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Joseph: The Faithful and Wise Servant, a reflection by Fr. Thomas Rosica

Joseph4

St. Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely.  He is often overshadowed by the glory of Christ and the purity of Mary. But he, too, waited for God to speak to him and then responded with obedience. Luke and Matthew both mark Joseph’s descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge about him: he was “a righteous man” a “just man” (Matthew 1:18).

Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been engaged, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary quietly according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. Joseph was also a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome.  When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all of his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

We are told that Joseph was a carpenter, (more likely a builder), a man who worked to provide for his family. Joseph wasn’t a wealthy man, for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb.

Joseph revealed in his humanity the unique role of fathers to proclaim God’s truth by word and deed. His paradoxical situation of “foster father to Jesus” draws attention to the truth about fatherhood, which is much more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children.  Joseph was keenly aware, as every father should be, that he served as the representative of God the Father.

The Gospel, as we know, has not kept any word from Joseph, who carries out his activity in silence. It is the style that characterizes his whole existence, both before finding himself before the mystery of God’s action in his spouse, as well as  when — conscious of this mystery — he is with Mary in the Nativity. On that holy night, in Bethlehem, with Mary and the Child, is Joseph, to whom the Heavenly Father entrusted the daily care of his Son on earth, a care carried out with humility and in silence.

Joseph protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man. While no words or texts are attributed to him, we can be sure that Joseph pronounced two of the most important words that could ever be spoken when he named his son “Jesus” and called him “Emmanuel.” When the child stayed behind in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched frantically with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48).

As Pope Benedict has taught us:

What is important is not to be a useless servant, but rather a “faithful and wise servant”. The pairing of the two adjectives is not by chance. It suggests that understanding without fidelity, and fidelity without wisdom, are insufficient. One quality alone, without the other, would not enable us to assume fully the responsibility which God entrusts to us.

What great words for St. Joseph, because in Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a “just man” (Mt 1:19) because his existence is “adjusted” to the word of God.

Joseph, the “foster-father” of the Lord reveals that fatherhood is more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children.  Real fathers and real men are those who communicate paternal strength and compassion.  They are men of reason in the midst of conflicting passions; men of conviction who always remain open to genuine dialogue about differences; men who ask nothing of others that they wouldn’t risk or suffer themselves.  Joseph is a chaste, faithful, hardworking, simple and just man.  He reminds us that a family, a home, a community, and a parish are not built on power and possessions but goodness; not on riches and wealth, but on faith, fidelity, purity and mutual love.

How could I speak of St. Joseph here in the Crèche Museum of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal without saying something about the dreamer and architect of this magnificent place, Brother André Bessette, the Canadian Church’s newest Saint.

Brother_Andre2Brother André wanted Saint Joseph honoured on this mountain. In 1890, he took a young student with him on one of his regular Thursday meditation walks. Taking the student up to the mountainside across the street from the College Notre Dame, he told him, “I have hidden a medal of Saint Joseph here. We will pray that he will arrange the purchase of this land for us.” For six years he persevered in prayer for that intention, and in 1896, his prayers were rewarded. The Holy Cross Congregation purchased the land and Brother André put a statue of Saint Joseph in a little cave on his chosen site. Placing a bowl in front of the statue, he planned on collecting alms from Saint Joseph’s petitioners, alms which would be used to build a chapel.

What started out as a fifteen-by eighteen foot chapel in 1904 became a minor basilica in 1955, and was completed — interior and all — in 1966. In his lifetime, the shrine became big enough to warrant having a full-time guardian, a job to which Brother André was appointed in 1909.

The piety that St. André had toward the Patron of the Universal Church was simple and childlike too:

When you invoke Saint Joseph, you don’t have to speak much. You know your Father in heaven knows what you need; well, so does His friend Saint Joseph. … Tell him, ‘If you were in my place, Saint Joseph, what would you do? Well, pray for this in my behalf.’

To the people who came to him with their troubles — and thousands did — the friend of Saint Joseph recommended the use of sacramentals, like Saint Joseph’s oil or a Saint Joseph medal. Most of all, he recommended persevering and confident prayer, usually prescribing a novena to his powerful benefactor.  Because he learned how to pray with fervour, persistence and joy as a child and young religious, Brother André was able to urge people to pray with confidence and perseverance, while remaining open to God’s will.

