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Posts Tagged ‘virtues’

Next to Mary St. Joseph is the second greatest saint. He is a saint we can imitate. Through our devotion to this great saint we can renew our desires to be faithful. What was St. Joseph like? What is there to imitate?

St. Joseph, according to what we know of him in Scripture, never said anything. He is a man of great silence. Instead we see him simply doing the Lord’s commands. The angel told him to take Mary as his wife and to not be afraid. This is what this just man did. He loved Mary and was self-sacrificing and generous.

He was also obedient. In Matthew’s Gospel we are told that “when Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” and took Mary as his wife. Joseph was also obedient to the commands of the legitimate secular authorities. Luke chapter 2 says, “ That a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.” “And Joseph also went up from Galilee… to Judea, to the city of David… to be enrolled with Mary.” He was also familiar with poor and lowly conditions as he witnessed the birth of Jesus that took place in Bethlehem where Mary “gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2: 1-7)

St. Joseph spoke the holy name of Jesus. Luke 2:21 tells us that at his circumcision, “ he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived”. By doing this St. Joseph proclaimed the mission of his foster son as Savior! Jesus will save us from our sins. We too can speak His name like St. Joseph remembering that “there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved”. (Acts 4:12)

Like St. Joseph and Mary we can marvel at what was said about Jesus and at what He says when we read the sacred scriptures and hear Him preached. St. Joseph, along with Mary, most certainly did this. When they took the infant Jesus up to the Temple, Simeon referred to the child as the salvation which God had “prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of the people of Israel”. (Luke 2:31-32) The child was also to be a “sign that is spoken against.” (verse 34)  It is God’s will that all be saved and have access to the Father through His son, Jesus Christ, and to become sharers in the Divine nature. It is at this moment that St. Joseph was reminded of his mission to be the first guardian of this mystery. Later when Jesus was twelve years old and “ supposing him to be in their company… they sought him.” (Lk 2: 43-44) Then after much searching they found him in the temple. Mary speaks. Again Joseph is silent. “Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” (verse 48)  Mary’s concern is for St. Joseph. Jesus reminds St. Joseph once again, as he contemplates the situation, that he is the guardian of that mystery foretold by Simeon – that Jesus is to save people and to be that “light to the Gentiles” – when Jesus replies that he “must be in my Father’s house.” We too, like St. Joseph, are guardians of this Divine mystery.

St. Joseph was the head of the Holy Family, and it was his job to protect his family by fleeing from dangerous situations. When Herod was searching for the child to destroy him, St. Joseph rose and took the infant Jesus and his mother to Egypt. As a father it was St. Joseph’s mission to protect, lead and head the family. Later when things had calmed down with Herod, he took the child and his mother back to Nazareth.  “The child grew and become strong, filled with wisdom: and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2: 40) During these hidden years the whole family lived the hidden human virtues we are all called to live. Simple, humble virtues like: work, religion, family life and activities. These virtues are ways to sanctify our daily lives. There is nothing great here, just ordinary things done daily and lived authentically. St. Joseph can help us with his intercession to live our ordinary family days with devotion and growth in the human virtues, especially the virtue of work.

We can imitate St. Joseph and renew our desires to be faithful. We can strive to be obedient, generous and self-sacrificing. We can be devoted to our family by protecting them and growing daily in the human virtues. We can be silent and marvel at all that Jesus has said and done and is still doing for the salvation of souls. Finally we can guard the mission of Jesus by proclaiming his holy name and praying for the salvation of souls.

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Envy is an emotion and one of the seven capital sins. As an emotion it is that feeling of sadness that we experience within because of the good seen in others. It is “a tendency to be saddened by another’s good as if that good constituted an affront to our own superiority. Often it coincides with the desire of seeing the neighbor deprived of the particular good that offends us.” (The Spiritual Life, by Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S.D.D.)

The chief priests and scribes did not like Jesus.  They were envious of his popularity, his gift of teaching, and his way with the crowds. They did not believe in their own gifts; therefore, they failed to utilize them. They had been given much. Even though under Roman rule, they were free to practice their religion and to teach those under their charge, but they failed. Seeing Jesus and his example should have stimulated them to imitate his good qualities. Instead they let envy get the better of them and wanted to do away with Jesus. For those who the envy is towards, this can be crucifying!

