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Displaying items by tag: Calendar of Feasts and Memorials

Friday, 14 June 2024 06:51

Memorial of Saint Elisha, Prophet

June 14 | Memorial
St. Elisha, prophet

The biblical cycle of Elisha (2 Kgs) is strongly linked with that of Elijah. Elisha's calling is placed after the theophany of the Horeb (1 Kgs 19: 16-21). According to the divine order, he is the one who is to succeed the Tishbite; Elisha therefore becomes Elijah’s servant and disciple (2 Kgs 3:11).

Like Elijah, Elisha is presented by the Church Fathers as a Christ figure, as a thaumaturge. He is also presented as a model for monastic life. Numerous Church Fathers attest to Elisha's virginity following that of Elijah. The medieval Carmelites reproduced these lines insisting that Elijah and Elisha were the first to consecrate themselves to God in virginity. Prayer also plays a primordial role in Elisha's life: it is the source of the miracles the Lord performs through him. Elisha is also portrayed as someone withdrawn from society. His initial renunciation, sacrificing his oxen and plow before following Elijah, is an example to exhort him to detach himself from worldly concerns (Jer., Ep. 71:3). For Cassian, Elisha is one of the founders of monasticism and, in a more special way, a teacher of poverty (Inst. 7:14,2).

Elisha is constantly present as Elijah's disciple, his spiritual son, his heir, the disciple par excellence. Elisha is not Elijah's only disciple but within this group of disciples, Elisha occupies the first place.

Call of Elisha

Elijah set out, and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak on him.

Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother good-bye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! What have I done to you?”

Elisha left him and, taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to the people to eat. Then he left and followed Elijah to serve him.    (1 Kgs 19:19-21)

Read more ...

Recent Publication from Edizioni Carmelitane:

Les prophètes Élie et Élisée au Moyen Âge Latin

     Tome 1. Vllle-IXe siècles. L'époque carolingienne
     Tome 2. Xe-début XIIe siècle. Des commentaires carolingiens à la
                 Glossa ordinaria
     Tome 3. La renaissance et le tournant du XIIe siècle
     Tome 4. XIIIe siècle. L'essor des universités

     Coffret:  Tome 1, 2, 3 et 4 

Published in Announcements (CITOC)

May 25 | Feast
St. Mary Magdelen de' Pazzi, Virgin

Born into the noble family of Pazzi in Florence in 1566, Mary Magdelene had a deep sense of the presence of God, a great love of the Eucharist, and a longing to live a penitential life. She entered the cloistered Carmelite monastery of St. Mary of the Angels in Florence, near the Carmelite church. She underwent continuous physical suffering and severe spiritual trials but also experienced God's mercy with extraordinary graces. She died on May 25, 1607.

She was keenly aware of the need to reform the Church. She offered herself to that clergy would once again be a witness to Christ in the world and that the lapsed would return to the Church. The central theme in her spirituality is love: we are created by God with love and by love and is the means by which we must turn to him. She had a great devotion to Our Lady.

She was beatified in 1626, 19 years after her death, and was canonized in 1669.

Read more ...

Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Wednesday, 15 May 2024 07:29

Memorial of St. Simon Stock, Religious

16 May Optional Memorial (Obligatory Memorial the province of Great Britain)

As far as can be ascertained from the earliest references, Simon Stock was an English Prior General, known for his holy way of life, who died about 1265 in Bordeaux in France. After his death, miracles were recorded by those visiting his tomb and during the 14th century a local cult developed in Bordeaux.

Around 1400, a separate legend emerged in the Low Countries of a "holy Simon" who had a vision of Our Lady, in which she appeared to him bearing the scapular and promised: "This is a privilege for you and your brethren: whoever dies wearing it, will be saved." Within a few years, the two accounts had been merged and Simon Stock, the Prior General, was credited with having the vision of Our Lady. The combined account quickly became elaborated with imaginary biographical details of Simon's life, such as his birth in Kent, his living for some years as a hermit in the trunk of a tree and his authorship of the Flos Carmeli, a beautiful Carmelite hymn to Our Lady (which is, in fact, found in the 14th century and hence predates the legend).

The Carmelite Scapular and Its Confraternities

The scapular consists basically of two pieces of cloth, tied by thin cords, which rest one on the shoulders (between the "scapulae") and the other on the chest. The object, nowadays used for devotional purposes, originates from the "night" scapular used by religious so that they would never have to not be wearing their proper habit, not even at night.

By the middle of the 13th century, lay people began to be affiliated to the Order in order to share in the spiritual benefits. It was also offered by the Order as an expression of gratitude and recognition to benefactors. The scapular ended up constituting a customary means of handing over the habit to the laity and the consequent juridical-spiritual aggregation to the religious family. The white cloak, the sign of the Order in the Middle Ages, was given to lay people at the moment of their association.

Stories began to circulate of the miraculous gift of the habit from the Lord or Our Lady to the founders or saints of the various Orders. As a result, numerous scapulars exist. They are distinguished by different colors and images, precisely because of the wide use made of them by the various religious families and, over time, as a sign of consecration according to the different forms of spirituality.

From the end of the 15th century, the Carmelites began to hand over the scapular, which was considered the habit of the Order for lay people to be aggregated to the Order. Thus was born the Confraternity of the Scapular, which ended up practically supplanting or replacing the previous forms of lay aggregation to the Order. These confraternities were also found in churches not belonging to the Order.

A typical element of the devotion use of the religious habit among the laity was that either Our Lord or Our Lady would give it to the religious. Two visions are associated with the Carmelite scapular—both involving Our Lady and both doubtful as historical events. In the case of the appearance to St. Simon Stock, similar vision accounts are found continually in the traditions of the different religious families.

The very origins of the Order refer, one the one hand, to the protection of Mary, and on the other hand, to the “dedication” of the Carmelites to her, who is considered to be lady, sovereign because Mary is the Mother of the Lord. Even after their departure from the Holy Land, the Carmelites continued to consider themselves as subjects to the Lord Jesus and therefore to his Mother.

Members of most confraternities in the 17th and 18th centuries shows they were open to people of all classes: nobles, middle-class, laborers, peasants, artisans—both the rich and the poor. This kind of unity among members from different social backgrounds lasted a long time. It was a characteristic of Scapular confraternities as distinct from other types of confraternities, even religious ones.

The suppression of religious groups in the 19th century almost entirely destroyed the network of Scapular confraternities. The ones that survived very often continues to exist without much contact with the Order. The works of mercy almost entirely disappeared with what remained being more philanthropic than Christian charity. With the Canon Law Code of 1917, the confraternities were reorganized. The scapular devotion developed more and more as a sign of the protection of Mary, with the aspect of consecration to Mary and the demands of a covenant of made with Mary now written out.

Now to enjoy the privileges attached to the scapular, it suffices to receive it from an authorized person and to have your name written in the general confraternity register of the Order. This faculty has been extended to all priests and the need to have a register of inscriptions was done away with. The so-called “Rule of the Carmelite Third Order” set out norms for a Gospel way of life. The document reflects Carmelite values, proposing a commitment to prayer, the sacraments, the works of justice, and the building up of the human person in accordance with God’s plan.

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Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Wednesday, 08 May 2024 07:47

Memorial of George Preca, Priest

May 9, 2024 | Optional Memorial (Obligatory Memorial in the province of Malta)

A diocesan priest, George Preca dedicated his life to preaching and catechesis. In 1907 he founded the Society of Christian Doctrine or MUSEUM (Magister utinam sequatur Evangelium universus mundus).

His prolific apostolate was the fruit of a life of prayer and constant meditation on the Word of God. His spirituality was based on humility and meekness. He became a Lay Carmelite in 1918, and in recognition of his work in spreading devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was affiliated to the Order in 1952 by the prior general at the time, Killian Lynch.

The canonical processes for his beatification were initiated in March 1975. St. John Paul II declared him “blessed” on May 9, 2001 and he was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on June 3, 2007.

The second reading for the Liturgy of the Hours is taken from the saint’s writings. He proclaims the virtues of God in contemplating the beauty of creation and His actions, full of mercy and love, towards those who seek and recognize Him in order to confess without restraint.

(from Emanuele Boaga, O. Carm., Celebrating the Saints of Carmel. (Rome: Edizioni Carmelitane, 2010).

Read more ...

Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Tuesday, 07 May 2024 07:26

Blessed Aloysius Rabatà, Priest

May 8, 2024 | Optional Memorial
Bl. Àloysius Rabatà, priest

Information about the Blessed comes from witness statements gathered for the Acts of the 1533 diocesan process for the beatification of Aloysius Rabatà. The Acts do contain, as expected, details about his character, the works he performed, and his death as well as his physical appearance and his eating habits. Five out of eleven witness knew the Blessed personally, so the information is considered quite accurate. Later hagiographies merely repeat that information and give other details that are less cetain to be accurate.

Reading the various testimonies in the Acts of 1533 makes it clear Luigi Rabatà was considered an extremely virtuous man and a saint already during his life. Indeed, there are many references to his “sanctity” and his life filled with the practices of fasting and works of charity.

In 1756 the General Chapter of the Order decreed that the approval of his cult "ab immemorabili" be sought. This was granted on December 10, 1841, by Pope Gregory XVI.

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From the book by Marco Papasidero, "A Laudi Deu." Luigi Rabatà tra storia, memoria e pratiche devozionali. (Edizioni Carmelitane, 2019) €14.00

Published in Announcements (CITOC)

May 4, 2024 | Optional Memorial | Obligatory Memorial in Spain


Almighty God, you who gave your blessed Ángel Maria Prat Hostench, Lucas de San José Tristany Pujol, presbyters, and companions, the grace to confront death so to confess your word and bear witness to Jesus, grant us the power of the Holy Spirit, to remain steadfast in faith and strong in the confession of your name. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Read more on the lives of these martyrs ....

