Oh, St. Joseph!

Do you have an absolute favorite saint?

Perhaps you pray to him/her, wear their medal & frequently ask help.

And there’s the other saint who surprises you.

Seemingly out of nowhere.

My favorites are Ss. Anthony, Benedict & Michael

I ask help of some additional ones like St Dr Guiseppe Moscati

And, there’s St. Joseph.

He’s so quiet – literally in the Gospels; only sometimes being addressed in private devotions. Over the years, I’ve read many stories about the miraculous staircase to the nun’s choir loft, of real estate breakthroughs, jobs found, etc. I never really understood it, how do you get attached to a Saint of which you have no personal reflections? No writings? Almost no presence? Does it not strike anyone else of how funnily he’s absent from the Gospels and we know nothing after the Angel tells him the Child is in danger? Yet, there’s always a statue of him somewhere in every church? He’s hotly contended in tradition: old vs youthful, assumed into heaven or not; how he came to be Mary’s chaste Spouse; so forth.

Years ago, when I was trying to process the reality of my brother’s abortion (my sister & I were informed via her Confirmation letter), I sought the advice of a Christian leader of a student religious group and she wisely suggested naming my brother to make him “more real” and less abstract. The processing stopped there for several years, simply naming him Joseph. But that’s where I got to know St. Joseph. In the past 3-4 years in which I’ve been attending the TLM, I’ve been praying to St  Joseph, asking him help in the grieving and adapting process pertaining to the loss of my brother. I prayed his Litany every Sunday, without fail. Eventually, I came to reflect on more than just the loss of my brother, but on him who is Terror of Demons or Lover of Poverty, and Mirror of Patience. Holy cats, that’s what leaks through the silence surrounding him! There’s also the prayer at the end of the litany asking him to be our lord and protector on earth as he protected the Christ-Child & our Lady; to protect the Church from error.

Now, especially on Sundays, I’ve taken to adding on the prayer to St. Joseph after the Rosary, which is typically for October, but that’s been good overall. And finally, my spiritual director told me I should say a novena for my vocation. He didn’t to whom or any other restrictions. I figured, why create a new devotion when I already one. So I ventured down to the local massive Catholic store and got two prayer cards (size, plastic & weight of a gift card) one from Padre Pio & one from St. Joseph. The St. Joseph one had to be said for 9 mornings which is hard for me to manage because I’m a school-based therapist, my mornings are eat-wash up-drive; they’re not very leisurely. So I messed up, but I put in my nine mornings, and that day (actually about 12 days after starting) someone name-dropped a particular monastery. I put them on the list along with 4 other places that were attractive to me; and narrowed it down to just 2 places during my last meeting with my spiritual director. However, if I’m actually trusting St. Joseph to pick the place for me, why do I have two places listed? A plan b does not say trust!

Nope, just one place. I got impatient with sending Mother Superior an email, so I also sent a hand-written note.

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interest and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do help me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son and spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms, I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls – pray for us. Amen.

Let prayer be very short

When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station, 
we do not presume to do so 
except with humility and reverence. 
How much the more, then, 
are complete humility and pure devotion necessary 
in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe! 
And let us be assured 
that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matt 6:7),
but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction. 
Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure, 
unless it happens to be prolonged 
by an inspiration of divine grace. 
In community, however, let prayer be very short, 
and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.


– from the Rule of St Benedict



spirituality i

Perhaps the best thing about endlessly purchasing and perusing books is knowing exactly where to look when I’m needing a particular turn of phrase.  All of Austen is available for wit, Merton for quasi-Christian-Buddhist ‘silence is golden’ tendencies, etc.  But if I want a mood, I also know know which authors will squash or evoke something.  I have four statistical books perfect for insomnia, Heller for cynicism, Malachi Martin for caution.  More to the point, I picked up the book I had dropped last year and resumed in in the same spot.  I’ve always had this knack for putting a book down for one or more years, picking it up and resuming without needing to review the previous page or chapter.

If you don’t like what I’m doing, saying, or reading without good reason and just object; you’ve automatically lost my audience.  I’d say that two years ago I didn’t understand or value in any sense the nuance between religion and spirituality; I couldn’t parse out foundation from trappings.  I frowned upon it and adhered only to religion, not understanding that spirituality has its own importance.  I didn’t go seeking for any grasp or understanding, I had shut it out.

In November ’09 I took any job that I could find; I worked as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army: paid to ring a bell next to the red bucket.  I hated it as a job.  Coming out of my rejecting the SMMEs, the days and months were already darkly tinted; I was already in the shadows, and this job provided the transition from shadow to darkness.  At first I fought against it, but in buying a book from the library resale I learned that I didn’t always have to fight off the darkness.  The author, Thomas Moore, has a way of writing in a spiritual manner but not a religious one.  Reading his work, automatically took me out of my comfort zone.

As I was being pushed out of my comfort zone in terms of religion versus spirituality, I was pushing others out of their own.  I stopped fighting the darkness and the depression.  I didn’t give into the depression, obviously, but I just sat in it.  Like a hiker lost in a thick fog, I didn’t waste my lethargic energy on wandering around but sat down on a mossy rock and waited for the dawn.  It was one of those fogs so thick that the trees drip and it sounds like rain, and the drops pierce through your sweater.  You’re on-edge sitting there in the dark just waiting, waiting.

So I sat and waited.  I got through my depression, intentionally this time, the hard way; it’s the only way I’ve ever known for getting through depression.  I lost quite a bit of audience.  I remember one prayer meeting, some religious people who were emotionally sensitive but religiously neurotic (cautious in all the wrong ways) told me to just make nice, to play pretend.  Those blithe statements of “smile and soon you’ll feel happy.”  Pardon me.  My emotions and states of mind are my own.  I chose to share with some people and not all were understanding.  Anything that’s not within their experience wasn’t valid.  So I ignored their opinions and turned to others who understood.  My spiritual director was understanding and supportive, my therapist a phone call away; the bases were covered.

So, this week with it’s crazy paperwork fiasco at work (let’s just torch it and start over), mom’s episodes, finals, lack of sleep, Grampa, and other things, I made the choice to just shut down emotionally.  It’s really its own state of consciousness – being emotionless.  I’m capable of emotional reactions, but I chose to ignore the ones that relate to my interior world.  Knowing that I was in need of spiritual component again, I turned to Moore’s writing.  It’s nice to get confirmation that it’s okay to be awake at night, to be in the dark.

present to the Present

At this evening’s bible study session, the organizer, Jonathan, was able to get a local Franciscan priest to come and talk with us. We’ve always enjoyed the nights that Fr. Kevin comes over because he’s funny, but also it’s essentially “open mike night.” It’s our questions, rather than the theological verse-by-verse breakdown of Acts 8; although this is equally fruitful.

There was a good discussion going on homilies, what to expect, how to kindly and politely address issues with priests, pastors, etc. But there was one thing that stuck out to me this evening: “being present to the Present (Presence) in the present.” It’s being contemplative in action. It’s being aware that when you and I speak face to face, Christ is right there with us. Can we shut down Facebook, Blogger, Xanga, LiveJournal, MySpace, LinkedIn, BrightFuse, CareerBuilder, Indeed, Monster, &c for just once to notice that these things are rewarding us for being distracted and distant from the Only One who should matter to us? No wonder our chapels are empty, the Blessed Sacrament is abandoned. No one knows how to just sit with Jesus anymore!