Saturday 16 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (13)

This is the thirteenth and final meditation on the theme of St Joseph, the patron of this year's Chartres pilgrimage.

St Joseph, Guardian of the Mission


"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of sobriety."

Dear pilgrims, 

These words of Saint Paul... are an 'exact portrait' of Saint Joseph!

He is: a perfect spouse, a model father, and an exemplary humble servant. He is a shining example for us to follow!

He is not: insignificant, uncertain, mediocre, cowardly, weak. That is a caricature of Saint Joseph and we should steer well clear of it.

Main Points
Saint Joseph is the protector and guardian of all missionaries.
Saint Joseph is quick and generous in his response to God’s will. 
Saint Joseph is the guardian of our mission in our everyday lives.


Saint Joseph, protector and guardian of all missionaries.

Which mission are we talking about? The quintessential mission: to show others the way to Christ. It was Our Lady who gave the Incarnate Word to the world; but Saint Joseph brought it about, he ‘organised’ God’s entrance into the world by dealing efficiently with all the necessary practical arrangements and by being present to protect and care for Our Lady.

Let us remember the thousands of ways in which Saint Joseph took care of Our Lady, during her pregnancy, at the birth of Our Lord and throughout Our Lord’s childhood! These are the type of things that a missionary is called to do whether in an orphanage in Africa... a steppe in Mongolia... or a Muslim suburb in France! Allow divine grace to work in souls, cut a path for them to God’s word in order to help them to believe. Why? So that this divine grace, this salvific word of God brings the fruit of conversion. Are we concerned with this in our apostolates and in our spiritual lives?

Saint Joseph, hero of realism and of good sense. This brings us to some thought-provoking questions as we reach the end of our pilgrimage; "am I an activist who is disconnected from God? Am I sentimental and full of false illusions about the spiritual life?" Consider when Jesus was lost in the temple; there was no panic and there was no hesitation! There was just an immediate about-turn, to go and look for the child... And he was found at the time, and in the place where God wanted him to be found.

Saint Joseph, hero of silence, of prayer, of Christian nobility Pilgrim... Priest, religious, father, mother, spouse, single person, student, child...

  • Do you want to be 'men of God?'... Really? Then guard your heart from the agitation of feelings and emotions. This will allow the light of your faith to shine more brightly, and will let others perceive in you the dignity of a child of God that you received at your baptism.
  • Dear pilgrims, do you want to be 'the light of the world?' 
  • Will you pray?... tirelessly, endlessly.... Even when it appears that human stupidity, cruelty and spitefulness have the upper hand?
  • Do you know how to hold on to the joy that God gives us, how to be a missionary of truth as well as of charity? Do you follow the advice of little Saint Teresa of Lisieux: 'always have a smile ready, even on joyless days'?
  • Do you know how to carve out a period of silence for God each day? When, how much time... In place of what? (screen, computer, mobile phone, online chat, films, getting up late...) The Gospels recount for us seven of Our Lady’s sayings, but there are none from Saint Joseph. May their charity inspire our words and our silence
Saint Joseph, always ready to do the will of God

God gave Saint Joseph his instructions in a dream... But Saint Joseph wasn’t a dreamer! He responded to God’s call without question. And he responded immediately and generously.

  • Are we going to recognise and accept 'God’s unexpected requests' with such willingness and generosity? Even when they go against our plans both small and large?
  • Let’s think about this... an accident, an illness, a professional setback, a disappointment in love, a hurricane...Would we accept these with the conviction that God never asks of us anything 'that we do not have the strength to bear?'
  • Saint Joseph takes up challenges, without rush or delay. It is the golden rule of apostolic work; generosity and prudence. Confidence in God does not leave room for stupidity, weirdness or absurdity !
  • In our apostolate do we know how to keep the right balance of availability and detachment with souls, in order to truly serve Christ and his work of redemption ?
  • Through Saint Joseph... perseverance ! When he was put to the test he accepted God’s will to the very end, even though he did not fully understand it.
  • What do we do in the face of a cross, a temptation, a repetitive spiritual fall that seems to never end? We would like to go 'elsewhere'.... However, we need to remain with God in the discomfort we find ourselves in ! And to become more like the living image of his mercy and love....
Saint Joseph, our protector in our daily mission.
What are our daily calls to mission? Because we are all called to mission! A student who has to correct firmly and respectfully a teacher who denigrates the faith in front of a class... A young girl who defends purity in the face of the crass vulgarity of her colleagues... A doctor who with professionalism and kindness dissuades someone from having recourse to surrogacy. A mother of a family who protects her child from evil influences by removing them from occasions where they are likely to be encountered....