Published in Announcements (CITOC)

From the Vice-Postulator of the Cause of Isidore Bakanja
Carmelite Family Celebrates 30th Anniversary of the Beatification of Blessed Isidore Bakanja

On April 24, 1994, Blessed Isidore Bakanja, layman and martyr of the Scapular of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, was beatified by Pope John Paul II. Today the Order comes together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Church's recognition of the holiness of this Congolese Catholic who would not give up his scapular.

Isidore Bakanja was born in Bokendela (Democratic Republic of Congo) around 1885. Leaving his village, he moved to Mbandaka, where he was baptized on May 6, 1906 and confirmed a few months later, on November 25, 1906. He was heavily influenced by the witness of the Trappist missionaries, cultivating a special devotion to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Despite the difficulties he encountered at work because of his fidelity to Christ, he remained steadfast in his faith. On February 2, 1909, he suffered an atrocious scourging because he refused to get rid of the scapular of the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel which he wore over his shoulders. Following a terrible beating and sensing his impending death, he received the anointing of the sick on July 24, 1909. Just as Christ died having forgiven his wrongdoers, so Bakanja died having forgiven his executioner: “The white man hit me; that's his business. It's up to him and God. When I get to heaven, I'll pray a lot for him and ask God to forgive him.”

Bakanja died on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1909, at the age of 24. In imitation of Christ, whom he had followed from the moment of his baptism, Isidore Bakanja lived in his own way, like Saint Paul, who wrote: “For me, to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1, 21). "For me, to live is to be a Christian."

On June 7, 1917, his remains were exhumed and buried at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Bokote. He was proclaimed Blessed on April 24, 1994. His cause for canonization is now underway. Popes Benedict XVI and Francis have recognized and proposed Blessed Isidore Bakanja as an authentic witness and example of faith for all Christians in the world. In his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit, Pope Francis named Blessed Isidore Bakanja among the young saints who today mobilize Christians in their quest for holiness and inspire new conversions. In short, Blessed Isidore Bakanja is a spiritual and ecclesial heritage for the world.

To read more

Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Tuesday, 16 April 2024 07:25

Blessed Baptist Spagnoli, a Frog, and an Ant

17 April Memorial

One of the controversies between the Order and the Mantuan Congregations involved the habit for the members to wear. The General Chapter of Asti in 1472, with no small assist from Pope Sixtus IV it was commonly believed, elected Christopher Martignoni, a prominent members of the Mantuan Congregation. Yet Martignoni’s generalate was to be marked by continual conflict with the Mantuan Congregation. According to the Carmelite historian Joachim Smet, Martignoni was passionate about good order: uniformity of dress, life, and doctrine in the Order.

Besides a major shift in the alignment of houses of the Order in Italy, Martignoni sought to unify the habit throughout the Order and attempted to do so with a decree from the Chapter of 1471. The Mantuan Congregation began a campaign of opposition. For them, the original form of the habit symbolized their attempt to return to the sources of the Order’s spirit. To adopt the habit of the conventuals seemed equivalent to dissolving the reform. In 1475, the pope suspended further discussion, pending a decision on his part only to have the question reopened by Martignoni’s successor in 1483.

By this time, the vicar of the Mantuan Congregation was the famous poet Baptist Spagnoli. He included in his Eclogues a dialogue between a frog (a reformed friar) and an ant (a conventual) over the color of the habit. He managed to keep the question open, until on May 26, 1484, he obtained from Sixtus IV a final decision in favor of the Mantuan Congregation—to maintain the grey habit.

To read more

Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Monday, 18 March 2024 14:20

St. Joseph, A Saint For Our Time

In a lovely little booklet on St Joseph, Cardinal Suenens wrote:

“It has been said that the worst thing we can do to the saints is to put them on pedestals. In Joseph’s case, we might criticise not only the pedestal, but also the image of him with which we are all too often presented.”[1] 

Another contemporary French writer A. Doze speaks of “misinformation” about him, and says that to misinform is to spread false rumours the better to lead people astray.[2]

Yet Saint Joseph is in some ways a shadowy figure. There is little about him in the New Testament, indeed one might wonder who his father was, since there is some discrepancy in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke: Matthew appears to think his father’s name was Jacob (see Matt 1:16); Luke seems to have him as the son of Heli (see Luke 3:23). At times Joseph appears to be airbrushed out of history. One finds pictures of the Adoration of the Magi with three or four eastern figures, but no Joseph. Yet one cannot deny the aptness of the title of a book popular in the middle of the last century, The Man Closest to Christ.[3] He has always had a secure place in the hearts of Catholic Christians throughout the second millennium.

