Greetings on the feast of Saint Joseph.
As we gather to celebrate, let us give thanks for the giftedness of Joseph – a protector of Mary and the child Jesus, a risk-taker and a deep listener. While Pope Francis was in the Philippines, in Manila, in January 2015 he spoke these words to the gathered crowd:
Like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act – Pope Francis
Joseph was a just man who followed the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, listened to his dreams, and put love above the law and into action.
In October 2019, sixty-three Sisters of Saint Joseph gathered at St Joseph’s Reflective Centre at Baulkham Hills, as our General Chapter, to discern our vision and actions for the next six years. The word ‘listen’ became significant – we not only listened to one another and the voices of our sisters around the Congregation, we also listened to the voices of those who, with Josephite heart, share in our vision for living the Gospel, and the deeper concerns of our world and church today. Our current Chapter document begins with an invitation to ‘listen’ – to listen to the call to be audacious Josephite people.
Joseph is a wonderful inspiration in the field of listening. Joseph has nothing to say. He just listens to the voice of God in his dreams and quietly does what the Spirit stirs in his heart. Our Chapter vision not only calls us to listen. It calls us to action – to be there in the critical issues facing our world, to participate in a relational way in God’s mission and to honour the gift of Religious life in our church.
On this feast we ask Joseph to teach us to listen, to stop talking and to start listening so that we may hear the knock of those ‘seeking room at the inn’ and to respond with compassionate hearts as he did.
I have been pondering what it must have been like for Joseph as he listened to the words of Simeon when he took Mary and the child Jesus to the temple for the ritual of purification. This child would be a light to the Gentiles and would bring glory to God’s people Israel. What joy and amazement must have stirred in Joseph’s heart? Simeon then follows with the words to Mary ‘and a sword will pierce your heart’ (Luke 2:29-35). Imagine the sharp pain that Joseph must have felt with these words. Joseph teaches us in this gospel story how to be present in the joys and sorrows of life.
Our world is currently going through similar realities which pull at our heart strings – the spread of the coronavirus, recovery from bushfires and drought here in Australia, refugees fleeing war ravished countries, the increase of domestic violence to name just a few. In these critical times Joseph teaches us to how to remain steadfast when life throws up these difficult challenges and to live with integrity as he did, trusting in his faithful God. He also guides us in knowing how to sustain hope and to rejoice in the gifts of each day just as he delighted in seeing Jesus grow in wisdom and strength even amidst the challenges.
On this feast of Joseph let us ask for the blessing of strength to be still and listen, the fortitude to be patient amidst the many trials and tribulations that confront us and the courage to say yes to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Happy Feast Day.
Sr Monica Cavanagh is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
With thanks to the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart.