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St. Joseph, a Powerful Intercessor and an Example

Homily of H.E. Most Rev. Charles John Brown D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines

“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:54-55).

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

For me as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me a lot of happiness and joy to be with you here in your beautiful Parish of Saint Joseph the Worker, for indeed, my second visit to this wonderful parish here in the Diocese of Cubao, here in Quezon City. I am very, very grateful to your parish priest, the Rev. Fr. Michell Joe B. Zerrudo, more affectionately known as “Father JoJo”, who has invited me to be with you this morning to celebrate your 65th, 65th Parish Fiesta. That's a real reason for joy. I will be 65 years old this year. So, my lifespan and your lifespan in the parish is more or less the same amount of time―65 years, here in this beautiful place dedicated to Saint Joseph the Worker.

The Popes and Saint Joseph

We know how the Popes love Saint Joseph very much. It was back in 1870, that was a long time ago, that Pope Pius IX, who was now Blessed Pius IX, declared St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, the Patron of the entire Church, in the entire world.

Then, it was in 1955 that Pope Pius XII established the feast that we're celebrating today, the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Because as all of you know, Saint Joseph has his ordinary feast day on March 19th, Feast of Saint Joseph (Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary); but Pope Pius XII added a second feast day for Saint Joseph, on this day, May 1st, beginning in 1955. Why May 1st? Because May 1st is a day dedicated to working people. Dedicated to work. Here in the Philippines, it's sometimes called Labor Day―a day in which we think of work, and we think of Saint Joseph as the worker.

Then our current Pope, the Holy Father Pope Francis, back in 2013 showed his love for Saint Joseph, by decreeing and deciding that in every single Mass in the Eucharistic Prayer (which is the prayer that the priest prays that consecrates the body and blood of Jesus for us), in that Eucharistic Prayer, we would always mention Saint Joseph. So, in every single Mass now, since 2013, in the entire Church, we hear the name of Saint Joseph.

So, you can see that the popes have loved Saint Joseph very, very much.

Powerful Intercessor

Saint Joseph is a powerful intercessor for us in heaven. Saint Joseph is so close to Mary and Jesus in heaven. That he powerfully intercedes for us. That means when we pray to Saint Joseph, we can be sure that our prayers are being presented to God by Saint Joseph. He intercedes for us. This is what is so wonderful about Saint Joseph. He prays for us. He is our patron, in heaven.

St. Teresa of Avila and St. Joseph

There was a saint in Spain back in the 16th century, in the 1500s, the famous Saint Teresa of Avila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus in the town of Avila in Spain. She was a Carmelite nun who wanted to live the Carmelite life as a nun in a more radical way. She felt that the nuns that she was living with in her own life had grown very mediocre. So, she left the convent, the monastery where she was in Avila, and she went and started a new monastery in the same town of Avila. She dedicated her new monastery to San Jose, which in English is Saint Joseph. It's really from Saint Teresa of Avila in the 16th century that our modern devotion, appreciation, and recognition of Saint Joseph comes. Because before Saint Teresa of Avila in the 16th century, St. Joseph was known, but he wasn't loved so much in our Catholic Church. He really became known after the 16th century in a very, very special way because of Saint Teresa of Avila. She dedicated her new convent to San Jose, and there she lived the Carmelite life as a cloistered Carmelite nun in a very radical and very inspiring way. That meant that the girls in Avila came to join her. They wanted to be nuns with her in this beautiful, little, poor convent dedicated to Saint Joseph.

So, Saint Joseph, first of all, is our intercessor. So remember, all of you who are members of the parish of Saint Joseph the Worker, pray to Saint Joseph. Remember to ask him to intercede for you. You can be sure that your prayers will be heard by God.

The Example of Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph is not only an intercessor for us in heaven―praying for us, he's also an example for us. He's an example, first of all to husbands and fathers. Because that's the role that Saint Joseph had. What is the role of a husband and father? It's to be a guardian to protect his family, to take care of his family.