In recent decades there has been renewed attention to him on the part of theologians and spiritual writers. There are two academic journals devoted to studies concerning the saint: Cahiers de joséphologie, published in Montreal since 1953 and Estudios josefinos from Valladolid since 1947. Pope John Paul II gave the Church a letter on the saint, “Guardian of the Redeemer: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church.”[4]

There has been interest in Saint Joseph throughout the centuries. At times these have been a direct reflection of what is happening in society; at other times we see devotion to St Joseph almost as parallel or even in denial of the reality of the Church’s difficulties. Again, writing about him has had various aims. Some writers have given us truths about Joseph. Others have suggested that he is a model to be imitated. Many have spoken about his intercession. Two are particularly significant. The French School’s concerns invite us not so much to imagine for ourselves details of the hidden life, as to enter into it intuitively and with empathy. Teresa of Avila would seem to go further: she has a dynamic living relationship with the saint.

Contemporary Insights

The 20th century has given us some important developments in the theology and devotion of St Joseph. There are some theological insights of quality in this period, often from surprising sources. We could note two. The great Calvinist theologian, K. Barth, who saw Mariology as the arch-heresy of Rome, had a special place for Joseph. He famously said:

“If I were a Roman Catholic theologian, I would lift Joseph up. He took care of the Child; he takes care of the Church.”[5] 

Another is the Reformed Church theologian, J.J. von Allmen, who criticises the Vatican II Constitution on the Church for failing even to mention St Joseph in its eighth chapter on “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church,” even though the Council referred to Elizabeth, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon. He went on to say that Joseph is essential for a grasp of the Jewishness and the Messianism of Jesus.[6] One can readily agree that people may have a genuine devotion to Joseph, but may not advert sufficiently to him in considering the mystery of the Incarnation.

In this section we shall consider two sources for our understanding of Joseph for our time: the liturgy, and papal teaching in the 20th century, especially the apostolic exhortation of John Paul II, “Guardian of the Redeemer: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church.”[7]


Modern theology strongly affirms an ancient truth, that the liturgy is a major source of theology. The aphorism frequently transposed and variously translated, lex credendi...lex orandi,[8] shows as a minimum the interpenetration of faith and worship. The facts of liturgical evolution concerning St Joseph can be briefly outlined.

Liturgical celebrations in honour of Joseph were at first diocesan or confined to religious orders or congregations. With the liturgical reforms after Trent the feast of St Joseph became universal, and was given a higher rank when Pius IX proclaimed Joseph “Patron of the Church” during the First Vatican Council (8 December 1870). The 1917 Code of Canon Law laid it down as a holiday of obligation.[9] A problem arose from its celebration in Lent, and thus without full solemnity or an octave. There was another feast found as early as the 17th century called the Patronage of St Joseph, later called the Solemnity of St Joseph. This was celebrated on the Wednesday in the second week after Easter. Pius XII, who was very much concerned with the menace of communism, changed this to a feast of Joseph the Worker, and assigned it to 1 May, the Marxist Mayday. Like so many liturgical innovations that are imposed by authority rather than arising from the grassroots, this feast never really took hold and in the 1969 liturgical reform it was reduced to an optional memorial.

Though it is not a liturgical text, one could note the approval of the Litany to St Joseph in 1909. The Church has been quite wary about litanies in recent centuries, as they can be so exuberant or far-fetched that contact is lost with truth. Local bishops could no longer approve them for public recitation after the 1917 Code of Canon Law.[10] At first the litany of St Joseph was for private use only, later the restriction was lifted.[11]

The texts of the Masses for the feasts of St Joseph before Vatican II stressed the powerful intercession of the saint. They called him the spouse (sponsus) of the Mother of the Son. Thus for the feast the main prayer was:

“Let the merits of thy all-holy Mother’s husband assist us, Lord, we pray; through his intercession may we be granted that which no effort of our own could win for us.”

The revised liturgy has “Father, you entrusted our Saviour to the care of St Joseph. By the help of his prayers may your Church continue to serve its Lord Jesus Christ.”[12]

And for Joseph the Worker we have:

“God our Father, creator and ruler of the universe, in every age you call on people to use their gifts for the good of others. With St Joseph as our example and guide, help us to do the work you have asked and come to the reward you have promised.”

More interesting is the preface, especially when we remember that the preface in any Mass is a statement why we today should give God thanks in the Eucharist we are now celebrating. They key section reads:

“Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks as we honour St Joseph. He is that just man that wise and loyal servant, whom you placed at the head of your family. With a husband’s love he cherished Mary, the virgin Mother of God (A te Deiparae Virgini Sponsus est datus). With fatherly care he watched over Jesus Christ your Son, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ the choirs of angels praise and worship...”

We should not forget that John XXIII inserted the name of St Joseph into the Roman Canon [now First Eucharist Prayer] before the names of the apostles.

