Countdown to St. Joseph’s Day: 1 day!
It’s Josephmas Eve!
As part of my pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Madrid last summer, I was blessed to visit the Basilica Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family (Sagrada Familia) in Barcelona, Spain.
It is a magnificent church, and one of the few places in the world that literally took my breath away. I remember standing completely speechless as I gazed up at a forest of stone columns rising to the heavens like the biblical cedars of Lebanon. I can honestly say without hyperbole that it is nearly impossible to accurately describe the experience of being in a church that is both of this world and of another world altogether.
After we had left, I remarked to one of the pilgrims in my group, “Sagrada Familia is an example of man at his best.” What I meant was that all those who participated in raising this monumental temple to Christ and His Holy Family were truly fulfilling what they were created to do. And should not that also be our desire? To be, to do, to say what the Creator of the universe had made us to be, to do, to say from the very first moment of our lives in our mothers’ wombs.
On many occasions, we do not live up to this potential. Pride and sin lead us to act in ways that are contrary to God’s will for us. When we act in ways that make us less than the person we ought to be, we become, in a sense, less alive. And as St. Irenaeus famously said, “The Glory of God is man fully alive.”
An example of man fully alive, glorifying God by conforming his will to that of his Creator, being the person he was meant to be and doing great things, is the humble and faithful architect of Sagrada Familia, who may one day be a canonized saint, Servant of God Antoni Gaudí.
Besides being a visionary designer and unparalleled archetypical, Gaudí was first a man of faith, a man of prayer whose primary goal was to be holy. Through prayer, reflecting on Sacred Scripture, and reception of the Sacraments, Gaudí became the person he was created to be: a man fully alive for the glory of God. In his remarkable design of Sagrada Familia, Gaudí put into stone and glass the mysteries of the faith and made a fitting place for the Word Incarnate to be adored, worshiped, and received.
We are called to serve and glorify God in many ways. Some are called to be teachers, attorneys, nurses, and accountants. Some are called to be fathers, mothers, priests, and sisters. But, what Gaudí and St. Joseph teach us is that we must be attentive to God’s voice, desire to do His will, and live in conformity to His will with great love. As an architect who was not ashamed to incorporate his faith into his professional life, Gaudí created an earthly temple, a tangible image of the mystical body of Christ. And because he did everything with great love, Gaudí himself—like all parents who created new life—reflected the almighty Creator who made the stars with His hands and who knows them each by name (cf. Psalm 147:4).
Antoni Gaudí also had a deep devotion to our beloved St. Joseph. In undertaking this monumental project, this holy Servant of God knew that he would not live to see its completion. Yet, he still was faithful in doing what he could, what he was called to do.
From the book, Faces of Holiness II: Modern Saints in Photos and Words by by Ann Ball, when people questioned about the amount of planning, labor, and money needed to complete this grand temple, Gaudí would reply, “Don’t worry—St. Joseph is a saint with many resources.” And, another occasion when asked about the time that it would take to complete, again Gaudí turned with confidence to the Guardian of the Sagrada Familia, “He who asked me to do it is not in a hurry.”
Also, it is interesting to note that Sagrada Familia was first envisioned and funded by a group of Spanish Catholics called The Spiritual Association of Devotees of St. Joseph. The cornerstone of the future basilica was placed on the Solemnity of St. Joseph in 1882. Gaudí first constructed the crypt church which is the chapel of St. Joseph. And the first Mass ever said in the yet unfinished temple was in that chapel on the Solemnity of St. Joseph in 1885.
St. Joseph, however, did not construct a magnificent and glorious house for the Son of God and Our Lady. Yet, he was the man who best served God by continuously conforming his will to the divine Will; Joseph was indeed a man fully alive.
Surely, St. Joseph gave much aid and assistance to Servant of God Antoni Gaudí particularly in building the Sagrada Familia. And, where he alive, would almost certainly been chipping at stone blocks or hoisting up buckets of mortar. Sawing, hammering, carving, this is how St. Joseph worked and this is how he glorified God.
He also glorified God in fulfilling his vocation as spouse to the Queen of Heaven and foster-father of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thus, who else on earth loved Mary and Jesus more than Joseph? Who then can we turn to for help in loving them more but our faithful patron? What must our Joseph have felt to hear the Son of God call him “father”, and what unworthiness he must have felt to call him “Son”!
Recall, my previous post about the Life of Saint Joseph written by Sr. Maria Cecilia Baij, O.S.B. and our discussion about public revelation and private revelation.
Sr. Maria Cecilia writes,
After the Divine Child rendered His acts of oblation and homage [to the Father] and gave Himself into the arms of His holy Mother, Joseph went off to his work. While engaged in his labors he suddenly found himself again in ecstasy, in virtue of his meditations upon the actions of his beloved Jesus. Drawn by the forces of love, he longed to go and give himself the satisfaction of contemplating Him directly. Fearing to be a nuisance to Jesus, the Saint suppressed this urge.