There have been and there will continue to be heroic missionaries in our day!

For these situations, Saint Joseph is our model and our ally, he watches over us just as he watched over the Infant Jesus. Yes, just as closely and just as well!

Great Saint Joseph, make us missionaries with strong and steadfast hearts: for the world has great need of such missionaries!

Thursday 14 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (12)

St Joseph in Civic Society


Dear pilgrims,
When we learn about the saints we often find that what we love most about them is their realism, their balance between "a head in Heaven and feet on earth!" In this regard Saint Joseph is an excellent role model.

He is a moral man, a virginal spouseand foster father,” “head of the Holy Family”, “craftsman”, and contemplativeguardian of the Mystery.

But he is also ... a Nazarene, son of the earth, homo politicus. Saint Joseph is rooted in a civic society, in the history of his people. He belongs, like each of us, both to his celestial country and to his earthly one.

So let’s rediscover this little known message of Saint Joseph.

Main Points

  • Saint Joseph rendered to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s. 
  • Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus, gave Our Lord His familial identity on earth. 
  • Saint Joseph, guardian of the civil law, natural and divine.
  • Saint Joseph, patriot in his fatherland.
  • Saint Joseph, son of the Church.
  • Saint Joseph, servant of the common good.


Saint Joseph rendered to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s.
He obeyed the law of Caesar Augustus (the census). On a deeper level he obeyed the Jewish Law of Moses (The Presentation of the Child in the Temple).

Foster father of Jesus, he gave Our Lord His family identity on earth.
Saint Joseph had the responsibility of conferring the name of Jesus, which the angel had requested of Our Lady (and certainly, there would have been no dispute over which name to choose for the new baby!) It was under his guidance that Our Lord became an adult man and affirmed himself little by little as just that; true man and also true God, the only Son who had to be about the affairs of His Eternal Father.

Saint Joseph, guardian of the civil law, natural et divine.
He is par excellence "a just man;" He lives the Law as gospel, he seeks the path that brings law and love into a unity. And so he is inwardly prepared for the new, unexpected and humanly speaking incredible news that comes to him from God.  (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives).

Saint Joseph, patriot in his fatherland.
Saint Joseph, like Jesus in later life, was attached to his country in every ‘fibre of his being.’ He received his heritage and patrimony with great piety, he guarded it and he passed it on. He loved its history, and he shared in its joys and sorrows. And what a country! The "Land of God," the Holy Land!  The Church never decries a man’s love for his country; it is a duty (under the 4th commandment), an extension of familial love. This is an important truth that is often either ignored or misunderstood!

Saint Joseph, son of the Church.
The Israel of the Old Testament is the figure of the "new Israel of God", the Church. Saint Joseph is Her first witness. With the unfaithfulness of the old Israel, he sees the advent of the Church that will be founded by Christ. He is there at Her beginning. He is among Her first members, from the start, at Bethlehem and at Nazareth.

Servant of the common good.
"He was a committed man" (Paul VI). Committed to serve the highest cause: the Reign of God ! "Committed, absolutely, to the compromise of his honour, his tranquillity, his happiness, his royal dignity...he committed himself without a backward glance.... He was a committed layperson; he didn’t live his consecration to the reign of God as a priest, by carrying out religious actions, but he lived it through his family life and his professional life, similar to our own, except that he had the immediate benefit of Christ as his adopted son. In civil life, he also held a role; that of a craftsman in the society of his time." Joseph was the father of fidelity (civil and religious) in a situation where his faithfulness was put to the test. The right of entry into the Heavenly City is bought by blood and tears, whether the martyrdom be bloody or not: "He that loved father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Mt 10, 37). "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14, 26).