In our modern liturgy we see the main themes of devotion highlighted: Joseph is husband of Mary, Guardian of Holy Family, foster father of Jesus and model of the Church which relies on his intercession. To find further developments we have to turn to papal teaching in the 20th century.

Papal teaching

Except for John Paul I who died very soon after becoming pope, all the popes of the 20th century have spoken about St Joseph. They generally encourage the Church to see him as a model for workers, married people and protector of the Church. As in previous centuries considerations of the state of the Church and the world determine the particular points that are made by the popes. Thus Benedict XV sees him as an antidote to denials of what is sacred,[13] Pius XI makes him a patron of the Church’s fight against Communism,[14] John XXIII summarised the teaching of his predecessors and proclaimed him protector of Vatican II.[15]

In minor documents two of the popes made daring suggestions which have not been widely taken up by theologians. Pius XI suggested that Joseph belonged in some way to the Hypostatic Union, at least in so far as he received revelation about it.[16] The trouble with Hypostatic Union language used about St Joseph, and even about the Blessed Virgin, is that it is easily open to misunderstanding. By the time one has explained what it might mean, one might be better off using alternative language. John XXIII, a great devotee of Joseph, mentioned in a canonisation homily the pious belief, occasionally found in earlier centuries, that Joseph, like John the Baptist, were assumed into heaven on the day of the Ascension.[17]

The papal exhortation, “Guardian of the Redeemer”

By far the most important papal teaching on St Joseph to date is the already mentioned apostolic exhortation of John Paul II Redemptoris custos (RC).[18] The occasion was the

centenary of the first encyclical on St Joseph by Leo XIII, Quam pluries (1889). The pope gives also a deepened ecclesiology, or theology of the Church, as a reason for writing:

“I am convinced that by reflection upon the way in which Mary’s spouse shared in the divine mystery, the Church—on the road towards the future with all humanity—will be enabled to discover ever anew her own identity within this redemptive plan, which is founded on the mystery of the incarnation.” (RC 1)

The apostolic exhortation takes up many of the points traditionally made in writings about St Joseph, in the liturgy and in previous teaching. He repeats the papal teaching for the last hundred years to the effect that Joseph is the greatest of the saints after Mary, but not of course her equal (RC 4, 7). The pope is not very well served by the official Vatican translation, which unfortunately carries over into English the dense and rather turgid style of the original Latin. We need not repeat the constant refrain about Joseph being a ”just man” (see Matt 1:19), except to note that the pope gives a very careful reading of the scriptural passages that concern Joseph. We concentrate rather on which is new and would seem to be more significant for our time.

Joseph in the divine planArt.Carmelite.Joseph.Statute.Middletown.450

It is worth noting that the pope gives a particular order in the role of Joseph:

“He took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing; he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body.” (RC 1)

A key to the exhortation is the fact that Joseph entered into and shared the mystery of redemption.

“The [Incarnation is] the mystery in which Joseph of Nazareth “shared” (commuicavit) like no other human being except Mary...he shared in it with her; he was involved in the same salvific event; he was the guardian of the same love, through the power of which the eternal Father ‘destined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5).’” (RC 1)

One of the most important ideas of the pope is that of the faith of Joseph. Indeed he refers to two annunciations: the angel’s appearance to Mary at Nazareth (see Luke 1:26-38) and the angel’s appearance in a dream to Joseph (see Matt 1:18-25). The response of both is obedience: Mary said yes to the angel’s message; Joseph did what the angel commanded him (RC 2-3, 17). At the beginning of her “pilgrimage of faith... the faith of Mary meets the faith of Joseph” (RC 4): both are displaying the obedience of faith to the same mystery.(RC 4) In this way together with Mary Joseph became the guardian of the divine mystery of the Incarnation (RC 5).

Husband and father

The papal exhortation deals at some length with the double role of Joseph described in the gospel: he is husband of Mary and father of Jesus:

“And while it is important for the Church to profess the virginal conception of Jesus, it is no less important to uphold Mary’s marriage to Joseph, because juridically Joseph’s fatherhood depends on it.” (R 7)

Mary and Joseph are husband and wife (RC 7, 17-21). The pope repeats the teaching of Sts Augustine and Thomas Aquinas about this marriage: “an indivisible union of souls, a union of hearts and consent” (RC 7). Since the second century the image of Mary as the New Eve has been taught—Christ being the New Adam (see Rom 5:14-19). But the pope looks again at the Genesis text and states:

“But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil, which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads over the earth. The Saviour began the work of salvation out of this virginal and sacred union” (ex virginali et sacra coniunctione incohavit­ RC 7).

