Today people the world over are celebrating St. Joseph, called “the Just Man” and known as the patron of the universal Church by Catholics. It is ironic that a man who has so little written about him in the Scriptures would have so great a title and be revered the world over – but we know him as the father on earth of God’s beloved son, Jesus, the one who loved and protected Mary, his wife, and who listened to directives from God that would have challenged the most devout servants. Biographical information is scarce but one of the commentaries explains that as a “just” man, Joseph was “completely open to all that God wanted to do for him. He became holy by opening himself totally to God.”
I have the privilege of living under the special patronage of this holy, humble man as a Sister of St. Joseph – a member of a worldwide network of people who trace our roots to Le Puy en Velay in France in the mid-1600s. There, six women sitting in a small kitchen shared their desire for a different kind of religious life, one that would not close them into a cloistered prayer life (also a good way to live) but rather send them out to divide the city to do works of charity. They began by visiting prisons and teaching prostitutes to make lace so they would no longer be forced by poverty to prostitute themselves. The early documents call us to do “all the works of which women are capable which will benefit the dear neighbor.” When women religious were called by the Second Vatican Council in 1965 to return to the spirit of their founders, research called us to re-state the founding vision in a consensus statement that begins:
Stimulated by the Holy Spirit of Love and receptive to the Spirit’s inspirations, the Sister of St. Joseph moves always toward profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction, from whom she does not separate herself and for whom, in the following of Christ, she works in order to achieve unity both of neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God…
Pope Francis has designated this year as a year of celebration of The Consecrated Life. Today I ask you to join me in prayer for all women and men the world over who have consecrated their lives to God in vows that call for total commitment to personal transformation and the transformation of the world in a myriad of expressions which all lead toward the unity and reconciliation of all peoples and all of creation. May it be so.