Dear pilgrims, let us imitate Saint Joseph in serving the Church, without neglecting our natural communities. He is our example in this regard. His way is, according to Paul VI, "a path that God has drawn for our footsteps."

Sunday 10 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (11)

St Joseph - Model of Workers


Dear pilgrim friends !

On the 10th May 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of Saint Joseph, artisan and worker, choosing the date of 1st May for the feast. By establishing Saint Joseph as ‘patron saint of workers’ he gave as an example to follow in our own labours.

Main Points
Saint Joseph teaches us the benefits of work
Work : a curse, or an inevitable evil
The nobility of work, the activity proper to man.
Technology in the service of man, not the other way round
Work in the service of the common good, an act that is both charitable and respectful of others a structure - a culture of welcoming diverse talents
Good and bad inequalities.
Contemporary plagues – lack of work, the disappearance of Sunday as a day of rest. 

Saint Joseph teaches us the benefits of work. At Nazareth, he provided for the material needs of the Holy Family by his modest work as a carpenter, even though he was, like Mary, a member of the royal race of David. (Gen I,27). He worked all his life, teaching his trade to his adopted son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who thus sanctified work and in particular manual work. Life at Nazareth seemed to run on the three pillars of : "Work, family, prayer."

Let us begin by clearing away the popular misgiving that work is a curse : Genesis affirms that : "God placed Adam in a Paradise that he would cultivate it" (Gen II,15). From the time of Creation work has corresponded to the will of God for men. Adam and Eve worked in the terrestrial paradise; however there would have been no suffering involved in their work. It was original sin which brought an element of suffering into work. "You will eat your bread by the sweat of your brow" (Gen III,19). Pope John XXIII spoke of this in a radio message on 1st May 1960, the feast of Saint Joseph the worker: "Work is a sublime mission. It allows man to collaborate with God in an intelligent and efficient manner (...) all the difficulties in work, can be made part of God’s redemptive plan, who having saved the world by the love and suffering of His only begotten Son, made human suffering, united with that of Christ, a precious means of sanctification."

In contrast with animals, man has to work to tame nature to meet his needs: to feed himself, dress himself, protect himself against the elements, but also to honour his dead, to engage in artistic or intellectual activities, to think about the meaning of life. By his actions man takes part in God’s work of creation. He is the image of God who is pure Act.

Work is the actualisation of God’s commandment in Genesis: "Fill the earth and subdue it." The words of Scripture teach us that everything in Creation is at the service of man who, himself, is at the service of God. "All are yours, and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s" (1Cor III, 22).

This subjugation of nature by man is achieved with tools and technology, which are man’s allies when they are at his service. Unfortunately though, it often happens that in place of technology remaining at the service of man, man ends being enslaved in the service of technology.

Work is man’s ‘good’. But as Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us it is a difficult good. This is true under two aspects: initially, man transforms nature by adapting it to his own needs, and subsequently work becomes fulfilling for him. Working hard becomes a virtue: "In working, man perfects in himself the image of God" (Pius XII, Christmas 1955). Work educates and develops a great many natural virtues: fortitude as well as prudence, justice as well as temperance.

This is on the condition that man is not used just as a tool, a ‘human resource’, but that work is organised so that people can work as human beings able to use their initiative and take responsibility.

Another benefit, is that through work, man learns humility because he is faced with reality, and with knowledge of the true order of things. An engineer, a farmer, a manual labourer, a craftsman are, daily, confronted with reality, and with the more or less immediate consequences of their actions. This is less true of ‘intellectual’ professions where work has less interaction with practical realities.

Finally, work has an undeniable social dimension:

  • Through work, man carries out acts of charity by responding to the needs of others. He makes himself a "minister of God" producing goods and services of use to others: works of art, knowledge, bread, clothing, health services, transport, banking etc. etc.
  • Work is also a place where one learns to practice respect for others and solidarity with others. It is rare in work not to depend on one or several other persons: suppliers, colleagues etc.
  • Work is a socially structured activity which requires respect for time-keeping, team working, and listening to the needs of the ‘customer’ in order to give him, at best, satisfaction.
Work enables us to serve the common good, and each of us does this according to the talents that we have been given, in order that these bear the best fruit possible.