Whenever the Divine Child wished to console His faithful servant, however, He would lovingly invite him by means of an interior locution. This invitation Joseph was unable to resist, and so he would hasten to go to Him, impelled as he was by the exceedingly powerful force of his love. Usually, Joseph would also find Jesus already on His way to meet him. The first time Jesus came to meet him, He was being led by His most beloved Mother. Upon seeing Joseph, He called out to him: “Father!” and then flung Himself into his arms and caressed him with His tiny hands.
The joy of hearing himself be called “father” for the first time moved Joseph to tears. He considered himself to be wholly unworthy of it, and he made it very evident how grateful he was for the honor that the Child Jesus was giving him by doing so. He ardently thanked the holy Child, and besought his most holy spouse also to give thanks in his behalf to God and to His Son. This Mary gladly did for him. She rejoiced with Joseph over the great blessing that was his, and they gave joint thanks to the Heavenly Father for the graces He had given to both of them, and especially for the dignity He had conferred upon His servant, in permitting him to be His representative on earth.
Joseph did not venture to address Jesus as his Son, though his paternal love made him feel most desirous of doing so. He asked Mary if it would be proper for him to address Jesus in this manner. Mary ascertained from Jesus that, inasmuch as He Himself deigned to call Joseph, “father,” and also assigned him to his paternal position here upon earth, He thereby granted him the privilege of calling Him, “Son.” He furthermore declared that it was the will of the Heavenly Father that He, Jesus, should make Himself subject in this manner to Joseph, just as if He were truly his own offspring, and that consequently, Joseph should freely address Him as “Son,” and deal with Him as if he were His real father.
Joseph’s heart was jubilant as Mary transmitted these things to him, and he shed copious tears as a result of the consolations that he experienced. At the same time, he gave thanks to God, in union with Mary. To himself he remarked: “I am indeed blessed in being the possessor of this delightful privilege which allows me to address the Divine Incarnate Word, the Son of the Eternal Father, as ‘my Son.’”
Finally, he exclaimed aloud: “Oh Jesus, my Son. Oh my Son, my Jesus!”
We know St. Joseph as a carpenter from the scriptures. However, the original Greek word that is found in the gospels is tekton, a laborer who works with his hands. It is this trade of tekton that our Joseph taught the Son of God, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created the stars in the heavens and the atoms in every grain of sand. In the company of Jesus, to honor the Blessed Virgin, and give glory to God, this is how St. Joseph sanctified all his labors. So, too, can he make holy our everyday, mundane tasks: taking out the garbage, studying diligently, watering the plants, driving your sibling to school, buying groceries at the store—these can be moments for the sanctification of yourself and others; such ordinary work can be altars where you offer love.
Just think of Joseph’s workbench and his little Jesus at his side.
As soon as the Divine Youth grew up sufficiently to be able to render some assistance to Joseph, He sought of His own accord to go and help him in his work and to console him by His presence. The happy Joseph never considered that Jesus actually wanted to humble Himself to such an extent as to perform this menial work, and when Jesus offered His willing assistance, the Saint was deeply moved and declared he would never allow it unless the Heavenly Father Himself had actually ordained it.
Turning to Jesus he exclaimed: “Oh, Eternal Wisdom, why do You wish to humiliate Yourself to such a degree? How can I, Your servant, consent to see You devoting Yourself to such work as this, delicate as You are, and engaged as You are in continually treating with Your Heavenly Father concerning the vital business of man’s redemption? How could I look and see You being thus humiliated?”
The holy Youth set his mind at rest by declaring that this was the will of His Heavenly Father, and that in reality He Himself had come into the world not to be ministered unto, but rather to minister, wherefore, it was necessary that He should give an example of disdain for all ostentation and worldly esteem. Joseph submitted to the will of the Heavenly Father and no longer made any objection. Instead, he pondered over the joy that would be his by having his beloved Jesus with him in the workshop. He became exceedingly consoled, and proclaimed his unbounded happiness. Turning to Mary, he expressed to Her his regret that She would, necessarily, be deprived of the loving presence of Jesus during those periods of time in which He would now be with him. The Mother of God, being always conformed to the divine will and with a heart brimming with love, assured him that She was happy about the consolations that would be his, and that the divine will would be accomplished.
One can well image what spiritual joy the happy Joseph must have experienced, and how filled with consolation he must have been, as he took his beloved Jesus with him. When he started to work it seemed to him as if he was in Paradise. Was not the Son of God Himself there beside him, seeking to be of assistance to him? Sometimes, the Boy Jesus would hand him tools, and other times pieces of lumber, even though He was only about five or six years old, He apparently wanted to carry on like a strong, grown-up man, as was indicated by the efforts he made to lift up the heavier boards. The Saint was deeply touched by this and tried in every way possible to limit these exertions. Besides all this, the Divine Youth was always so obliging that He even anticipated Joseph’s needs; and He performed everything in a gracious spirit.
Day 9 of our novena. Ite ad Ioseph (“Go to Joseph”, Genesis 41:55)