An article by Fr. Rastislav Dluhy C.Ss.R., missionary from Kaunas, Lithuania, who has organized a sereis of online lectures devoted to St. Josheph.
What exactly is an extraordinary year?
It is a special time in the Church. Kairos: a time of grace and God’s favour. It is announced by the Pope, who is led by God’s prompting and guidance. The Bishop of Rome perceives it prophetically as he listens to the time in which he lives. By announcing an extraordinary or jubilee year (or an extraordinary day), he responds to the impulsions or needs that God shows him through events in the world or in the Church and also through the voices of believers. In this way, the attention of the Church is focused on very important subjects.
Why is Saint Joseph so relevant today?
We can say boldly that this decision of the Pope must be seen prophetically. The Spirit led him, and he discerned it. Some saints claimed that the ‘time of Saint Joseph’ would come. Saint José Manaynet, a priest who lived in the 19th century, said that the ‘time of Saint Joseph’ would come soon. He wrote: “I believe that the time of Saint Joseph has not yet arrived. After almost two millennia, we have only just begun to perceive a bit of the secret in which he is surrounded”. In 1961, Saint Pope John XXIII said: “St. Joseph remained in the background for many centuries. As if it was characteristic of him to be the unseen one. As if he were only a decorative figure in the overall picture of the Savior’s life! The Church Fathers mentioned him here and there. In the hearts of believers, respect for Saint Joseph has been taking root for a long time. Eager joy, prayer and deep confidence in this saint are evident in modern times.” During the last apparition in Fatima (on October 13th 1917), in addition to the Virgin Mary, both the Baby Jesus and St. Joseph appeared. Perhaps we can also say that now that the world and the Church are going through difficult times in many ways, we need this strong man of God and his powerful intercession. Just as he protected his family, he wants to protect the family of the Church also in her time of trouble.
Who was St Joseph, and what does the Bible tell us about him?
Joseph was a descendant of the family of David. He had – so to speak – a royal heart. And the angel said unto him: “Fear not, Joseph, son of David.” These words would resonate in his soul throughout his life. They gave him the strength and confidence that God would fulfil his plan. The Bible also says that Joseph was a righteous man. This is God’s highest praise of a man. In this way, the Scriptures describe people who have a deep relationship with God and cooperate with God in his plan. He was an orthodox Jew who kept the law of Moses. He used to go to Jerusalem three times a year for the religious holy days. When Jesus was born, he did everything that was prescribed by God’s law. However, he perceived not only the letter of the Law but also the intimate voice of God. He always followed his instructions. Scripture tells us that Joseph loved Mary so much that he did not want to expose her to public disgrace. He protected the family. He exerted himself to provide for his family, working as a carpenter.
Can St Joseph be a role model for men today?
It is characteristic of mature men that they keep their word. They are people who don’t just speak ‘off the top of their head’ – they weigh their words. They build up with their words. They are like Adam, who ‘named everything that God had created.’ They are people of God’s Word; they listen to it, they read it, they think about it, they try to live according to it and allow the Word to be fulfilled in their lives. And when they perceive that they have not incorporated the word of God into their life, they go to reconcile with God, as in the sacrament of reconciliation. I like the fact that thanks to Joseph, listening to God’s Word, some of the prophecies associated with Jesus were fulfilled. I think of three prophecies that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus through Joseph’s obedience: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for from you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel’ (Matthew 2:6). And Matthew 2:15 says that Hosea’s prophecy was fulfilled: ‘…where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I called my son out of Egypt.’ When Joseph, led by God, returned from Egypt, they settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way, the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene’ (Matthew 2:23). Joseph lived his life such that God’s prophecies and promises for the good of the whole world were being fulfilled in his life. Although in the Scriptures, not a single sentence of Joseph was recorded, we could also interpret this silence as a demonstration that he was a man of listening and that he was not preventing words of God from being fulfilled in his life. In his life, not a word of God ‘fell to the ground’ (1 Sam. 3:19).
How can St Joseph inspire families and especially fathers?