He admonished people to begin their path to healing through commitments to faith and humility, through confession and a return to the Sacraments. He encouraged the sick to seek a doctor’s care. He saw value in suffering that is joined to the sufferings of Christ. He allowed himself to be fully present to the sadness of others but always retained a joyful nature and good humour. At times, he wept along with his visitors as they recounted their sorrows. As he became known as a miracle worker, Brother André insisted, “I am nothing … only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph.”

God our Father,
You gave Brother André of Montreal,
your humble servant, a great devotion to St. Joseph
and a special commitment to the sick and the needy.
May the example of his life and ministry inspire us to ever-greater works of charity, in generous service to our brothers and sisters in need.
Give us the strength to surrender ourselves to Your will,
and to be instruments of your loving mercy.
Help us to follow Brother André’s example of prayer and love,
so that we too may come into your glory.
Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Television Network

(CNS photo/archives of St. Joseph’s Oratory)

Perspectives Daily – Monday, Jan. 7

Tonight on Perspectives: It’s Monday and Catholics in Montreal have much to celebrate today. We tell you why. Prince George has a new Bishop and a look at the Vatican from this past weekend.

Brother André: Montreal’s Porter and Heaven’s Gatekeeper – A Reflection on St. André of Montreal


Today as we celebrate the feast of St. André Bessette, join Father Thomas Rosica CSB, CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, for an inspiring reflection on the remarkable life of Saint André: Montreal’s porter and heaven’s gatekeeper.

Remembering Br. André – Catholic Focus

Host Mary Rose Bacani discovers the heart-warming stories of pilgrims who travel to Saint Joseph’s Oratory from all over the world in search of peace, holiness and healing. She also visits the Cantins, a family from Southwestern Ontario that has one of the most impressive archives of Br. André in North America.

God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal

Today we celebrate the feast of St. André Bessette, our first Canadian-born saint. We invite you to watch S+L’s documentary, God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal. Discover the miracle of St. André: a life devoted to prayer and generous service to the sick and needy.

Brother André – One year later

On Saturday, October 15th, a group of 46 students from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana came to Toronto. It was the first day of a 5-day pilgrimage ending at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. They arrived in the afternoon and visited the World Youth Day sites in the city. That evening, I gave a talk at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre at the request of their pilgrimage leader, Fr. Andrew Gawrych, a priest from the Congregation of Holy Cross. Fr. Gawrych was interviewed for the documentary “God’s Doorkeeper”.

I shared my experience of Brother Andre while working on the film “God’s Doorkeeper”. It has been a year since the film’s release, and so I watched the film once again, looked through my notes at the time of production, and it all started coming back to me. I was able to talk not only about my experience during the production, but also what I’ve learned since then. There have been many blessings in my life since then, the greatest being the birth of my daughter Chiara Andrea. I was very happy to have both my husband Richard Valenti and our daughter present as I shared about Brother Andre in my life.
[Read more…]

Brother André: Montreal’s Porter and Heaven’s Gatekeeper – A Reflection on St. André of Montreal

Among those canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at the Vatican was Canadian Brother André Bessette, of the Congregation of Holy Cross.  For nearly 40 years Brother André worked as a porter at the College of Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur in the Montreal neighborhood of Côtes-des-Neiges.  Speaking about his assignment as doorman, he once quipped, “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door.”

As porter of the College, Brother André lived in a small room located near the main entrance that also served as his office.  He urged people who came to him to pray with confidence and perseverance, while remaining open to God’s will. He admonished people to begin their path to healing through commitments to faith and humility, through confession and a return to the sacraments. He encouraged the sick to seek a doctor’s care. He saw value in suffering that is joined to the sufferings of Christ. He allowed himself to be fully present to the sadness of others but always retained a joyful nature and good humor. At times he was seen weeping along with his visitors as they recounted to him their sorrows and difficulties.  Word spread quickly when many of those with whom he prayed were healed. As Brother André was becoming known as a miracle worker, he insisted all the more, “I am nothing…only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph.”
[Read more…]

Anniversary coverage of St. Andre’s canonization

It feels like just yesterday that we celebrated the canonization of Brother André of Montreal, the first Canadian-born male Saint. The lead-up to this historic event last year, as well as the Commemoration Mass in Olympic Stadium, remains fresh in our minds at S+L. To celebrate the first anniversary, S+L will air highlights from last year’s events, as well as our documentary God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal.