Saint Joseph took care of the Holy Family. Saint Joseph took care of Mary, and the Santo Niño, the baby Jesus. Saint Joseph found a place for Mary to give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, when there was no room for them in the inn (Lk. 2:1-7), no room for them in the hotels. Saint Joseph brought Mary into a cave or a stable and took care of her as she gave birth to Jesus.

So, we see Saint Joseph protecting Mary, caring for Jesus. That for us, those of you who are fathers, is a great image of your responsibility to your family: to be faithful fathers to your family, to protect your wife and your children, to take care of them. Saint Joseph also took care of baby Jesus and Mary, by rescuing them when Herod, the evil king, wanted to kill Jesus and all the babies in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). Remember the flight into Egypt? How Joseph takes Mary, and flees with Mary and the baby Jesus into Egypt, to protect Mary, to protect Jesus (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23).

So, Joseph is a protector. Fathers of families, that's your job: protect your family. Maybe not from physical threats, although maybe that's sometimes necessary, but also from moral threats, from bad influences, from bad ideas, from bad things that can come into young people's minds, and kind of degrade them and destroy them. You as fathers need to be like Saint Joseph, protecting your family, caring for your family, caring for your wife and your children.

St. Joseph, an Example of Work

Saint Joseph is also, and this is the title of your wonderful parish here in the Diocese of Cubao; St. Joseph is also an example of work. As we heard in the Gospel this morning (Matthew 13:54-58), Jesus is referred to as “the carpenter’s son”. Beautiful. Jesus, God-made-man, Jesus, our Lord and Savior, was not born in an aristocratic or rich family in the capital. He was born in a working family. Not in the capital, but in the provinces. Nazareth is not the center. Jerusalem is the center. Nazareth is in the provinces. Joseph wasn't a big politician. He wasn't a king. He wasn't a priest. He wasn't a powerful man. He was a working man.

So, God came into the world in the person of Jesus through a working family. Family in which the father worked with his hands. He was a carpenter. That for us is a very important message. In God's eyes, the people who are most important are not the same as in the world's eyes. In the world's eyes, the rich and the powerful, those are the important people. Not in God's eyes. We see that in the choice of Saint Joseph. God chose Saint Joseph, He chose Mary, He chose people in the provinces, and through them He came into the world to save us.

This is an important meditation for us. For you, men and women who work, we need to imitate St. Joseph and his dedication to work. He was a good worker; we can be sure of that. He was a faithful worker. He worked with his hands. He was a carpenter.

Maybe some of you here in the parish, work with your hands. Maybe you’re a mechanic, working on motorcycles, or working on jeepneys, or something like that. Working with your hands is a noble undertaking, a noble endeavour. God's own foster father, St. Joseph worked with his hands.

So, we realize that God’s ways of looking at the world are different from our own. Things that the people of the world think are important, maybe God doesn’t think as so important. People of the world think that they are unimportant, maybe God thinks they are very important. It all depends on our faith. If we have faith, then we are doing the will of God and God's gaze is upon us.

Summary and Conclusion

So, first of all, let's pray to Saint Joseph. Let's remember that he is a powerful intercessor in heaven as Saint Teresa of Avila, whom I mentioned earlier in my reflection. Saint Teresa of Avila said that whatever she ever asked St. Joseph to obtain for her in heaven, she always got what she asked for when she came to Saint Joseph. Those words “Ite Ad Joseph” (Go to Joseph), ask him. Let him be your intercessor.

Then secondly, let's remember that Joseph is our example. He's our model of a father who protects, cares for, and provides for his family, who is faithful to his family, and also as a worker. He worked with his hands. He saw the nobility of work. He honored work, and we need to follow those examples.

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this year, 65th Parish Fiesta, it gives me a lot of happiness and joy as Pope Francis' representative here in the Philippines, to be with you once again. I wish you a very wonderful parish. Father JoJo told me you’re having three days of celebrations here. Some kind of a triduum of celebration for your Parish Fiesta this year, your 65th. I wish you all the best.

Remember to love Saint Joseph. Ite Ad Joseph. Go to Saint Joseph.

May God bless you!

Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

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