Therein lies a certain inequality. But inequality is a fact of life. Our Lord affirmed this to Saint Catherine of Sienna in the Dialogues: "I do not give all the virtues equally to everyone (...) I use the word temporal for the things necessary to the physical life of man; all these I have given indifferently, and I have not placed them all in one soul, in order that man should, perforce, have material for love of his fellow. I could easily have created men possessed of all that they should need both for body and soul, but I wish that one should have need of the other, and that they should be My ministers to administer the graces and the gifts that they have received from Me. Whether man will or no, he cannot help making an act of love. It is true, however, that that act, unless made through love of Me, profits him nothing so far as grace is concerned. See then, that I have made men My ministers, and placed them in diverse stations and various ranks, in order that they may make use of the virtue of love.”

The inequalities which are condemned, however, are those iniquitous ones, which are contrary to equity and social justice. Most prevalent of these in our society today is widespread unemployment. Modern Western society, in particular France, has seen the emergence of an ever increasing number of people who are not working, several million people without work, and consequently deprived of all the benefits of work, except (when they meet the necessary criteria) the benefit of collecting a wage. There are those who even propose paying a universal income, that is, an income which would be paid whether one works or not! 

Saint Paul writes against this: “If any man will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thessalonians 3, 10)  The lesson is clear. For man, there is no bread without work. Each one can however ask himself: Is my work a means of personal sanctification and of real benefit to the common good? Or is it simply a way to earn money and at best, ensure the subsistence of my family, or at worst finance a life of holidays and parties, dubious privileges of squanderers, the selfish, and the immature, who are failing to pass on the precious heritage they have received?

But there is another, less widespread, pitfall and that is disregarding Sunday as a day of rest; turning it into a workday just like any other. This pitfall makes work into an idol, sacrificing everything to it: family life, intellectual life, spiritual life, relaxation etc.etc. In this regard we turn to the teaching of Our Divine Master, who, when observing Martha becoming stressed about the meal she was preparing, said to her: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and are troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke X,42).

Although God has commanded man to work, the essential is not there. Work permits man to be free of material constraints so that he can ensure his condition as a child of God in the different states of life in which he finds himself. It is this condition of being a child of God which is the essential, because we are made for God. Work itself should serve this quest for eternal life with Him.

Friday 8 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (10)

Those who read my reflections on this year's Chartres pilgrimage will recall that Jamie Bogle gave us a talk on Blessed Charles; he was also the patron of the third day of the pilgrimage; and this is the official meditation on his life and legacy.

Blessed Charles of Austria, Emperor of Peace (1887 -1922)

I. Introduction

Dear Pilgrims, 
"If you want to forge a straight furrow, then hitch your plough to a star!"

The saints are our stars. They guide us from Heaven on the narrow path of Christian perfection. The Church reminds us of this daily in the liturgy. Just read over and reflect on the many prayers in the missal in honour of the saints.

Our star today is Blessed Charles of Austria, Emperor of Peace. The Church has given him to us, as:

  • A modern sovereign who was aware of his responsibilities, and 
  • An intercessor who is a model of a Catholic husband and father, so necessary today in this time of moral decay and the corruption of marriage and the family.

Let us consider Charles’ holy life in three acts and an epilogue.

The 3 acts

• 1887 - 1914: Charles’ birth and youth. 
• 1914 - 1918: Charles’ turning point.
• 1918 - 1922: Charles’ final days

• 1949 - 2004: Charles’ epilogue and triumph.

1887 - 1914: Charles’
early years
1887: Charles was born at the castle of Persenberg, in Austria... Under the watchful eye of his mother Maria Josefa, Charles lived to the full the maxim of Saint Paul; "The exercise of the body is somewhat useful. But piety is useful in all things as it holds the promise of eternal life!"

And you, pilgrim friend? Do you love and frequent the Mass? Charles assisted at Mass every day.
What is your attitude before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar? Charles encountered Him daily in communion and adoration.

Do you pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary? Charles prayed the rosary every day just as she asked us to. He also greeted her three times a day with the Angelus.

Do you meet the merciful Christ in the sacrament of confession? Charles examined his conscience daily and went to confession weekly.