Here is the schedule of our St. André coverage:

1. Rebroadcast of the Mass of Thanksgiving in Rome with Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte
Sunday, October 16 at 10:00 am ET (Bilingual commentary)

2. Rebroadcast of the Commemorative Mass at Olympic Stadium in Montreal
Sunday, October 16 at 3:30 pm ET (English)

3. S+L original documentary God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal
Sunday, October 16 at 8:30 pm & 12:30 pm ET (English)

4. Portier de Dieu (French version of God’s Doorkeeper)
Monday, October 17 at 9:00 pm & 1:00 am ET  (French)

You can find more details about our broadcasts by going to S+L’s Brother André webpage. And don’t forget: all of our programming can be watched on our live web stream.

In the coming days, we welcome your thoughts and comments. Feel free to reach us via Facebook, Twitter and our Blog.

We also invite you to purchase your own copy of God’s Doorkeeper. This one-hour documentary highlights the life and history of St. André. Get your copy today at our online store or by calling 1-888-302-7181.

St. André, pray for us!

From Downtown Chapel to St. André Bessette Church

Last week, the Downtown Chapel in Portland, Oregon, made a special announcement:  they’re changing their parish name.  A recent degree by the Archbishop of Portland will change the Church’s patronage from St. Vincent de Paul to the Congregation of Holy Cross’ first saint, St. André Bessette.

For any of you who have seen the documentary God’s Doorkeeper:  St. André of Montreal, you may recall the foot washing scene.  This was filmed at the Downtown Chapel, an apostolate of the Congregation of Holy Cross for over 20 years.

This name change is significant for the Downtown Chapel because it affects their identity.  The idea of changing the name is not new to them.  The pastor, Fr. Steve Newton, CSC, has this to say about the process his parish had gone through:

When I first met with the Archbishop in September, I asked him whether it might even be possible to change our name.  He had people in his office research this.  Our staff had been considering names such as Christ the Healer (after the icon in the worship space) and St. André Bessette.  In the excitement of André’s canonization this past October, that emerged as the more popular of the two.  Of course, he was also a member of our Holy Cross Congregation.

We thought that once we found out if it were even possible to make a change, we would have a parish forum to discuss whether we wanted to and, if so, what name we would want.

But before we could do that, we received a decree stating that the Archbishop had changed our name to St. André Bessette Church.  There was to be an article in the Catholic Sentinel announcing the change!   I asked the Archdiocese to hold off until we could discuss it as a parish.  They agreed.

We discussed it Sunday, January 16, at the forum.  The acceptance of the change was quite high. A lot of good reasons for doing so were mentioned by those present. And although there was no opposition among those present, I want to invite feedback from those who could not be present. We can be proud to be among the first parishes in the world with the name St. André Bessette Church.

But we have no intention of rushing to change our name on signs and stationery.  It takes time to do all that needs to be done when any organization makes a name change.  One of the goals of the planning process will be to identify all the things that need to be done before we drop one name and go to the other.  The official name has been changed; the popular name will take some time.

Find out more about the Downtown Chapel and its name change, by going here.

Ottawa’s Celebration of St. André Bessette

This year we celebrated Brother André’s first feast day as Saint André.

There were many special celebrations throughout Canada, and at Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral there was a bilingual Mass of Thanksgiving for Canada’s newest saint.

Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast was the main celebrant.  In his homily, he spoke of the qualities that make Brother André a saint.

We celebrate this Mass of Thanksgiving for Brother André’s life and example of holiness with a Gospel [Matthew 11.25-30] that expresses the foundation of his simplicity.  The passage begins with Jesus giving praise to the Father for revealing personal knowledge of God not to the wise and clever, but to the innocent and little ones. Yes, that is what the heavenly Father chose to do, to remind all—even the shepherds and Magi who are very much in our minds at this Christmas season—that the Kingdom is God’s gift to us and that we must receive it with the humility and simplicity of those who become “children” in the heavenly Kingdom by knowing intimately God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son.

You can see a presentation of this special bilingual Thanksgiving Mass on Salt + Light Television this Thursday, January 13th, at 8pm ET or 9pm PT.