On March 19, special services were held in the Church Crypt of Saint Joseph's Oratory in honour of the feast of the patron saint of workers, the sick, the dying and fathers of families in Canada. In addition, we must note that Pope Francis has dedicated this year especially to St. Joseph.
Although the Oratory was not open to the public, four Masses, two each in French and English, were celebrated and broadcast live from Saint Joseph's Oratory on the feast of the Patron Saint. Montreal’s Archbishop Lépine presided at one of these Masses.
A sign of divine fatherhood
The Gospel of March 19 recounts how Jesus was at last found in the temple, after having caused Joseph and Mary much anxiety as they searched everywhere for him, as any parents would who have lost a child, until they found him in the temple. In this biblical account, in Mary’s words: "Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety;" but as Archbishop Lépine points out, Mary did not say your adoptive father and I, but rather your father and I. "Mary knows that Jesus is the only son of God, but this does not diminish the fatherhood of Joseph, which is real, entire and human," explains the Archbishop.
Jesus' words seem to be somewhat in contradiction with his mother’s: "Why were you searching for me?’’ He had to be about his father’s business, meaning his real father in heaven. "But does he actually mean to tell us that Joseph is not his real father?" the Archbishop asks. ‘‘How is it that he has this sense of his identity, that he is aware of being the only son of the eternal Father? This awareness had probably been nurtured in prayer, and Mary had probably spoken to him concerning the annunciation.’’
In thus highlighting the Gospel, Archbishop Lépine wanted to illuminate Joseph’s fatherhood for us: "Even as an adoptive father, his is a real fatherhood, which then leads us back to the role of fatherhood. We can imagine that Jesus saw in Joseph the sign of the eternal Father, that it was through that human fatherhood that Jesus grasped the mystery of divine fatherhood.
What to ask of Saint Joseph this year?
In the midst of the pandemic, Archbishop Lépine reminded us that, even though God is the rock, nevertheless the only way we can experience any closeness of contact at this time is within the bubble of the family. "And the family needs divine fatherhood," he added. Therefore, what better prayer could we ask of St. Joseph than for him to give his assistance to fathers, who are the sign of divine fatherhood!
In this time of pandemic, he added, we can also ask that "our sense of fatherhood may be strengthened and that our sense of God the Father may grow deeper."
St. Joseph, man of faith
Turning to the first reading, Archbishop Lépine highlighted another facet of this feast of Saint Joseph: "What allowed Abraham to father a multitude of believers was his faith. He believed. Joseph too is a man of faith who ‘obeyed the angel's call’," he points out, referring to the flight into Egypt and how he received the mystery of Mary being already with child before their marriage. "Always faithful, [Joseph] does not really know where he is going. At every stage, as he is about to set out, he gives himself up."
"Joseph's faith is a strength of surrender, which is the kind of faith we need in times of pandemic," the Archbishop concluded. As he points out, there is always an element of the unknown, in the presence of which we have the choice of either fuelling our anxieties or turning to God and saying "I place everything - my family, my life - in your hands."
St. Joseph, pray for us!
The Masses of March 19 are still available on the Saint Joseph's Oratory Facebook page.