Are you looking for a life free of contradictions, a life where all your actions, even ordinary every day actions are undertaken with the same spirit? Do you avoid excess and addictions? Are you enslaved to modern technology? Through his offering of each day, Charles received from God all that was necessary for his body, and he asked that God make use of him for the greater good.

After his studies at the University of Prague, Charles became an officer in the cavalry. In 1911 he married Princess Zita of Bourbon Parma; their marriage was one of mutual faith, love and piety. Their ultimate aim was clear from the beginning: "Now we must help each other to get to Heaven!" God crowned their marriage with eight children. Throughout their lives together Charles and Zita encouraged each other unceasingly with a devout and lively faith, they "loved each other in God."

1914 - 1918: Charles’ turning point
On 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated! Charles’ destiny, and that of his empire, Europe and the world, was turned upside down. He was now the heir to the imperial throne... On 21 November 1916 he acceded to power. Charles was a pragmatic man, and he knew that his country could not win the war – he wanted to stop the conflict in an honourable manner. However, how could he, on the one hand, reform the monarchy and improve conditions for the Slavs, and on the other hand, make peace with his current adversaries?

"He who attempts nothing.... has nothing!" Charles launched secret negotiations to obtain a separate peace; his was the only response to Pope Benedict XV’s call for peace. Tragically however, he was betrayed by Clemenceau who made the negotiations public. Charles was now stuck between the fury of the enemies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who were bent on its destruction, and the spirit of all-out war which had consumed his own allies. In November 1918, as predicted, the Austro-Hungarians and their allies were decisively defeated. After the armistice Emperor Charles and Zita left for exile.

1918 - 1922: Charles’ final years
So it was in 1918 that the imperial Royal family’s exile began. It was a period of trial and tribulation similar to that of Saint Joseph and the Holy Family. After two unsuccessful attempts at being restored to the throne, Charles and Zita were placed under house arrest on the Island of Madeira. It was the middle of winter and the house that had been lent to them was cold and damp. By springtime Emperor Charles had fallen fatally ill. On the 1st April 1922 he called his oldest son, the Archduke Otto, to his bedside, “that he would see how a Christian returns to his Creator.” After four hours of agony, Charles gave his soul to God. He was 34 years old. His final two acts had been to forgive his enemies and to offer his sufferings for others - for his own family, for his own peoples and, for the biggest family God had entrusted to him - his empire.

1949 - 2004: Charles’ epilogue and triumph
In 1949, the Church began the investigation into Charles’ life and virtues. Pope John Paul II had been baptised with the Christian name, Charles (Karol) because of his father’s admiration for Emperor Charles of Austria, and it was this Pope who ensured that the investigation was carried through. He declared Charles Blessed in 2004; "His chief concern was to follow his Christian vocation to holiness also in his political actions. May he be an example for all of us, especially those who have political responsibilities in Europe today.” The message is clear: holiness is a personal ideal certainly... but not selfish nor individualistic.

Blessed Charles of Austria, be our role model on earth and our ally in Heaven !
Help married and engaged couples to live out their marriages as means to their own salvation and to that of their spouse.
Help the Church authorities and the civil authorities "to watch over law, justice and peace for the good of God’s Church and those people entrusted to it."
Help political decision makers to search for and promote a fair and just peace within nations and between nations.
Help us, in particular us men, to maintain a deep and virile piety which is free of human respect and for the greater honour of God !

Thursday 7 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (9)

St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church


Dear pilgrim friends,

There may be some hunters among you ... and surely they know St. Hubert well! An unrepentant hunter, converted on Good Friday by the cross appearing between the antlers of a stag, he became patron saint of hunters ...

Maybe your car or scooter keys are fixed on a key ring with the effigy of St. Christopher! One day he was carrying a child on his shoulder to help him to cross a river and stay dry; he was surprised to fall under the weight of the toddler ... who was none other than the Child Jesus, and who ended up carrying him!

How many of us have invoked Saint Anthony of Padua to find a laptop, a key, a wallet, etc ... This saint was envied by one of his brothers; his annotated Bible was stolen, but later then returned, including a precious collection of his sermons!

Finally - perhaps you know what a cruciverbist is? He is a crossword player ... who has Saint Laurence as patron saint, as he was martyred on a grid!

