Sunday, 3 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (7)

St Joseph, Educator

Dear pilgrims,
Have you seen the movie Courageous? This remarkable film, recently made by American Christians, is based on the observation that the main reason for juvenile delinquency is the absence of a father, and that it is urgent for fathers to know and courageously fill their job as educators.
For that, we need a model, and this model exists, it is Saint Joseph! You doubt it? Then listen to this meditation!

Major ideas
• The antithesis of modern egoism; Saint Joseph, respectful of women and responsible father. 
• What to educate? The model of Saint Joseph.
• In education, words fly, examples lead!
• A mutual benefit; Saint Joseph, educator and ... educated!

• Education, natural responsibility ... But not only!
• Saint Joseph educator to the end! The boss of the good death.


Saint Joseph is the opposite, the antithesis, of today's view of what a man should be.
Today’s man, fundamentally hedonistic, is dramatically obsessed by you-know-what... while refusing paternity by means of all possible contraceptives, without excluding, of course, abortion!

Saint Joseph, by contrast, deeply respects the virginity of Mary, his wife, but willingly accepts the paternity that God gives him over his Son by entrusting him with his education.
To be a father is not what constitutes the essence of paternity: we must also educate the child we give life to, and that is the task that essentially belongs to the father.
But what is educating? If we look at the Latin origin of the term, we discover that the verb to educate comes from educare, which means: to take care of, to protect, to nourish, to raise.

Now when one reads the Gospels, especially those of St. Matthew and St. Luke, one discovers that St. Joseph did indeed fulfil all these functions with the Infant Jesus.
After his birth, he had to protect him from King Herod who wanted to kill him! On the command of the Angel of the Lord, he fled in haste to Egypt: "Arise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod will seek the child to destroy him "(Mt 2,13). And then St. Joseph worked hard to feed his son; so much so that he is often called the "foster father" of Jesus.

He also raised him by teaching him a job, his own job, that of a carpenter. So that later on, in his public life, Jesus will be identified as the carpenter: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joseph, Jude, and Simon? "(Mk 6,3). Certainly our Lord already knew everything by His divine wisdom and by His infused knowledge, but He wanted to acquire all this in the mode of human experience, and for this new acquisition he had to be guided (see Summa Theologica, IIIa, q, 9, a, 4).

As you can see, Saint Joseph did not omit any of his duties as a father to his son, Jesus! Not only did he not omit anything in his human education, but he also looked after his religious and spiritual education. In the Jewish religion, it is to the father that religious education is essentially entrusted; so St. Joseph taught him the law of God and the Mosaic precepts. We can imagine St. Joseph accompanying the Child Jesus every Saturday to the synagogue of Nazareth, to listen to the word of God. He did not fail to take him to the Temple of Jerusalem for the great ritual celebrations, as we are told by St. Luke in the episode of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.

But you know very well, dear pilgrims, education is not only accomplished by instruction, it also passes most especially by example. A Catholic father who gets drunk and cheats on his wife, even if his instruction of his children is impeccable, will only scandalise them and risk losing their faith. For Saint Joseph, things are different! It is precisely by his example that he teaches the most, because he is known for his silence. With regard to his example, Holy Scripture is precise because it calls him "the just man" (Mt 1,19). And the word "just" in Holy Scripture means "holy."

All this is very beautiful, but we must admit that it is still surprising to speak of Jesus' education, as he is from birth, and even from its conception, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. What makes it all the more surprising is that his educator, although of great sanctity, is only a simple man. Finally, would it not be the educator who needed to be educated? And was it not the baby Jesus who had to educate his parents? Indeed, could we not think that He taught his parents about the divine mysteries from his childhood? The wisdom which he demonstrate to the teachers of the Law, when He is only 12 years old, shows that He was quite capable of teaching the divine mysteries, whilst still very young. Thus in the humble house of Nazareth, the infant Jesus was subject to his parents and allowed himself to be docilely educated by them as they deliciously listened to their son speak to them about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Dear pilgrims, St. Joseph was undoubtedly an excellent educator for his son, Jesus, but is his mission as an educator now complete? For his son, yes! But for us, no! And that's what we would like you to understand from this second part of this meditation.

St. Joseph, as we have said, is first and foremost an educator in the natural order. He makes sure that his children, who we are, have enough to eat, to clothe themselves, to warm themselves, to take shelter! For that, he does not hesitate to perform miracles, very many miracles, so much so that, when a Christian is in distress for anything in the temporal realm, he immediately has the reflex to invoke St. Joseph or to make a novena to him. By way of example, remember the miracles reported by St. Teresa of Avila, which we heard of yesterday as we walked.

Education in the natural order, as you have just heard, is also about caring for, and protecting. St. Joseph, here again, can render us valuable services, just as he did for a famous Danish doctor, who took a train. Falling asleep for a few moments, he found himself facing a colossus of a man who began to strangle him. A devotee of Saint Joseph, he invoked him to come to his rescue... then a formidable punch floored the colossus. Very surprised, both looked to the side of the window, from where the punch had come, and then saw the face of Saint Joseph as it was represented on the statue that the doctor had in his house. The aggressor, touched in both senses of the word, eventually converted and finally delivered himself to justice for all his misdeeds.

Note that the miracles of St. Joseph, even if they operate in the temporal or bodily realms, very often lead people to a true conversion, because this is ultimately the most important role of education: to raise souls to God for their salvation!

What is more important than our salvation and the last moments of our life? One woman who had led a bad life and who was dying on January 2, 1885 knew it very well, hence her despair at not being able to confess before dying. It was then that an old man presented himself that very night to a priest to tell him that it was urgent to go to a particular address, in spite of it being a cold and dark night. Very doubtful, because of the address which indicated a brothel, he hesitated; but the old man insisted so much that he let himself be convinced to come and give the last sacraments to this poor woman. Once on the spot, no one inside he house would open the door; it was the old man who opened the door, no one knows how, so that the priest could go to the dying woman. She was very surprised but pleased to see a priest come to her. She then confessed the sins of her long sinful life, which weighed heavily on her conscience. Struck by the woman's strong contrition, the priest asked her if she had not kept some religious practice. "None," she said, "except a prayer I recited every day to St. Joseph for a good death.” At that moment, the priest understood that this mysterious old man, coming from nowhere, was none other than Saint Joseph, patron saint of the good death!

Dear pilgrims, let us therefore be educated by St. Joseph, both in the natural and supernatural order; he will protect us on earth and lead us to Heaven! But for that, let's have a real and deep devotion to him.

And then, let us pray that boys, young people, fathers of families and even priests, no longer hesitate to take him as a model. In the current social debacle, it is urgent that a new generation of fathers should rise up! No, it is not Macron, nor Trump, nor Putin who are our models, but Saint Joseph, because he alone embodies all the virtues necessary to be a father and a true educator both in the family and in the social order.

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