Friday, 21 September 2007

The St Joseph Community

While I was in Ars way back in February, I was thinking about how we were going to provide a warden for Newman House, the Catholic Chaplaincy where I, together with 12 student residents, live. It was just the mention, made by Fr Richard, that Patrick Morton was looking for some project for this coming academic year which made me think. In fact, it often happens at Ars. Maybe it's something to do with the intercession of the holy Curé. I had already spoken to Chris Wojtulewicz, one of the students here at the University, about the possibilities of coming to live at Newman House. Anyway the inspiration was to have a small community of men, living with me here at Newman House, for two purposes: personal discernment and helping in the Catholic mission to the University. I soon identified a third member, who in the long run was unable to join us. However, over the summer I got in contact with Chris Owens, from North Carolina, who was looking for a place to live in Birmingham, having accepted to start part time work and part time study at Maryvale Institute. Hey presto. There's a community. At the time of writing Patrick and Chris Owens have already moved in, and we eagerly await the arrival of Chris W next week, so community life can start in earnest.

Our life together is based on a pattern of prayer, as you would expect. Morning Gosepl meditation and Lauds; daily Mass; daily Adoration; Rosary. We also have a Monday evening community night when we will have a time of sharing the Gospel for the following Sunday, a good meal and an hour of adoration and night prayer. The rest of the time will involve each of us doing our own work, and also getting involved in the activities of the Chaplaincy. A particular part of that will be - for Patrick, Chris and Chris - running an apologetics session called 'Catholic Answers' before the Sunday evening Mass each week, when they will be able to help students to be equipped to answer questions thrown at Catholics by atheists, agnostics, evangelical Christians, liberal Christians, etc.

One thing that is notable in the Church, at least in England these days, is how devotion to St Joseph has all but disappeared. It may be because the figure of St Joseph seems easy to relegate to a tea towel headed member of the cast of the annual children's nativity play, and to ignore the rest of the time. After all, he does not have a direct role in salvation history. All he seems to do is to look after the central characters of the divine drama - Jesus and Mary. And yet St Joseph is vital in that history of salvation. Without Joseph, Jesus may never have come to be born, in that a woman caught committing adultery - which is what would have been presumed to be Mary's disposition - could be stoned to death. Joseph being a just man was going to quietly put Mary away and divorce her, presuming the same thing. But once he knew God's plan, he silently assented (we never hear him speak in the Gospels) to that plan, and, under the Jewish Law, became the father of Jesus in the eyes of the Law. Thus Jesus became the son of David, descended from the royal line. St Joseph is also fundamental as a role model for Christian men. He was strong, quiet, faithful, reliable and pure. Maybe the crisis in fatherhood, and the depreciation of purity, have a lot to do with the demise of devotion to this great saint. Maybe through our community we will be able to help revive among at least a few people devotion to this great saint, the patron of the Universal Church, and to live a true manly spirituality.

Please pray then for Patrick, Chris, Chris and myself as we begin this community life together for the next year.

O glorious St. Joseph, you were chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the most pure spouse of Mary ever Virgin, and the head of the holy family. You have been chosen by Christ's Vicar as the heavenly patron and protector of the Church founded by Christ. Therefore it is with great confidence that I implore your powerful assistance for the whole Church on earth. Protect in a special manner, with true fatherly love, the Pope and all bishops and priests in communion with the See of Peter. Be the protector of all who labor for souls amid the trials and tribulations of this life, and grant that all peoples of the world may follow Christ and the Church He founded.

Dear St. Joseph, accept the offering of myself which I now make to you. I dedicate myself to your service, that you may ever be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love for the spiritual life. May all my actions, after your example, be directed to the greater glory of God, in union with the divine Heart of Jesus, the immaculate heart of Mary, and your own paternal heart. Finally, pray for me that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely wonderful....

anne said...

May all of you be guided by St Joseph and may his actions be a guiding star to all young men. Please bring back a devotion to this great saint

Unknown said...

Great to have you back Fr. J!

Its really exciting to see the work of the Chaplaincy widening out, and tasting the great BBQ which have gone hand-in-hand with this fantastic initiative! It has only taken you a year before you are launching off into great things. The Archbishop is very wise to place you in such a position.

I also love St Joseph very much. I pray before his statue every time I go to the Oratory, as a role-model in my fatherly life. Might I suggest a shrine in honour of St Joseph be established in the chapel at Newman House?

God bless!