Letter of Inauguration of the Year of St. Joseph To the Oblates of St. Joseph
The XVIIth General Chapter, held in Rome from the 3rd to the 3oth of August, 2018, had as its theme: “He called them that they may remain with Him and to be sent forth to preach.” In a climate of prayer and mutual sharing, the Chapter composed several Resolutions to promote spiritual growth and pastoral zeal. In reference to Resolution 5a which deals with some anniversaries in regard to St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer, I would like to announce the celebration of a Year of St. Joseph in our Congregation. It will officially begin next March 19, 2019, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and solemnly conclude the following year, March 19, 2020.
The circumstances which led to this initiative are to be found in the various dates of commemoration that occur in the 2019-2020 period: the 30th anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos (8/15/1989) by St. John Paul II, who was intending in his turn, to commemorate the centenary of the promulgation of the Encyclical Quamquampluries of Leo XIII on devotion to St. Joseph and the 150 years since the Decree Quemadmodum Deus (12/8/1870) with which Bl. Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church.
However, the true profound reason for this initiative rests in the conviction that the remembrance of our holy Protector and Patron of the Universal Church, can be for us a providential occasion to go to the roots of our spirituality in the light of the most recent teaching of the Magisterium of the Church. It will also promote a deeper reflection upon the spiritual patrimony which the Guardian of the Redeemer has left to the entire Christian community. Finally, it will also bring about a true renewal and reinvigoration of the mission we are undertaking.
St. Joseph Marello was a contemporary of the ecclesial events we just mentioned. It is always useful to re-read his letter to Rev. Giuseppe Riccio in which he speaks of the preparation for the proclamation of the Patronage (Letter 64) and which defines St. Joseph as “that model of a poor and obscure life” upon which he will build his spirituality and that of his religious family. In reference to this, Fr. Cortona recalled in the conferences that the Founder gave to the first Oblates, that he: “reflected often on the interior life of St. Joseph…who did not give himself entirely to exterior activities, but that he united his action to the spirit of prayer.” (Cortona, BreviMemorie in StudiMarelliani, 1-2, 2012, p. 63-64).
The idea of a Year dedicated to the Guardian of the Redeemer will perhaps move someone to ask: is it possible that a figure of such doubtless importance, but from a distant time, like St. Joseph, could inspire and transmit to us still today the desire to “serve the interests of Jesus” in the Church? Or again: is it worth proposing in our day, a Saint of humility and of silence as a model to imitate? What can his life teach people of the 21st century?
I would respond to these questions, simply with the observation that it is he, St. Joseph, who always takes us to the heart of our Christian and Religious vocation; it is he who helps us re-discover the features which make up the identity of a true Oblate; it is he who re-proposes to Christian communities his always relevant and unmistakable style of faithfulness and service. If we were to make use of just one word to sum up the mission and spiritual patrimony of St. Joseph, it would be enough to say “Jesus”, the name which our Saint was called to pronounce and confer in the rite of Circumcision (Mt 2,25). That is the name which St. Paul says is “above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2,10)
St. Joseph lives profoundly in union with Jesus, contemplating Him in the Incarnation and the Mysteries of the Hidden Life. Therefore, he reminds us constantly that the vocation to the Consecrated Life and every other Christian Vocation, consists above all in personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In this he invites us to re-center ours lives on Jesus, the One thing necessary, from whom comes all the rest, taking from Him meaning and value. In the school of St. Joseph in fact, we learn to welcome the Word as the reason for our life and apostolate. We learn to grow in fraternity. We learn strength of heart, the indispensable condition for dealing with the challenges of daily life and of the apostolate.
I propose that in the course of this Year, these words of the Gospel of Matthew inspire us and accompany us in deepening our personal and community reflection:
Rise up…. And he rose up, in the night, and took with him the child and his mother (Mt. 2, 13 & 14)
Rise up…he rose up… The verb “to rise up” refers to movement and is linked to an upwards movement. It recurs in the Sacred Scripture, in various contexts, always with a positive meaning: to rise and stand up, to rise after having fallen, to lift up one’s eyes in prayer… It is a call to leave the position of sitting down or laying down so as to get moving, because comfort does not satisfy the deep aspirations of the human heart and is in contrast with the logic of the Gospel. This word spoken by the Angel in a dream, heard and embraced, leads to a radical change in the life of Joseph. The man “of dreams” is open to “surprises” from God and accepts His will even if it upends his life. Three times he dreams and each time he only receives a message and a partial explanation. However, to do the will of God it is not necessary to have a complete picture of the situation, with all consequences and possible developments spelled out. It is enough to have “only that much light as serves for the first step.” (H. Newman)
…in the night… This reference to the time of day recalls the symbolic character of the night in Holy Scripture. It serves to highlight and understand the depth of character of Joseph, who does not draw back in the moment of the challenge. As a father, he must take care of the Child; as a spouse, he must protect Mary, not only by day when all is bright and secure, but also at night, when the obstacles seem all the harder to overcome.
…took with him the child and his mother… In Joseph we can admire his willingness and readiness, simple and ordinary virtues which adorn him. However, the words of the Gospel reveal that the center of his life and his mission, is Jesus. Joseph obeys the order of the Angel, and this obedience is always being indicated with the use of the richly meaningful expression: “he took with him.” To take with oneself means to keep, to take care of, to share in the destiny of those persons under one’s care. When members of a family, or of a consecrated community know how to “take with themselves” the lives of their family members or confreres, their daily personal relationships acquire a new depth and create a climate of exponential growth.
The Year of St. Joseph offers us therefore, an invitation and an occasion to re-discover the figure of the Patron of the Universal Church and find in him, the fundamental bases of that vocation which connects us to his name as his Oblates. It will help us to re-establish a personal relationship with him. It invites us to re-read and re-study the publications that speak of his mission. It will become an occasion to compose new songs dedicated to him, in continuity with the rich musical tradition of the Congregation. It will obligate us to celebrate with due solemnity his Feast Days and perhaps organize some pilgrimages to shrines dedicated to him. Finally, it will push us to entrust to his intercession, the earthly affairs of the Church in its rough confrontations with the hostile environment of today’s world. Each Province and Delegation, each community and each apostolic work should seek the ways most appropriate so that this Year may be for each of us an unforgettable spiritual experience.
May the Year of St. Joseph also be a favorable occasion to highlight some aspects and themes of Christian life linked to the spirituality of St. Joseph. For example: the importance of the interior life, of generous service in daily life, the holiness of Marriage and of the family, and many others.
In conclusion, I also exhort the Oblate Sisters of St. Joseph and the Laity spiritually close to us, and all the Faithful who come to our parishes and take part in our pastoral activities, that they too feel themselves to be involved in this initiative and may live with us the Year of St. Joseph so as to grow spiritually and respond with ever greater generosity to the call of the Lord.
I finish with these words of our Founder: “Eamus simul ad Joseph et oremus ad invicem; and may our holy Patriarch obtain for everyone from God every opportune grace.” (Letter 234, Opera Omnia, Editrice Impressioni Grafiche, Acqui 2010, p. 586).
“Let us say to our Great Patriarch:
See us all for you – may you be all for us;
You show us the way, you sustain us in every step,
You lead us where Divine Providence wants to take us.
Whether the way be long or short, smooth or rough,
Whether we can or cannot see by human sight the goal,
Whether moving swiftly or slowly,
With you we are sure that all will go well.”
Rome, January 23, 2019 Feast of the Holy Spouses.
P. Jan Pelczarski, Osj
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