Marco_palmezzano,_crocifissione_degli_Uffizi

Crucifixion of Jesus by Marco Palmezzano (Uffizi, Florence), painting ca. 1490

Envy wants to destroy.

The envious speak ill of others and try to darken their character with all sorts of calumny.

Pilate saw this – why what evil has he done?

Pilate asks the crowd, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”  For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. (Mk 15:9-10) “But the chief priests stirred up the crowd.” (Mk15:11) The envious like to do this – to sow discord. Pilate again asks the crowd what they want him to do with Jesus. “Crucify him” they shouted. Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” (Mk 15: 14)

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Ecce Homo with Jesus and Pontius Pilate, 19th century

Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Ecce Homo with Jesus and Pontius Pilate, 19th century

It was envy that crucified Christ.

Active purification in this case has to do with what do I do with the envy that I feel. Envy is a feeling but also a sin when acted upon. To counter this temptation to scorn my neighbor I can call to mind that my neighbor’s good qualities in no way lessen mine, but “are a stimulus to imitation”. (Tanquerey) This attitude combined with grace received in prayer and the sacraments can lead me on the path of virtue.

Christ was the passive receiver of the emotions of the envious. In this passive purification one suffers from the actions of others. And these bring with it terrible temptations against charity. Who wouldn’t want to strike back? With patience and persevering prayer one can carry on in charity towards those who do such things to them. Christ patiently bore all this even being mocked while suffering and dying on the cross and was able to say, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Lk 23: 34)

 

 

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During St. Teresa’s younger years she was quite ill and even crippled. After seeing how helpless the doctors were, she began to seek help from the saints in heaven that they might cure her. She writes in her autobiography that she took for her advocate and lord St. Joseph recommending herself to him with all earnest. It is to St. Joseph’s intercession that she was able to walk once again. She writes:

“I saw clearly that as in this need so in other greater ones concerning honor and loss of soul this father and lord of mine came to my rescue in better ways than I know how to ask for. I don’t recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for anything that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great many favors God has granted me through the mediation of this blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and soul. For with other saints it seems the Lord has given them grace to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants us to understand that just as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth .  .  .  so in heaven God does whatever he commands.”  (The Book of Her Life)

Once she was in need when setting up a new monastery and did not know how she would pay the workmen. St. Joseph assured her that she “would not be lacking”. She hired the workers even though she did not have any money. The “Lord in ways that amazed those who heard about it provided for me.” Her brother, who was living in South America, sent her the money that she needed. In her letter to him on December 23, 1561, she acknowledges his gift and expresses her gratitude. (The Collected Letters of St. Teresa, Vol 1)

On another occasion she writes about the protection she received from this wonderful saint. In the midst of conflicts and exhausted, St. Teresa didn’t worry. Instead she “prayed to the Lord to protect me and to my father St. Joseph to bring me to his house, and I offered God what I would have to undergo.” 

She always celebrated his feast day with as much solemnity as possible. Since she has experienced so much good from this saint, she has done much in promoting devotion to him. “I have not known anyone truly devoted to him and rendering him special service who has not advanced more in virtue.” And who wouldn’t want to advance in virtue? St. Teresa is convinced that he will benefit souls in a powerful way – all they have to do is to recommend themselves to him. “For some years now I have asked him for something on his feast day, and my petition is always granted.”

St. Teresa also says that St. Joseph is someone who persons of prayer should attach themselves. Since he was so good and assisted the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus, she is convinced through her own experience that he will not fail to assist anyone who is devoted to him and entrusts themselves to him.

 “Those who cannot find a master to teach them prayer should take this glorious saint for their master, and they will not go astray.” 

Ask St. Joseph to help you pray and recommend all your cares and concerns to him. Perhaps there is a virtue that you need. If so, ask St. Joseph for this, today on his feast day.