He immediately makes an application to family life, for it “has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love” and has so much to learn from the Holy Family, which was truly “the original domestic Church that every Christian family” must reflect (RC 7). Indeed, “The Church deeply venerates this Family and proposes it as the model of all families” (RC 21). A Catholic theology that focuses too exclusively on Mary can forget the deep human love between her and her husband, a point drawn out by the pope:

“‘Joseph took his wife, but he knew her not until she had borne a son’ (Matt 1:24-25). These words indicate another kind of closeness in marriage. The deep spiritual closeness arising from marital union and the interpersonal contact between man and woman have their definite origins in the Spirit, the Giver of Life (see John 6:63). Joseph in obedience to the Spirit, found in the Spirit, the source of love, the conjugal love which he experienced as man. And this love proved to be greater that this “just man” could ever have expected within the limits of his human heart.” (RC19)

John Paul quotes from the encyclical of Leo XIII who noted that marriage is a sharing. So Joseph was not just Mary’s protector, but God “gave Joseph to Mary in order that he might share, through the marriage pact, in her own sublime greatness” (RC 20). We are familiar with the bridal symbolism of Christ and the Church,[19] but Pope John Paul notes that the two kinds of love between Mary and Joseph, marital and virginal, together represent the mystery of the Church (RC 20). Some modern authors use the term “complementary missions” of Mary and Joseph.[20]

The exhortation sums up scriptural, liturgical and papal traditions in speaking of the fatherhood of Joseph: he made his life a service of the Incarnation; he had legal authority over the Holy Family; he watched over the Son of God with fatherly care; he showed Jesus all the affectionate solicitude that a father’s heart could know; he is entrusted with all the so-called “private” or “hidden” life of Jesus. Jesus in turn “obeyed him and rendered to him that honour and reverence that children owe to their father” (RC 8). It is a genuine, not substitute fatherhood: it is fatherhood “that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family” (RC 21). Both Luke and Mathew note that Joseph takes on the role of father by naming the child, Jesus (RC 7, 12). The words of Mary confirm the Nazareth reality, “your father and I have been searching for you” (Luke 2:48, see RC 15), which Luke elsewhere attests speaking of Jesus’ parents (Luke 2:33, 41—RC 21).

We find a summary of Joseph’s role with regard to be Jesus and Mary in the pope’s comment about the stay in Egypt: “Joseph, guardian and co-operator in the providential mystery of God...watched over the one who brings about the New Covenant” (RC 14).

The hidden life in Nazareth is carefully described

“The growth of Jesus “in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of Joseph, who had the important task of “raising” Jesus, that is, feeding, clothing and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father.”

And this passage ends with the picture of Jesus at work at the side of Joseph (RC 16, see 22­ 23).

Nazareth: work and the interior life

Pope John Paul II, as one might expect, presents Joseph as a worker and thus a model for all Christians. There is a new development in that work is said to be “the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth” (RC 22). Following Paul VI the pope shows that holiness is open to all:

“St Joseph is the model of those humble ones that Christianity raises up to great destinies...he is the proof that in order to be a good and genuine follower of Christ, there is no need to do great things­ it is enough to have the common, simple and human virtues, but they need to be true and authentic” (RC 24).

The encyclical focuses on the interior life, “Daily Joseph went about in companionship with the mystery hidden from all ages, which dwelt under his roof” (RC 25).[21] The pope looks draws consequences for spirituality and the inner life from the intimacy of the Nazareth home. Since love and healing came from Jesus in his ministry, we like Mary and Joseph must come deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation. In Joseph the two lives contemplative and active are ideally harmonised: in him we see the Augustinian love of the truth (caritas veritatis) joined to the demands of love (necessitas caritatis).

Patron of the Church

Every age, it seems, finds the Church threatened, especially the past hundred years since Joseph was made its Patron. The papal document points up various situations in which the example and the intercession of Joseph are needed: evangelisation and re-evangelisation, marriage, evangelical virtues, the sin and darkness that surround us, the need to serve Christ’s saving mission and to enter fully into the mystery of the Incarnation (RC 28-32).


The liturgy of the Church today and the papal teaching that we have been tracing give some important indicators for us today. We can no longer neglect a consideration of Joseph when we are studying Mariology. Though silent, Joseph is no peripheral figure in the plan of salvation. For our time his very silence is a strong challenge to values current in our society, the glorification of success, of achievement and of self-fulfilment. Joseph points to the supreme value of the interior life; he lives in total commitment to Jesus and to Mary. Joseph points to love and sacrifice as key standards in Christian marriage. In Mary and Joseph men and women find their truest identity. Likewise the Church.

I would like to emphasise the urgent need for further studies on Joseph in two areas, and from two sources. The Church needs to hear and learn from those who have marriages in which for one reason or another (health, social situations, free choice, etc.) there is no sexual intercourse. Their views on marriage could help us to understand much more about that husband and wife, who were Joseph and Mary. These have something to tell the Church which celibate theologians, male or female, cannot even begin to guess. Equally, we need to hear from fathers who have adopted children: what is their experience of bonding with their child? Men who have married women with children from a previous marriage may also have something to teach us in this regard. These two areas of study and sharing are just another example of how the Church’s life may be gravely deficient in not having an authentic lay to help articulate its spirituality and the humanity involved in its deepest truths.