Saint Joseph, is the patron of the universal Church ... Why is that? Let's rediscover it together.

Major ideas
• A little history...
• Why Saint Joseph is patron of the Church.
• Saint Joseph propelled into postmodernity!
• Saint Joseph embodies and rehabilitates fatherhood and authority.


A little history...
Saint Joseph is ... prodigious! At the same time he is a worker and a boss ... What a beautiful reply to Karl Marx. Carpenter workman, and boss of the largest and most lasting enterprise: the Church!

It was under Blessed Pope Pius IX that the persecuted Church was placed in the hands of St. Joseph in 1870. Then Leo XIII, St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II recalled the role of St. Joseph. In 1962, his name entered the "very exclusive" Roman Canon of the Mass; a text so sacred that we rarely alter it like that...

Why Patron of the Church?
To sum up, he exercises over the Church the very same role he had with regard to Jesus:

  • He protected Jesus from the slaughter of the innocents. He now protects the Mystical Body of Jesus, the Church ... "Jesus spread and communicated" !!
  • He is above all loved by and close to God. He reflected in time the eternal Father... He closely followed the beginnings of the Incarnate Word in this world... He is a friend of God, an intimate friend of God. He teaches God's approach: supernatural intimacy with Jesus and Mary.
  • Joseph watches over the growth of the Church, as He watched over the growth of Jesus. The Church must grow in the world, as Jesus grew in this world... by the zeal of missionaries, preachers, Christians who bring Christ to the world. By the grace that flows in the sacraments.
  • The life of Saint Joseph is a perfect "tutorial" for the zealous missionary; faithful - hardworking - discreet - modest ... A good antidote to the easy and servile postures of the modern world!
  • Joseph is silent ... And his silence tells us again: "In you, through you, in your thoughts, your words, your actions, we must hear the word of Jesus, we must see the light of Jesus shine. "
  • He is an "upstanding watchman"! He knows everything about family, work, country, etc.

Saint Joseph propelled into postmodernity!
This "big word" of the philosopher Rémi Brague designates our era and its tendencies; it means "After modernity" (so far, so easy) ... Modernity refers to the cultural atmosphere that appeared in the Renaissance and culminated in the Enlightenment.
To put it briefly:

  • Reason separated from God, "autonomy", is the only source of "values".
  • History is driven by increasing and unlimited progress.
  • Faith and reason no longer recognise each other; they are separated, opposed, and eliminate each other.
  • Religion only pertains to the private sphere.

Obviously, the crazy dreams of modernity were shattered... in their encounter with facts (the history of the twentieth century).
And that brings us to postmodernity

  • Reason is weakened, disqualified. No more intelligence, only feeling. No more objectivity, only subjective impressions; to each his own truth!
  • Progress leads both to improvement and to deterioration. Technical progress is cumulative (we add discoveries, advances), but wisdom is not (madness of ideologies). Atomic fission gave electricity to our national grid ... and resulted in the atomic bomb! Hence the pessimism of Michel Houellebecq: "The worst is yet to come ..."
  • Once reason and religion are separated, both disappear behind sentimentalism and syncretism. A large domain of vague, exotic religiosities, where everyone chooses ... Hence the proliferation of sects, "wisdoms", superstitions, gurus, manipulators ...
  • And finally, the search for one’s own comfort, one’s own individual interest with complete disregard for everyone else.

After this depressing little description, it is clear that Saint Joseph does not seem very "postmodern"! 

Saint Joseph embodies and rehabilitates fatherhood and authority. 
There was a true marriage between the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. From this true marriage arises a true legal paternity for Saint Joseph. He receives a natural authority and exercises it perfectly. What excellent teaching on the family, paternity, authority, which is so attacked, exploded, recomposed, "reinvented" in our time...

In the last apparition at Fatima on October 13, 1917, Saint Joseph appeared with the child Jesus. Both seemed to bless the world with gestures they made with their cross-shaped hands. He is the great protector of the Church, of marriage and of the family, especially in our time, marked as it is by the rejection of God, of paternity and authority.

