We live in an environment dominated by 24-hour news cycles and immediate access to information. YouTube videos lead to instant fame.
In such a world silence can seem unnatural, unnerving.
When we seek to draw closer to St. Joseph, we are struck by how little we know about such a significant person in the life of Jesus. Mark doesn’t mention him at all in his gospel. John names him only twice. He never speaks a word in the gospels of Matthew or Luke. We are confronted with silence.
Who is this man Joseph? Where do we look to find out?
Joseph is the parent who has loved and nurtured a child, perhaps one not his own. He is the worker who has toiled long hours to provide for his family. He is that spouse who has learned to trust despite doubts and confusion. Joseph is every person of faith who has struggled to understand what God is calling him to do.
He does not need words. His actions speak for themselves.
Ordinary men of extraordinary action have been a part of the Congregation of Holy Cross since its foundation in the aftermath of the French Revolution.
The Catholic Church was in ruins, schools and hospitals no longer functioned. Rev. Jacques Dujarié, a humble parish priest, was ordained in an underground ceremony and said his first Mass in a cellar. He lived on the run. As the violence subsided, Fr. Dujarié saw the damage to his country, especially to the poor. He was asked by local clergy to found a group of dedicated men to teach in the countryside. In 1820, these young men became the Brothers of St. Joseph.
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Responding to overwhelming needs, the Brothers of St. Joseph founded over 50 schools between 1820 and 1829. Over time, Dujarié’s health began to fail and the fledgling group needed a new leader. Dujarié ceded his leadership to another French priest, Blessed Basile Moreau, who envisioned a religious community of priests, brothers, and sisters modeled on the Holy Family. It was to St. Joseph, their loyal patron, that Moreau entrusted the spiritual care of those first brothers in the newly formed Congregation of Holy Cross.
Like those who go before us, brothers in the Congregation of Holy Cross stand side by side with those we serve. We look to St. Joseph as a model of quiet strength and determination, a man who listened to dreams and took risks on behalf of others – a simple instrument in the hands of God. From teaching and administration in schools to direct service with the poor and suffering, Joseph silently accompanies us throughout our days and years of ministry. And, finally, at the end of our lives, it is through St. Joseph’s intercession that we pray for a peaceful death.
Who is this man Joseph? With God’s grace, he is all of us.
This reflection was written for the Feast of St. Joseph by Br. Jonathan Beebe, C.S.C., who is the Director of Vocations for the Moreau Province.