this torch travels our nation,
preparing us to celebrate the skill and determination of
those competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games,
strengthen us to love you and serve our neighbour
with all the skill and determination you give us,
through Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

As this light travels our nation,
Send your Holy Spirit
to light up our lives
and set our hearts on fire with love for you;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
may your light, O God, shine in the hearts of all
who gather to celebrate the energy, skill and dedication of others.
Church of England Liturgical Commission.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

New Carmelite Vocation Website

As we begin the celebration fo the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, a feast when Jesus entrusts to His disciples the building of the Kingdom of God. The British Province of Carmelites are pleased to launch an online resource exploring the Carmelite friar vocation.

The website can be seen by following the link

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Feast of St. Simon Stock, Carmelite

Scapular Apparition Statue, Aylesford Priory.

Simon, an Englishman, was elected as one of the early Priors General of the Order and served during the difficult days of transition between the Carmelites being hermits to their becoming mendicant friars.
Simon died whilst on visitation of our friary at Bordeaux, France, in the mid-thirteenth century. His mortal remains are venerated in the cathedral of that city to this day.
He has been venerated in the Carmelite Order for his personal holiness and his devotion to Our Lady. A liturgical celebration in his honour was observed locally in the fifteenth century, and later extended to the whole Order. He is credited as the author of the Carmelite antiphon to Mary, Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel).

Shortly after the return of the Carmelites to Aylesford Priory in 1949, a major relic of St. Simon was retuned to England by the Archbishop of Bordeaux, and enshrined in a reliquary designed by Adam Kossowski (pictured below).

Let us pray
Father, you called St. Simon Stock to serve you
in the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Through his prayers
help us like him to live in your presence
and to work for the salvation of the human family.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Song of the Week - Caccini's Ave Maria

In the month of May we think of the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus in the life of the Church. Many scores have been written in honour of Mary I particularly like this version of the Ave Maria by Giulio Caccini.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Amazing ...

The 'supermoon' of Saturday night has been the subject of many images. This is my favourite - the bright moon as the background for the most magnificent image of Christ the King in Rio

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Song for the Week - Vivaldi's Gloria

Majestic! Love it!

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
John15: 1-8.

In her book, Survivor, Christina Crawford writes: "Lost is a place, too." 

That's more than a clever sound-byte. It's a deep truth that's often lost in a world within which success, achievement, and good appearance define meaning and value.
What can that phrase teach us? That sometimes it's good to be without success, without health, without achievements to bolster us, without good appearance, and even without meaning. Being down-and- out, alone, lost, struggling for meaning, and looking bad, is also a valid place to be.

One of the greatest spiritual writers of all time, John of the Cross, would agree with that. If he was your spiritual director and you explained to him that you were going through a dark, painful patch in life and asked him: "What's wrong with me?" He would likely answer:

"There's nothing wrong with you; indeed, there's a lot right with you. You're where you should be right now: in the desert, letting the merciless sun do its work; in a dark night, undergoing an alchemy of soul; in exile, lamenting on a foreign shore so that you can better understand your homeland; in the garden, sweating the blood that needs to be sweated to live out your commitments; being pruned, undergoing spiritual chemotherapy, to shrink the tumours of emotional and spiritual dead-wood that have built up from wrong-turns taken; in the upper room, unsure of yourself, waiting for pentecost before you can set out again with any confidence; undergoing positive disintegration, having your life ripped apart so that you can rearrange it in a more life-giving way; sitting in the ashes, like Cinderella, because only a certain kind of humiliation will ready your soul for celebration; and undergoing purgatory, right here on earth, so your heart, soul, and body can, through this painful purging, learn to embrace what you love without unhealthily wanting it for yourself."

He'd also tell you that this can be a good place to be, a biblical and mystical place. That doesn't make it less painful or humiliating, it just gives you the consolation of knowing that you're in a valid place, a necessary one, and that everyone before you, Jesus included, spent some time there and everyone, including all those people who seem to be forever on top of the world, will spend some time there too. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all.

Knowing this, of course, doesn't make it easier to accept feeling lost and on the outside, especially in a world in which being successful is everything. That's why it's hard to ever admit, even to our closest friends, that we're struggling, tasting more ashes than glory. Small wonder that our Christmas letters to our friends each year invariably are a list of all that's gone well in our lives and never an admittance of struggle or humiliation.

The need to name being lost as a valid place is important for us, both communally and personally.

In many ways, at least in the Western world, that's exactly where the church is today, namely, in the desert, in a dark night, lost, being pruned, undergoing a purifying alchemy. We're experiencing public humiliation in the sexual abuse scandal, in our greying and emptying churches, and in the strong anti-clericalism inside our culture. We're aging, unsure of ourselves, lacking in vocations, and becoming ever more marginalized.