Tuesday 5 June 2018

Discerning God's Will

It can be hard, at times like these, when Ireland has unleashed abortion on its population by a popular vote, and when MPs in Westminster signal that many are quite ready to remove even what little restraint there is on abortion in England and impose that regime on Northern Ireland as well... it can be hard, I say, to remember that all this is in line with the permissive will of God.

Of course, not His active will; but the price He is prepared to pay for giving mankind free will: the ability to choose to love, and the necessary counterpart to that, the ability to choose not to love. 

But despair at these developments shows a very limited historical perspective; God allowed Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and countless others to kill in huge numbers; he has allowed the evil of abortion on a far greater scale, already, than that being introduced at present; and He has paid the price - on the Cross.

Why this is His will - even His permissive will - is always a challenging question; but it is scarcely a new one. One might speculate that the West has to reach a certain depth of depravity in order to recognise the need for conversion, to be re-born as a Christian society. But that is speculation.

What is easier to discern is what His will is for us in this situation. As St Teresa of Calcutta said, our job is not to win, but to be faithful.

Sometimes, of course, when one is feeling oppressed by the World, even discerning God's will for oneself is tough; in those cases, I find it easiest to consider what the Devil wants from the situation (it is sad that I find it easier to discern his mind than God's, but there it is...)  

So the Devil would like me to give up and despair of good ever triumphing (sin against hope); to hate and abuse those who wreak this great evil (sin against charity); to doubt that God is omnipotent or all-good, or that the Church is right on these matters (sin against Faith) and so on.

Which makes my immediate plan clear: I must keep working for life and keep hope alive; I must love and pray for those who have done such evil, as Our Lord loved and prayed for those who crucified Him; and I must keep the Faith, particularly by recourse to the Sacraments, and an active spiritual life, in this terrible time.


May our Blessed Mother, St Joseph her chaste spouse, St Michael and all the angels and saints pray for us, for all who promote, procure or perform abortions, for all victims of abortion, and for all who work for the cause of life.

Chartres 2018: Meditations (8)

Joseph contemplates Jesus through Mary


Dear pilgrim friends!

We walk under the patronage of St. Joseph, and now we look at him as a model of contemplation. We must start from a simple idea; man is a contemplative animal. Gifted with intelligence, he can know the truth. And speaking of the gift of grace, of active living faith, he can know Christ who is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Well, Saint Joseph fulfilled that ideal of life: He contemplated Jesus through Mary.

Major ideas

• At the beginning of Joseph's contemplation, there is a great human love for Mary.
• The contemplation of Saint Joseph goes through 3 stages; test, acceptance, reward.
• Two major qualities of Saint Joseph; a man of his word, and a silent man.
• Joseph teaches us to see how the will of God is fulfilled in the
course of events.
• Joseph contemplates Jesus in Mary, then with her; Nazareth, Bethlehem.
• Joseph transmits (to the shepherds, to the magi) He whom he has contemplated with Mary; the Saviour.
• Light, glory and sword; presentation and flight to Egypt.
A love that fears losing God, seeks him, and finds him in fidelity to the duty of his state;
• The Finding in the Temple, and the hidden life in Nazareth.
• At the end of his contemplation; the arrival in heaven of Jesus and Mary.


At the origin of Joseph's contemplation, there is a great human love.
Joseph is a righteous man and a "poor man of God". He practices the Divine Commandments internally and externally. He devotes himself to the craft of carpenter, helps the poor according to his means, and practices great piety. Here he is seized by the discreet grace of Mary, daughter of Anne and Joachim. Collected, smiling, kind ...
"Yes, she is not indifferent to me ... Yes, I love her." Their exchanges pass from family news to the things of God. Human love is developed into true spiritual friendship.

"Dear Mary, I prayed a long time, questioned your parents... Do you agree... Would you like to become my wife?

"Dear Joseph, I must confide a secret to you; I dedicated myself to God in virginity.”

"To be honest, I am not surprised. Do you want to protect this secret, this consecration, by a virgin marriage?

Yes, I do want to do that."

The contemplation of Saint Joseph; test, acceptance, and reward

• What test? The test of total faith, of the abandonment of human security, the confusing path of Providence. Mary returns from Elisabeth's house; Joseph finds that she is pregnant.

