A friendly word

The meaning of the feast of St. Joseph for the Order

In this article, the Augustinian Recollect Michael Stechmann reflects on the importance of the feast of Saint Joseph for the Augustinian Recollects.

Our Constitutions remind us in No. 80 that “The devotion and honor paid to St. Joseph, special protector of the Order, also constitutes part of the Augustinian Recollect spirituality.”  Within the Augustinian Family the devotion to St. Joseph dates to the XV century but our history shows that it was the Recollects and Discalced Augustinians who, having the faculty for this devotion, began the celebration of the feast after the Chapter of 1669.

It’s wonderful that we pause during these days of Lent to celebrate this Solemnity of the protector of our Order.  So little has been said about Joseph that he’s considered the “forgotten saint”.  Artists have depicted him as both old and young.  History scholars believe that he and Mary were both young when Jesus was born.   While there are differences, what is universally understood is that Joseph was in tune with the living God.  Was he a dreamer?  Perhaps.  But he was a man of contemplative prayer who allowed the voice of God to guide him.  This dreamer chose to protect the reputation of Mary rather than save his own name.

If Joseph would walk in our midst today, he would be an advocate for all of us, especially women preparing for birth, fathers of families and the unborn.  He would understand the plight of the homeless and the resistance of neighbors.

In preparing our Life and Mission Projects, we are asked to dedicate time for communal reflection, Examen and Chapter of Renewal.  With this in mind, let us use this time to reflect on how we, like Joseph are in touch with the voice of God in our everyday lives and even in our dreams.

Joseph the Just Man – this was a title given to him by John Paull II in his exhortation, “The Guardian of the Redeemer”.  Just, righteous, honest and with integrity.  We in the community and every member of the Church are called to holiness.  We can ask ourselves:  How am I living this call to holiness?  Am I developing the virtues that St. Joseph witnessed?  Am I developing the integrity, honesty and character of St. Joseph?

Joseph the Obedient One – he was obedient as soon as he knew God’s will for him.  He accepted his special role as guardian and protector.  In his obedience, he never questioned Divine Providence.  During these days of Lent, am I making an effort to abandon myself to the will of God?   And, how strong is my resolve to be so obedient.  Am I making an effort to “Go to Joseph” in order to live obedience?

Joseph the Silent One – he who has no recorded words in Scripture, a silent presence… in life and in death.  In his silence, Joseph was able to listen.  This was his strength.  This deepened his interior life.  Is the practice of silence important in my life.  Am I making an effort to be silent when it is prudent?  Are the silent moments of my life bringing a listening attitude to my prayer?

Joseph the Example – he was chosen.  God chose him among others as the foster-father of Jesus.  Joseph was an example to Jesus in his words and in his actions.  His example and education in a virtuous life was so strong that no words are necessary.  Teaching by example.  Let us ask ourselves,  What example am I giving?  Do my words and actions inspire others? What are the bad examples that need correcting in my life?

Joseph the Patron – he is the benefactor and protector who prays for us.  Patron of our Order.  Patron of fathers, husbands, workers and all men.  Our communities are in desperate need of strong men, patrons and protectors.  Do I look to Joseph to be a man of strength and good example?  How often to I call upon Joseph to live a graced-life?

Joseph the Helper – he, as the spouse of the Blessed Mother, shared a responsibility in God’s plan of salvation.  Scriptures paint a picture of Joseph as kind, considerate and self-sacrificing.  What is my willingness to imitate him in helping others?  How willing am I to give freely of my time and talent for the good of the community and ministry without counting the cost?

Michael Stechmann OAR