But that's a place too, a good place to be. From the edges, humbled and insecure, we can again become church.

The same holds true in our personal lives. We have our good seasons, but we have seasons too where we lose relationships, lose health, lose friends, lose spouses, lose children, lose jobs, lose prestige, lose our grip, lose our dreams, lose our meaning, and end up humbled, alone, and lonely on a Friday night. But that's a place too, a valid and an important one. Inside that place, our souls are being shaped in ways we cannot understand but in ways that will stretch and widen them for a deeper love and happiness in the future.

Good wines are aged in cracked old barrels. That's what makes them rich and mellow. They can, of course, go sour during the process. That's the risk. The soul works in the same way and, thus, we might ask whether failure and loneliness, as they shape our souls, need to be re-imagined aesthetically: Are maturity and transformation, growth in beauty, not about more than success, health, having it all, and looking like a million dollars?

Beauty is ultimately more about the size of our hearts, about how much they can empathize, and how about widely and unselfishly they can embrace. To that end, the desert-heat of loneliness is helpful in softening the heart, enough at least to let it be painfully stretched. That happens more easily when we're lost, feeling like unanimity-minus-one, unsure of ourselves, empty of consolation, aching in frustration, and running a psychic temperature. Not pleasant, but that's a place too.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI

Thursday, 3 May 2012

I do not promise you ...

Spain has Europe's highest unemployment rate, with nearly 1 in 4 people out of work. The country has dipped back into recession, and layoffs are on the rise. But there's one organization there that's still hiring: the Catholic Church.

A group of bishops has launched a savvy campaign on YouTube to recruit new priests from the swelling ranks of Spain's unemployed. The 2 1/2 minute video starts with words emerging from a smoky background. "How many promises have they made to you, which haven't been fulfilled?" a voice asks. Then a young priest pops up. "I don't promise you a big salary," he says. "I promise you a permanent job."

Priests speak into the camera one after another, mixed with footage of them marrying people, praying over a hospital bed and to a man behind bars. "I do not promise luxuries," another priest says. "I promise your wealth will be eternal."

The video, released last month, is part of the Catholic Church's attempt to boost its otherwise dwindling numbers when so many are out of work. And it appears it's had some initial success: Enrollment in seminaries here rose 4 percent last year, compared with falling 25 percent over the past decade. Bishop Josep Ángel Saiz Meneses commissioned an ad agency to help create this video, and says he's thrilled with the result.

"For two days, this was the most-watched video in Spain, with hundreds of thousands of downloads," he says. "It went viral, and we've had journalists calling us from five continents. Venezuela has even asked for the copyright." But church attendance is still falling in Spain. And it's tough to find young Spaniards willing to take a vow of celibacy for life, no matter what the economy is like. "I personally don't believe in God. So I wouldn't do that," says 18-year-old Guillermo Cique, laughing. He and his friends are skateboarding off curbs in front of Madrid's soaring cathedral on a recent day.

An iPod blasts Spanish hip-hop, and his friend improvises a rap about corruption and banks. The jobless rate in Spain is more than 50 percent for those under 25. Still, Cique says there's no chance he'd consider the seminary. "Why would you want to be a priest? In jail, you get free food also," he says. Even Meneses, the bishop, acknowledges it's a hard sell for today's youth. "I don't think any youngster is really going to enter the seminary just for job security. That idea came from the marketing people," Meneses says. They put it in as a bit of a provocation — to grab your attention, to shock you and get you to watch the video." And it worked for that.

But the bishop says Europe's debt crisis could help his recruitment drive in another way. He's targeting people bewildered by bailouts and unemployment — people searching for what's really important. It's something even economists note about people in a recession. Gayle Allard is a professor at Madrid's IE Business School. "They pass from a materialist to a post-materialist phase, where they start thinking more about quality of life and meaning of life," Allard says. "The good thing about crisis is that maybe it awakens this other side of us, and helps us to step off the treadmill a bit, and think about why we're here — besides just paying a mortgage," she says. As for whether the church will benefit from that, Meneses shrugs: "We'll have to see next year's numbers."

Source: Clerical Whispers

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

St Joseph the Worker

St Joseph, Aylesford Priory.

Apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955. But the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers has a much longer history.
In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.


“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). The Father created all and asked humanity to continue the work of creation. We find our dignity in our work, in raising a family, in participating in the life of the Father’s creation. Joseph the Worker was able to help participate in the deepest mystery of creation. Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work. Thus, if you wish to be close to Christ, we again today repeat, ‘Go to Joseph’” (see Genesis 41:44).


In Brothers of Men, René Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: “Now this holiness (of Jesus) became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of word, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God....this mystery involves the conviction that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of someone who is poor and obliged to work for his living.”