Interestingly, it is written in the Scriptures that God spoke to Mary in such an extraordinary way – through an angel – only once. However, the Scriptures record up to four cases in which God communicates extraordinarily with Joseph through dreams: ‘Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, flee to Egypt, return from Egypt, go to Nazareth.’ Joseph immediately did what God told him through His angelic messenger. I think families can be very encouraged by the fact that God speaks. Our God speaks to us. To mothers and fathers. Yes, also to fathers! Often God speaks to protect the family or take some significant steps. Joseph was a man of listening and a man of action. He did not waste his time in futile discussions. God chose Joseph for Jesus and Mary because it was the best choice. Joseph was an exemplary Jewish father. He told his son a lot of stories, as the fathers of Israel did. The Scriptures exhorted them to do it: ‘Tell thy son…. how God hath delivered thee out of Egypt with a mighty hand’ (Ex. 13: 8,9). Joseph must have told the little Jesus stories from the Scriptures. He must have told him at bedtime how the angel had come to him in the dream, how the shepherds and wise men from the East had come to worship him at the cradle, how they had brought him gifts. Perhaps the young Jesus asked his father: “Dad? What happened to the gold the wise men brought?” Perhaps Joseph told him that they were the means for travel and life in Egypt by God’s providence. Parents and fathers can help today’s children and young people disoriented by the media to rediscover God’s story and our place in it.
How can St Joseph be a model for us in today’s hectic and unstable times?
Silence and work. Scripture is silent about most of the first thirty years of Jesus’ life. I believe that he spent most of this time with Joseph – that they worked together, that Jesus learned from Joseph, first to pray and then to work, that he saw Joseph showing his love to Mary and learned to show love to his mother and other people. This important period in the Holy Family life is shrouded in silence, except for a few brief mentions in Scripture about a visit to Jerusalem. You could say: ‘Nothing extraordinary happened then.’ However, the truth is that the incarnate Son of God grew in his humanity precisely in these formative years – in the family, at work and in beautiful relationships. This is most important for families today, who are often encouraged to live differently: to live in the limelight and to show others what they have achieved and that they are a successful and exceptional family. It is interesting how many people who have lived just the opposite of what the Holy Family lived – people who were obsessed with work, money, success and possessions – finally say that those years were wasted years and lost opportunities for relationships with God, with children, with family and with friends.
We often see Joseph as a man on the periphery, as someone who just appeared for a moment in Jesus’ life. But what was his real role in the history of salvation? Is it on the periphery, or is it at the centre of God’s plan?
I once read a similar comparison about saints. They are said to be like footballers, who are the game-players. Where the creators of the game move become the centre, the epicentre and the venue of the game, that is the place where the history is written. Joseph is one of these key players. Where he moved, the new history was written, and old promises were fulfilled.
God spoke to Joseph through dreams. Does God still communicate with us in this way today?
On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter mentioned in his first sermon a prophecy from the Book of the prophet Hosea, which says that in the last days, God will pour out His Spirit on everyone and everyone will prophesy, young people, will have visions and the old man will have dreams. The times of the Church are characterized by the fact that God’s Spirit works in the whole Church and wants to speak to all. Some experts on the charismatic gifts say that perceiving God’s prompting through dreams and interpretation is another, perhaps more advanced way of seeing God’s will. Not every dream is from God. Sometimes it’s just a common process for our brains to sort things out. Sometimes they are the result of eating a lot of pizza late at night! However, dreams are one of the many ways that God speaks to us. In this prophecy of Hosea, it is said that all will prophesy. All who have the Spirit of God in their hearts can hear God. This can be in the words of Scripture, through preaching, catechesis, through the beauties of nature, but sometimes also through these momentary promptings which, of course, always need to be discerned.
Series of online lectures on the occasion of the Year of Saint Joseph
“The mystery of St. Joseph” is a cycle of five meetings on YouTube channel, where the guest speakers want to present some characteristics of St. Joseph, important and relevant for our time too.
The very first speaker in January was Colin Symes from Edinburgh. He is our long-time friend. He spoke on the topic of how St Joseph listened to God’s voice. It is interesting that although he comes from the Protestant tradition, he wears a medal of St Joseph, which he bought at a meeting for spiritual revival for various Protestant leaders, which took place in the Scottish Redemptorist monastery in Perth. In Podolínec and Bratislava, Colin taught us many great things about fellowship and evangelism and how to perceive God’s voice. He led a weekend seminar about it. Our mission communities have been amazed to discover how listening to God is a truly wonderful adventure. Since then, our missionary communities regard the dimension of listening to God as one of the most crucial things in personal life and a community’s life. I vividly remember the enthusiasm and fire in the eyes of our people who took the first practical steps in listening to God’s voice and shared what they had heard.
You can also watch our meetings about Saint Joseph in Slovakia. The lectures are in English with translation into Lithuanian. You can also submit questions (in English) to YouTube live chat on the YouTube channel of the Archdiocese of Kaunas named Kauno arkiviskupija.
Fr. Rastislav Dluhý, C.Ss.R, missionary in Kaunas, Lithuania