Saintly Snark – A Reflection for the Feast of St. Joseph

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Know any Christmas-y songs about St. Joseph? No? Well, I know only one, and I cherish it because it’s midrash-like: it goes behind the scene, and evokes a rich line of thought (one of the purposes of midrash).

Actually, the scene is set after Christmas, when Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus are fleeing to Egypt to evade Herod’s soldiers, coming to execute all baby boys who could pose a threat to Herod’s power (think “the Holy Innocents”, whom we celebrated a couple of days after Christmas, bringing us back with a thud from all the holiday sweetness and light).

It’s one long trek to Egypt by foot and donkey, so the family takes a break when Mary sees a cherry tree up ahead. Some juicy cherries sound wonderful to her, so the song reports her request of Joseph to pick some for her.

Snarkily, Joseph replies, “Let the father of the baby pick cherries for you.” Wow! Was he ruminating during that whole long trip over Mary’s pregnancy- without-his-involvement, and the resultant upending of all their happy plans together? (Unexpected pregnancies and other life-altering events have been known to make good, even saintly, people snarky and then some!).

There’s no record of Mary’s reply – perhaps she was stunned to silence by her spouse’s uncharacteristic testiness. But someone else does reply: that “father of the baby” causes the cherry tree to bend down far enough for Mary to pick her own cherries!

I suspect the stunned silence shifted to Joseph, who had to rejoice in such an emphatic affirmation of the baby boy’s true origin, putting to rest all Joseph’s anger, hurt and bitterness.

Of course, “The Cherry Tree Carol” is made up: there’s no mention of cherries in the scriptures, as far as I know. But in the department of “be careful what you wish for”, could this be any better a response?

So many conversations could grow from this rich, imaginative carol! What could you say to Joseph? To Mary? Even to baby Jesus?

St. Joseph: Witness and Mentor During the Christmas/Epiphany Season

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min.

 

St. Joseph is one of the patron saints of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. A careful read through our MHSH archives reverberates with attention St. Joseph receives through the gradual unfolding of MHSH history. Our prayer manual contains a beautiful prayer to St. Joseph.

 

 

 

Dear St. Joseph, man of God.

You, whose heart was always on fire

with love, and whose life was a

constant prayer and continual

contemplation, teach us the

perfection of the interior life.

Teach us how to model our hearts in

accord with the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Teach us how to live and labor for God

and our neighbor in the faithful

observance of our vows and commitments.

May we, after having honored and

imitated you on earth, eternally sing

with you, the mercies of Jesus, and

Mary.

St. Joseph, pray for us. Amen.

During these days of the Christmas/Epiphany Season we are reconnected with the two direct solitary references to St. Joseph by name in all of scripture. He does not speak. He listens. Both times it is in a dream that he encounters a call. Scriptures simply indicates he acts upon the call within the dream. He is the silent one in the crèche’ scene but the strength of his presence is the anchor for the early years of Jesus and Mary’s life.

St. Joseph demonstrates the power of listening, silence and acting upon the inner voice that calls us each and every day of our lives.

Pope St. John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Exhortation “Redemptoris Custos: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church.” The Pope writes: “He (Joseph) took her (Mary) in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.” (#3) Through moments of ambiguity and unsettled questions, the Holy Family’s exodus into Egypt, and the remaining silent years, Joseph represents one who is open in deep listening to the movement of God and with complete confidence responds in faith.

Pope Francis’s pre-Christmas (December 23, 2019) reflection on the vocation of St. Joseph said: “The example of this meek and wise man calls us to raise our gaze and press ahead. The surprising logic of God isn’t about making calculations of what people will accept, but of opening their hearts “to new horizons, to Christ and his word.”

As Mission Helpers move forward into a new period of our history, we discover the silent, firm faith and presence of St. Joseph modeling for us the way into the future.

With God in the Wilderness

A reflection for the third week of Lent (written on the Feast of St. Joseph)

By Sr. Loretta Cornell, MHSH

I’ve been reading a publication called “A Lenten Pilgrimage: Journeying with Jesus.”   One of the reflections is titled: “In the desert we cling to essentials.”  It says: “A trek into the desert wilderness is no simple matter.  There are hazards, privations and loneliness, uncertainties, fickle weather, wild animals, and the frightening prospect that overnight the wind could alter the landscape beyond recognition.  It is easy to lose oneself in the wilderness.”

Joseph and Mary had to go through the desert, the wilderness, to get to Bethlehem and then out again into the wilderness to escape Herod’s soldiers who would slaughter the innocent. Both Joseph and Mary were examples of listening to God speak to their hearts, experiencing God with them.  They nurtured and protected Jesus, guiding him all through his life, and taught him how to survive the wilderness in all its forms.

“After his Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, where he fasted for forty days and nights and was tempted.  The desert wilderness is that place where what is essential (food, clothing, and shelter) is made abundantly clear”.

The wilderness is where God “I Am” nurtures us.  “The wilderness is that place where we enter to be reminded of the One, “I Am”, who is truly essential in our lives. It is where we stand before God,” I Am.”  It is the place where we stand in the light of God,” I AM’s” strength.  Our God says “I alone give you life and I give it to you fully.  Cling to me and I will care for you.  Trust in me and you will find freedom.”

Did you know…

Fig trees can grow in the desert!  Mary and Joseph may have come across one in their travels.  The beautiful fig tree yields two harvests per growing season and produces deliciously sweet fruit. Fig trees might take about 3 or more years to start producing a viable crop, but when they really start to produce you will have all the figs you can eat! Figs, one of the oldest cultivated crops, were a favorite of some early societies. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and even Egyptians enjoyed figs.

For reflection:

What is essential for me to live?
What will nurture me?
Can I meet God in the wilderness?