Now, what is to be done? How may he:
  1. Keep Mary close to him?
  2. Avoid shame and public condemnation, the accusation of adultery? 
  3. Follow the plan of God in this unforeseen circumstance?
  4. Reconcile law and love?

• What acceptance? "O my God, you ask me to give up the one I love most - I offer this sacrifice to you." He chooses to separate from Mary, but in secret.

• What reward? His mission is confirmed! "Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife..." Husband of the Mother of God ... "What is in her is of the Holy Spirit! She will give birth to a son, and you will give him the name of Jesus, because it is he who will save his people from their sins." Guardian of the Incarnate Word, saviour of men!

Joseph, man of silence and speech

Joseph's silence ... That's what he teaches us most importantly! Silence is a favourable condition for God's approach. Before God, three times Holy, transcendent, our poor human words are extinguished ... Joseph shows us that to find Jesus, we must enter the dark certainty of faith. (See teaching on silence in the liturgy).

Joseph before Mary, "the living tabernacle"

"Behold, the Virgin is going to conceive and she will give birth to a Son, and he will be called I-manu-El, God with us" ... With the words of Isaiah, Joseph contemplates the grave beauty of the pregnant Virgin. The Incarnate Word confuses all pride, being a small embryo, not disdaining the breast of a Virgin (Te Deum)! This is how God loved men (Jn III, 15)!

The plan of God is fulfilled in the humble thread of events: On the way to Bethlehem!

"The Son of David must be born in the City of his father, because he is the heir to all promises," said Joseph to himself ... And this hidden and carried King Messiah will be gentle and humble, he comes to evangelize the poor (see Isaiah, Ch 11, 42 and 61). "Yes”, he thinks, “God speaks in events. This decree of the Emperor for the census is a sign that we are fulfilling Micah's prophecy.” Joseph contemplates the wisdom of God in his Providence.

In Bethlehem, the mystery wrapped in silence ...

In the midst of silence, in the night, Joseph and Mary fall to their knees and adore this child who is given to them ... Almighty God... "Wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger". Joseph contemplates with Mary. The eyes of both are turned to Jesus. Their two hearts and their two voices murmur with respect the revealed Name; "Jesus - God saves"... This same name still murmured by our brothers of the East, even in persecution; by so many lips repeating the Ave Maria. This vision of Joseph and Mary, of the nascent Church, is already missionary, preacher. They associate the shepherds and the magi with it, as ambassadors of all the pagans who will then "want to see Jesus"!

The light, the glory and the sword: The presentation at the temple 40 days later, in Jerusalem.

In the temple, the priest presents Jesus to God in the first "elevation". Then old Simeon announces the sacrifice of Christ and the union of Mary to this sacrifice. Yes, Jesus, to be light and glory, must be the host of a sacrifice. Joseph guesses that he and his wife must be associated with the sacrifice of which they come in some way to perform the offertory.

Fleeing the sword that will kill the Holy Innocents, Joseph "saves the Saviour"! He makes possible this future Passion, which he will not see with his eyes.

Anguish of the loss, and life hidden in God

After the return to Nazareth, Joseph sees Jesus grow and strengthen, in size, in grace, in wisdom... Human life is thus very great, since it was thus touched, sanctified, redeemed by Jesus! "The humble life / boring and easy work / is a work of choice / which requires a lot of love" (P. Verlaine) ... because it is the work of the God incarnate.

At the age of 12, Jesus is lost and found during the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover. Three days of anguish! The emotional reunion, the tender reproaches of the mother, the deep response of Jesus are a real lesson of prayer! One can love God and live in his presence without always feeling it.

Is it that the eyes of our heart are still dimmed? Can self-love still prevent us from hearing and accepting the words of Jesus: "Why seek me? ... I must be about my Father's business"?

In three years in Paradise. Joseph's death, between Jesus and Mary

"My Lord and my son, remember me when you come to your Kingdom.Yes, it is close, the moment of being together in Paradise. There, Joseph, Patron of the Church, will present to the Saviour the souls he has mysteriously guided to Him under the gaze of Mary.

Dear pilgrims, with Saint Joseph, let us learn to be, more and better, contemplatives of Jesus; through Mary and with her!

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.