[1] L.J. Suenens, Dear Saint Joseph (Ertvelde, Belgium: Edition F.I.A.T, 1994) 9.

[2] A. Doze, Saint Joseph: Shadow of the Father (New York: Alba House, 1992) 9. This book is also published as Discovering Saint Joseph (London: St Paul’s, 1991).

[3] F.L. Filas, The Man Closest to Christ: Nature and Historic Development of the Devotion to St Joseph (Milwaukee, 1944).

[4] Redemptoris custos (1989).

[5] An interview cited F.L. Filas, Joseph: The Man Closest to Jesus (Boston: St Paul, 1962) 462; see also Documentation catholique 60(1963) 403.

[6] “Remarques sur la Constitution dogmatique sur l’Église ‘Lumen gentium’,” Irénikon 1(1966) 5-45 at 22-24.

[7] Redemptoris custos, 15 August 1989.

[8] See Prosper of Aquitaine, Legem credendi statuit lex supplicandi (public prayer establishes the law of belief).

[9] 19 March, see canon 1247 § 1. There was a dispensation given later for those countries that celebrated the feast of St Patrick (17 March) as a holiday of obligation.

[10] Canon 1259 § 2.

[11] Raccolta n. 489, p. 413-415.

[12] The Latin is a good deal richer: Praesta, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, at humane salutes mysteries, cuius primordial beati Ioseph fideli costodiae commisisti, Ecclesia tua, ipso intercedente, iugiter servet implenda.

[13] Mp. Bonum sane 25 July 1920—AAS 12(1920) 313-317.

[14] Encyclical, Divini Redemptoris, 19 March 1937—AAS 29(1937) 106.

[15] Apost. Letter Le voci, 19 March 1961—AAS 53(1961) 205-213.

[16] References in Dictionnaire de spiritualité 8:1320.

[17] AAS 52(1960) 455-456 cited Dictionnaire de spiritualité 8:1320; see A. Doze, Joseph: Shadow of the Father 55-56.

[18] Translation: Guardian of the Redeemer (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1989 = Vatican translation); see also important commentary J.J. Davis, “Mary and Joseph in the Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris custos,” Marian Studies 42(1991) 133-171.

[19] See Eph 5:25-32 and Vatican II, Constitution on the Church, LG 5 and 7.

[20] E.g. P. Molinari and A. Hennessy, Giuseppe e Maria: Vocazione e missione di una coppia di sposi (Milan: San Paolo, 1993) 66-76 from English original The Vocation and Mission of Joseph and Mary (Dublin: Veritas, 1992).

[21] The official translation inexplicably omits the key word “daily” (cotidiano).

Author: Christopher O’Donnell, O.Carm

Published in Announcements (CITOC)
Wednesday, 31 January 2024 16:57

Bl. Candelaria of St. Joseph, Virgin

1 February Optional Memorial in Latin America

Bl Candelaria was born Susana Paz-Castillo Ramírez in 1863. She enthusiastically welcomed the call of God to holiness, and since her youth, stood out in practicing living and effective charity, with which she cared for, consoled and healed the sick and wounded that strife had left on the streets of her birth city.

To read more

Homily at the Beatification Mass for Bl Candelaria 
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins

Caracas, Venezuela
Sunday – April 27, 2008

1. Listening to the words of Jesus in the Gospel just proclaimed, the stupendous reflections of St. Augustine come to mind, when he affirms that if, unfortunately, because of a fire the four Gospels were destroyed and only the words "God is love" were saved, the substance would have remained intact. In what religion is love everything, as in Christianity? The Christian faith is an act of love, as Benedict XVI reminded us in his first encyclical. The exordium of today's Gospel passage is emblematic: "Jesus says to his disciples: 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments.'" In this "if you love me" is the synthesis of Christianity.

He who loves does everything out of love, even the impossible things, without being weighed down by them, because he observes the interior law, which is more demanding than any external discipline. And because the language of love is not words but the union of the one who loves with the beloved, in the seven verses of this Sunday's Gospel Jesus speaks seven times of union. Indeed, to be in: expresses the fascinating verb of supreme and total union: the disciples are "in" Christ and Christ "is in" the Father.

2. The Church's liturgy, with wise pedagogy, is preparing us for the great Solemnity of Pentecost. The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, presents us with the Holy Spirit, received through the imposition of the hands of the Apostles. The Gospel, on which we are meditating, also speaks of the Holy Spirit whom the disciples will receive as the Paraclete: which in Greek sometimes means Comforter, sometimes Advocate, or both. St. John insists in his Gospel on the title Paraclete, since historically the Church, after Easter, had a living and strong experience of the Spirit as consoler, defender, ally in internal and external difficulties, in persecutions and in everyday life. In the first centuries, when the Church is persecuted, she has the daily experience of trials and condemnations; it is then that she sees in the Comforter the divine advocate and defender against her human accusers. The Comforter is experienced as the one who assists the martyrs and who, before the judges, in the tribunals, puts on their lips the word that no one is able to refute. After the era of persecutions, the accent shifts and the predominant meaning is that of comforter in the tribulations and anguish of life.

