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Column: Joseph, like Mary, makes the perfect intercessor for many

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by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Holy Week is fast approaching, less than four weeks away. I am pleased to extend an invitation to everyone in the Archdiocese to come to the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kan., for one of the Holy Week liturgies.

The cathedral schedule for Holy Week is as follows:

Palm Sunday

April 16, 4 p.m. Vigil Mass

April 17, 9 and 11 a.m., 5 p.m. Masses

Holy Thursday

April 21, 7:30 p.m. Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Good Friday

April 22, 3 p.m. Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

Holy Saturday

April 23, Easter Vigil, 7:30 p.m.

Easter Sunday

April 24, 9 and 11 a.m. Easter Masses

I will be the celebrant and homilist at the Palm Sunday 11 a.m. Mass, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday and the 11 a.m. Easter Sunday Mass. For the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, I will be the celebrant and Archbishop Emeritus James Keleher will be the homilist.

Many people in the archdiocese have never seen our beautiful cathedral. I encourage you to make a pilgrimage to the cathedral for one of the Holy Week liturgies.

Remember our Springtime for the Soul initiative continues with confessors available in churches throughout the archdiocese from 6 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday of Lent. Do not let this Lent go by without receiving the special grace and peace that the Lord offers us in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Among the many things for which I am in my mother’s debt is giving me St. Joseph as a patron. In part, I was named Joseph because my father died before my birth. My mother reasoned that St. Joseph was a good foster-father for Jesus, so he would also be a good spiritualfather for me. She was right.

We celebrated the solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of Mary, this past Saturday, March 19. In the office of readings for this feast, there is a selection from a homily given by St. Bernardine of Siena in which he states:

“There is a general rule concerning all the special graces granted to any human being. Wherever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.

“This general rule is especially verified in the case of St. Joseph, the fosterfather of our Lord and the husband of the Queen of our world, enthroned above all the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasure, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him saying: Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”

These words of St. Bernardine took on special meaning for me, since the feast of St. Joseph also marked the 7th anniversary of the Mass welcoming me to the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. I beg St. Joseph daily to ask his foster-son, Jesus, to give me the gifts of the Spirit I need to fulfill the responsibility that God has entrusted to me.

I was also struck by St. Bernardine’s observation that Joseph was chosen by our heavenly Father to be the “guardian and protector” of God’s “greatest treasure, namely, his divine Son.” Parents are rightfully very choosy regarding to whom they entrust the care of their children. What incredible respect God manifests toward Joseph by entrusting Jesus into his care!

One of the options for the liturgy for the feast of St. Joseph is the passage in St. Luke’s Gospel describing the anxiety of Joseph and Mary when they were uncertain of the whereabouts of Jesus for three days during the return journey from their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Imagine the question going through Joseph’s mind while he and Mary were frantically searching for Jesus: “How am I going to tell God I lost his Son?”

St. Joseph is a great patron for parents as they labor to fulfill their awesome responsibility of being the first teachers and the primary ones to form the faith in their children (God’s children) that he has entrusted to their care.

St. Joseph is also a beautiful patron for priests as we strive to fulfill our responsibility of being true spiritual fathers to those whom God has entrusted to our pastoral care. Joseph, who shouldered such a huge responsibility as the protector and guardian of the Holy Family, will be sympathetic to interceding for the graces we need to fulfill the demands of our vocation. St. Joseph is also a great patron for the young, and really anyone who is struggling to understand God’s will in their lives. St. Joseph was incredibly perceptive in understanding God’s plan for him, as well as heroic in doing God’s will with his life. The Gospel tells us the angel instructs Joseph in a dream to take the pregnant Mary as his wife. It is in a dream that Joseph is instructed to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Herod wants to murder the Prince of Peace. Again in a dream, Joseph is informed it is safe to return home to Nazareth and there build a life for Jesus and Mary.

With all those dreams, you might think Joseph would be afraid to go to sleep at night. Joseph was obviously a man of prayer who was able to discern God’s plan, even through the mysterious medium of dreams. No matter how bizarre the request from a worldly viewpoint, Joseph follows God’s will completely. We can ask St. Joseph to help us understand God’s plan for us and to give us the courage to follow his will wherever it may lead.

Some people think of St. Joseph as a mystical real estate agent who can help one sell a home. Personally, I have never been fond of what seems to be a superstitious practice of burying St. Joseph upside down in the ground to seek his intercession for selling a home. On the other hand, I believe absolutely if we honor St. Joseph in our homes, Jesus will bless our families in beautiful ways.

Non-Catholics frequently object to our devotional practice of asking the intercession of the saints. They wonder: Why not go directly to Jesus? Certainly, as Catholics we often do just that. However, Jesus himself has instructed us: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). There is special power when we unite with others in prayer. In our Catholic tradition, we have always realized that our prayer group need not be confined to this world, but also can include the saints in heaven.

It is not that God needs the saints to talk him into doing some good for his children on earth. However, God seems to delight in honoring the saints and holding them up to the church on earth as examples to imitate by responding to their intercession for others.

After all that St. Joseph did for Jesus at the time of his birth and when he was growing up in Nazareth, do you really think that our Lord would deny anything that his foster-father might ask of him? Besides Mary, I can think of no one better than St. Joseph with whom to approach Jesus.

About the author

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Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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