!!-St.jo-statue

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jnangllarge

Reflect that your guardian angel does not always move your desire for an action, but he does always enlighten your reason. Hence, in order to practice virtue do not wait until you feel like it, for your reason and intellect are sufficient.   (The Sayings of Light and Love #37 – St. John of the Cross)

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jesus-wallpaper-yoke

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” ~ Matthew 11: 28-30

Christ is calling us to live in docile submission to His gentle rule. He is asking us to take on His yoke. His yoke is sweet, with the sweetness of love, and His burden is light. He calls us to come to Him, all of us who are burdened with the sins of this world, and this burden of sin is heavy.

Therefore, all of us who are in trouble, in sorrow, or in sin should come to Him; not so that He can exact punishment, but so that He may remit our sins. He will remit our sins and “refresh” by setting in us all quietness.

“All you going about tormented, afflicted, and weighted down by your cares and appetites, depart from them, come to me  and I will refresh you; and you will find the rest for your souls that the desires take away from you (Mt. 11:28-29). They are indeed a heavy burden, because David says of them: “For my iniquities are gone over my head; and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me.” (Ps 37:5)  [St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book I:7,4]

The yoke is the Gospel of Christ. We need to be so familiar with the Gospel so that we can learn from Christ. Learn from Him to be meek in temper, lowly in mind, not going about hurting others or despising anyone. In addition, make sure that the virtues we show in our deeds are also retained in our heart.

“My yoke is sweet and my burden light (Mt. 11:30), the burden being the cross. If individuals resolutely submit to the carrying of the cross, if they decidedly want to find and endure trial in all things for God, they will discover in all of them great relief and sweetness. This will be so because they will be traveling the road denuded of all and with no desire for anything. If they aim after the possession of something, from God or elsewhere, their journey will not be one of nakedness and detachment form all things, and consequently there will be no room for them on this narrow path nor will they be able to climb.”  [St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II: 7,7]

St. John of the Cross in his Counsels to Religious concerning the practice of virtue says to “undertake all things, agreeable or disagreeable, for the sole purpose of pleasing God through them. To do this with fortitude and constancy and acquire the virtues quickly, you should take care always to be inclined to the difficult more than to the easy, to the rugged more than to the soft, to the hard and distasteful in a work more than to its delightful and pleasant aspects; and do not go about choosing what is less a cross, for the cross is a light burden (Mt. 11:30) The heavier a burden is, the lighter it becomes when borne for Christ.”  [St. John of the Cross, Counsels to Religious no. 5 & 6]

The reward Christ promises for bearing this yoke is rest in our soul. This will make us useful to others and we will also have peace. However, even while submitting to this yoke of Christ we may have to endure some hardships. The Lord says the way is narrow. Indeed the way of virtue is difficult, especially so for the slothful. It may seem that because of these hardships that we are not being called from labor to rest, but from rest to labor. Nevertheless, we are being renewed inwardly and are given a foretaste of rest in God and in the hope of future blessedness with Him in heaven. All things done with love, no matter how hard, are not really hardships because love makes doing the good easy.

The yoke is heavy because of our weak nature, but it becomes light and easy with God’s grace. Christ helps us to bear the yoke. A yoke always joins two. Walk with Him beside you as a friend and all will be sweet and light.

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The month of May is dedicated to Mary. Our devotion to her should consist in imitation of her life and virtues. For Carmelites, she is our teacher and model of the interior life, which is our apostolate. Not to discount or underestimate the exterior apostolate, the interior apostolate consists of prayer, love and sacrifice. The fruitfulness of all exterior activity rests on this interior apostolate.

According to Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D, Mary’s apostolate “was a quiet one, free from ostentation; it was accomplished in the most humble, hidden and silent way.” (Divine Intimacy #184)

Mary shared in the whole life of Jesus, her Son: the daily life of a family, performing household duties, living with difficulties, making sacrifices, enduring trying situations, even sharing in His Passion. In all these ways she shared in the redemptive work of Jesus. His work of redemption still continues, and, like Mary, we can share in that work.

During those times when we feel the pressure of the urgency of our works and become tempted to make these exterior activities the net worth of our apostolate, let’s turn to Mary who shows us how to love, pray and make hidden sacrifices – known only to God and are of infinite value – redemptive value.

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