In contemplating the Paraclete we feel the strength to honor and invoke the Holy Spirit, and to be ourselves other "paracletes," "comforters," in the full sense of the word, according to the divine measure. If it is true that the Christian must be alter Christus, another Christ, it is also true that he must be alter Paraclitus, another consoler.

To be consolers, paracletes, is a quality that all the saints have had in general: like the Good Samaritan, they have worked to soothe the wounds of so many brothers and sisters with the balm of mercy and the oil of Christian hope. With a soul full of joy today, contemplating the life and example of the new Venezuelan Blessed, and her charism that is transmitted in her work, through her daughters, the Carmelite Sisters of the Third Carmelite Order in Venezuela, we observe that a true "art of consoling" stands out as a dominant characteristic. In her simplicity, Mother Candelaria lived and proposes to us, with all its actuality, a true theology of consolation. This explains the facts of her daily life that, even with a simple word or gesture, always lived with her constant and ardent prayer and a lively and deep faith, she was able to get close to so many sick people. Certainly, it was God who "consoled" through her.

In the testimonies collected for her cause of beatification, it is striking to note how her love for God was intimately united to her love for her neighbor. In fact, from a very young age she dedicated herself to the service of others, in the care of the sick or in the catechesis of young people and adults, with her maternal attention to the sisters of her congregation. A life consumed by spending hours and hours at the bedside of the sick, to the point of starving herself to be able to feed the sick in a hospital and to make hard journeys to find money for the hospitals.

And so, year after year, always - and perhaps this is one of the most attractive characteristics of Blessed Candelaria–with great simplicity, without drama, always serene and ready to listen, without ever complaining about the people who made the life of Christian service difficult for her. A charity that reached the heroism: like being left without a bed to sleep in, for having given it to a sick person; preferring to take care of the most contagious sick or people who were enemies of the faith; assisting with maternal gentleness the lost women who were hospitalized. Her total dedication to her neighbor was such that even the most unbelieving doctors were amazed by the generous dedication of this small and simple sister.

4. The Blessed whom we venerate today testifies, with her entire life, that supernatural love is the basis of existence, that only love can change the life of human beings according to their deepest needs and that love consists in the gift of self, overcoming resistance and individualism in order to carry out the divine will.

The present beatification, manifesting this aspect of Blessed Candelaria's spirituality, invites us too, with docility to the Holy Spirit, to be dispensers of God's "consolation."

Blessed Candelaria accompanies us and invites us to take care of the terminally ill, of those suffering from AIDS, to concern ourselves with alleviating the loneliness of the elderly and the difficulties of so many different forms of poverty, to dedicate the necessary time to visiting the sick in hospitals. And how can we fail to think of those who dedicate themselves to helping children, victims of all kinds of abuses? We must also defend the rights of threatened minorities, such as some indigenous peoples of Latin America, and be the voice of the voiceless.

But her testimony, the one I am most interested in that reaches each one of us and all those who in the future will find the eloquent lesson of Blessed Candelaria, in addition to the moral values, which are great, is what is at its origin. I am referring to the living and active presence of the Risen Christ in her, which is palpably manifested in her boundless charity. In this sense, the Blessed who today has been raised to the honor of the altars belongs to that multitude of Christians who strongly manifest and show the presence of Christ in the men and women of today, pilgrims, who at times, forgetting their goal, walk without direction.

In today's Gospel Jesus tells the Apostles that he will ask the Father to send them the Comforting Spirit, so that he may always remain with them. And this "abiding" of the Spirit in our heart "transforms us into Christ," making us in the world, and in history, that is, in today's society–in the concrete environment in which we live–his living presence and credible witness. This happened in Mother Candelaria and it can happen in us. The Spirit forms Christ in us and makes us his imitators in our time and throughout our lives, as the Holy Father reminds us: "One does not begin to be a Christian by an ethical decision or a great idea, but by an encounter with an event, with a Person, which gives a new horizon to life and, with it, a decisive orientation" (Deus Caritas Est, 1).

The holiness of life of this flower of Venezuela, who is Mother Candelaria, one of the eminent fruits of the history of Catholicism in Latin America, affirms us in the experience so well described by Benedict XVI at the beginning of his pontificate: "There is nothing more beautiful than to have been touched, to have been surprised by the Gospel, by Christ. Nothing is more beautiful than to know him and to communicate friendship with him to others" (Homily, Sunday, April 24, 2005: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 29, 2005, p. 7). Therefore, while we rejoice in the beatification of Mother Candelaria and give thanks to God for it, let us allow ourselves to be surprised by the Gospel and make Christ the reason for our life.

Published in Announcements (CITOC)
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