Quote of the day, 18 December: St. Teresa of Avila

“I don’t know how one can think about the Queen of Angels and about when she went through so much with the Infant Jesus without giving thanks to St. Joseph for the good assistance he then provided them both with. Anyone who cannot find a master to teach him prayer should take this glorious saint for his master, and he will not go astray” (The Book of Her Life, 6.8).

It’s in the name of the reality of the Incarnation—and of basic common sense!—that Saint Teresa encourages us to turn to Saint Joseph. A century after Teresa, the Discalced Carmelites had established a feast of the “patronage of St. Joseph” to celebrate their Protector. During this last week of Advent, couldn’t we live this under the patronage of St. Joseph, too, choosing him as our guide?

To do this, let’s begin by listening to the Gospel account of the “annunciation unto Joseph:”

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and `said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:18–21).

This annunciation was, to say the least, disconcerting for Joseph. Welcoming the coming of the Son of God into his life will lead him to give up his personal plans, or rather to abandon what he had legitimately envisioned for the realization of those personal plans. Certainly, he feels in his heart the call to be a husband and father.

However, after the visit of the angel of the Lord, Joseph will receive from God himself the way in which his desires will be fulfilled: he will be a husband and a father, but in a way that is very different from what he had imagined, in a way that is even more beautiful and fruitful than what he had imagined.

For our part, throughout Advent, our desire for the coming of the Son of God has grown, and our confidence in his certain coming has been strengthened. But also, for sure—he will come to us in the way he wants and not necessarily in the way we imagine. So, in this last week, it’s good for us to let ourselves be taught by St. Joseph: for this, let’s see how Joseph himself manages to consent to the unimaginable things that take place in his life.

First of all, as the angel encourages him, “Do not be afraid,” he puts his trust in God. We might wonder what kind of fear could jeopardize Joseph’s peace? The evangelist Saint Matthew refers to him as “a righteous man.” No doubt this fiancé fears being forced to give up his most cherished plans, even the plans he had for his life.

Indeed, the extraordinary entrance of the Son of God into the life of this betrothed man leads him to agree to forgo not only one element of his life but to forsake his deepest vocation or at least the concept of it that he held until that point. To be plunged into the unknown can truly be frightening: Joseph is asked to accept a type of fatherhood so different from what he had rightly expected for himself.

We too can experience challenges—big and small—to our personal plans. Obviously, it’s important that we be responsible actors in our lives, not letting ourselves be tossed about by events. Rather, when the unexpected happens in our lives, Joseph invites us not to fear but to trust, so that we can welcome God’s loving plan even in the unexpected moments.

Then the divine messenger instructs Joseph: “Take Mary as your wife.”

Made capable of embracing the newness of the Lord’s plan, Joseph is called to collaborate in God’s work. Indeed, to “take Mary” as his wife, into his home, not only means welcoming her into a house, it means taking care of her, watching over her and the Child she’s carrying: Joseph will be the person in charge, the guardian of the Holy Family, the guarantor of the fulfillment of the divine vocation of Mary and her Son.

We too, through the sometimes confusing circumstances of our lives, are called to discover how we are going to participate in the growth of the Kingdom of God in our world—how we are to support our brothers and sisters so that they may grow in the fulfillment of their own vocations. Joseph shows us the way to a true love of neighbor: that in our hearts, prayers, and careful actions, with discretion and discernment, we care for the relationships of others with God.

Finally, Saint Matthew tells us that once he awakened, Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” Joseph is like this: he quietly acts according to the word of the Lord, with the humility of someone who doesn’t look for reasons to exercise his own will rather than the Lord’s; instead, he finds joy in following another’s Word in silent trust.

That’s great! But how will we do what the Lord expects of us? In what dream will we hear the voice of an angel telling us which paths to follow? Well then, let’s stay awake!

We are no worse off than St. Joseph: if we don’t carry the Child Jesus in our arms as he did, we do receive the Eucharistic Body of Christ; if we don’t hear the voice of the angels in our dreams, we do listen to the Word of God in the silence of our prayer. And this is enough—more than enough!—for us to get up and do what the Lord expects of us.

Anthony-Joseph Pinelli, O.C.D.

Carmelite Online Retreat — Advent 2022
Welcoming the presence of God in our lives

Reflection by Br. Joseph Teresa of the Eucharist, O.C.D.

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Translation from the French text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.

Featured image: Le dénombrement de Bethléem (The Census at Bethlehem) is a massive oil on oak painting (115.5 x 163.5 cm) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flemish, c. 1525–1530 – 1569) in the collections of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. Breugel signed and dated the work in 1566. We notice here a detail that focuses on St. Joseph, seen leading the donkey upon which his betrothed, the Virgin Mary, is riding. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (Public domain).

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