Last week Fr. John concluded his post with: “MAY ‘METANOIA’ BE OUR MANTRA THIS LENT.” In our liturgical texts we translate this Greek word, metanoia, into the English word “repent.” This translation, unfortunately, does not really do justice to the word. Metanoia has a deeper and broader meaning. Specifically, it means “a transformative change of heart; especially a spiritual conversion.” Of course, the abbreviated English version is understandable. It would be incredibly tedious to exclaim: “Have a transformative change of heart and believe in the Gospel” every time we put ashes on a person’s forehead. Nevertheless, the challenge remains: How do we accomplish the spiritual conversion that Holy Mother Church calls us to this season?
There are, of course, things we can and should do. Fr. John itemized the three primary ones: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving last week. But all of these rely completely upon us, upon our own initiative. It would be awfully nice if we could get someone else to help us; and we can! One of the most effective ways to be aided in achieving the transformation we seek is to develop a spiritual friendship with a saint (the Church calls these friendships, “devotions.”)
But which Saint?
This year, 2021, here in Silicon Valley, God is, I believe, making a rather strong recommendation. We have just begun, arguably, the most important liturgical season of the year (after Easter, of course), in a diocese named after St. Joseph (in Spanish, San Jose’), during a year dedicated by Pope Francis to St. Joseph, which also happens to be the 40th anniversary of our founding! Some might just call this “coincidence,” —and more about this subject next week—but let us for the moment view this as a strong heavenly push to develop a friendship with St. Joseph.
An apparent problem immediately arises, however. We do not know much about St. Joseph. He does not show up in any history books. And in Scripture, he is mentioned in only a handful of verses around Jesus birth and childhood and then never heard from again. And yet throughout the history of the Church, St. Joseph has been—like his hidden life with Jesus and Mary—right there in the background. The earliest devotional prayer to St. Joseph dates for 50 A.D. and no fewer than twenty saints, some of whom are quite famous like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis de Sales, have written extensively of their own personal devotions and reflections about the man.
It turns out that the Gospels tell us much more than appears at first blush. They tell us that St. Joseph was a just (righteous) man and a man of action. And we know from the story context that he was a faithful servant, the husband of Mary, the Foster-Father of Jesus, and the provider and protector of the Holy Family. We actually do not need all the details. We need only reflect upon how we would expect a just-man-of-action would fulfill these roles. In other words, we know enough to be able to “fill in the blanks”; which is what this series proposes to do.
I found the perfect (and very appropriate) framework for our reflections in an intercessory prayer written by the Most Reverend R. Pierre DuMaine, the first bishop of our diocese, twenty-five years ago for our diocese’s 15th anniversary. You can find the prayer below. And see you next week for Part 2
PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH (Most Rev. Pierre DuMaine)
Saint Joseph – San Jose, we honor you as our Patron.
We revere you as that “wise and loyal servant” whom the Lord placed over His household.
With faith you trusted God’s message and acted on it.
With a husband’s love you cherished Mary, our Mother.
With a father’s care you watched over Jesus, our Savior.
With honest labor you provided for your Holy Family.
Pray for us now in this Diocese
which bears your name that we may nourish each other in faith,
support each other in our temporal needs,
and renew our Church
in the pattern of your own Household.