St Joseph – Protector of the true new fire of Vatican II

St Joseph - Protector of the true new fire of Vatican II

In 1989 Blessed issued an APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION entitled REDEMPTORIS CUSTOS (ON THE PERSON AND MISSION OF SAINT JOSEPH  IN THE LIFE OF CHRIST AND OF THE CHURCH)

On this Feast of St Joseph, and on the occasion of the inauguration of Pope Francis (who called on us all to be a protector) we should recall this important work of  Blessed John Paul about St Joseph, on the Custodian or Protector of the Redeemer. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis must protect the true new fire of . As then Cardinal Wojtyla explained in his book sources of renewal (1972) the Council is about “enrichment of faith.” Members of the Church must deepen their awareness or consciousness of the truths of faith and they must strive to cultivate the fundamental attitudes that characterize true Christian existence. The attitude of hearing the word of God with reverence and showing that readiness to serve faithfully — these are the very foundation or condition for any authentic renewal. ‘s shows us the way, as the first to be in the circle of Mary, Mother of the Church. Here are two key passages for our meditation.

Besides trusting in Joseph’s sure protection, the Church also trusts in his noble example, which transcends all individual states of life and serves as a model for the entire Christian community, whatever the condition and duties of each of its members may be.

As the Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council has said, the basic attitude of the entire Church must be that of “hearing the word of God with reverence,” (Dei verbum §11) an absolute readiness to serve faithfully God’s salvific will revealed in Jesus. Already at the beginning of human redemption, after Mary, we find the model of obedience made incarnate in St. Joseph, the man known for having faithfully carried out God’s commands. §30

This is an important passage because it reflects John Paul’s fundamental understanding of the meaning of Vatican II. The Council is about “enrichment of faith.” It is about “what does it mean to be a believer” and not about definitions of faith; that is, the council is about “living the faith” in the modern world. It presupposes the truth and purity of doctrine but “calls for it to be situated in the human consciousness and calls for a definition of attitude.” (Sources of Renewal, pp. 17-18. Therefore, Joseph is a a model for the implementation of Vatican II — if all the members of the Church showed such readiness to serve faithfully, as did Joseph, the night sky would be lit with the bonfires of love and a compelling witness to the beauty of the babe born in Bethlehem. As Cardinal Wojtyla explained in Sources of Renewal, some forty years, faith “is not merely the response of the mind to an abstract truth . . . but relates to man’s whole personal structure and spiritual dynamism.” (p 20) Indeed, “man’s proper response” is nothing less than “self-abandonment to God.” That is, one “accepts his own vocation and the sense of his existence.” Here is the revolution still waiting to happen. “I  am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled” (Lk 12:49) 

St Joseph is the just man “who bore within himself the entire heritage of the Old Covenant” and also was “brought into the beginning” of the New Covenant. He has a a special significance for us today as we enter the new millennium and are called to implement Vatican II. He is a just protector.

The Second Vatican Council made all of us sensitive once again to the “great things which God has done,” and to that “economy of salvation” of which St. Joseph was a special minister. Commending ourselves, then, to the protection of him to whose custody God “entrusted his greatest and most precious treasures,” let us at the same time learn from him how to be servants of the “economy of salvation.” May St. Joseph become for all of us an exceptional teacher in the service of Christ’s saving mission, a mission which is the responsibility of each and every member of the Church: husbands and wives, parents, those who live by the work of their hands or by any other kind of work, those called to the contemplative life and those called to the apostolate.  §32

So John Paul II rightly calls for an increased devotion to St Joseph, in whom “after Mary, we find the model of obedience made incarnate.” His predecessors Pope Leo XIII and Paul VI called the faithful to deepen their devotion to St Joseph. The Church commends to Joseph “all of her cares, including those dangers which threaten the human family.” John Paul prays with Pope Leo this prayer to Joseph: “Most beloved father, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin . . .  graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness . . .   and just as once you saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity.”

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