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St. Joseph taught us to offer ourselves to God

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 24, 2021

Editors Note: Homily of Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s to the Sisters of St. Joseph on their Feast Day.

When a close family member of mine (I’ll refrain from mentioning her name) learned that her older son’s wife was pregnant, she said that she would not have the child call her “grandma” because she felt that she wasn’t old enough to be a “grandma.” She would need to think up another name that wouldn’t seem to imply that the infant’s grandmother was an elderly woman.

After all, she wasn’t the “grandma type.” She was really into denial. She thought: “Me? Grandma? I don’t think so!” She was in a delightful, new place, but in denial, for a while anyway!

I wonder if Joseph would not have had a totally different reaction. “Me? A father, guardian of God? I don’t think so.” He found himself in a puzzling new place, to say the least. Still, not having all his questions answered, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

With Joseph as our guide, we can step forward, embrace all that we are called to be now, in these puzzling times, and look into tomorrow’s uncertainties and possibilities with the hope and trust that was so characteristic of St. Joseph’s life.

Joseph is the can-do saint. Without words or fanfare, he gets the job done. Here we have not a man of few words, but a man of no words. As Pope Francis noted in his reflection on St. Joseph, in which he introduced this Holy Year, (With a Father’s Heart), he reminds us that “those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all” – all, who without fanfare labor in the Lord’s vineyard.

As I was reflecting on the Holy Father’s words, on this your patronal Feast Day, I couldn’t help but think of the many, many sisters of St. Joseph who, for generations, have played an incomparable role in the faith life of so many here in the North Country and beyond. This community of consecrated women who possess such a precious devotion to St. Joseph, deserve respect and gratitude from this local Church. I mean, just think of the variety of ways that you have ministered to the people of our beloved North Country. Schools, parishes, prisons, colleges, hospitals, nursing homes, seminary, have all provided the environment in which the Sisters of St. Joseph have ministered here in Jesus’ Name for over a century.

Some of you who now call this Motherhouse “home” probably feel isolated, especially during this pandemic, hidden, in the shadows of years gone by when you had the vigor and good health to be actively involved out there in the Lord’s vineyard. I am here to tell you that you are not forgotten. Your lives are not without impact. Your value has not diminished. I am here to tell you that we cherish your presence among us. I am here to plead for your continuing prayers and support.

All consecrated religious have a major role to play in the Church. By your lives of courage and trust, you continually recall what it is to be offered, consecrated to the glory of God. Your life, the life of a consecrated religious is like a great offertory. Cardinal Sarah writes that your consecrated life “teaches an essential aspect: every baptized person must live in a state of oblation and offering. Our life must become a great liturgy, a spiritual sacrifice.”

It took courage and lots of trust for Joseph to obey the angels’ commands, particularly at the rocky, treacherous beginnings of our Savior’s life here on earth. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “…in the crisis of a world full of conflicts and dangers, (his) faith opened up the path of salvation.”

Like Joseph, you continue to devote yourselves completely to Jesus in these, most unsettling and troubling of times and you become for others the means by which they can take the path to salvation. Sisters, never, never minimize the power of your prayer and witness.

“Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood,” the Holy Father reminds us. Clearly, each of you, dear Sisters, has been called and continue to be called by God every day to serve the mission of Jesus through your sisterhood, bride of Christ that you are, and we are blessed as a result.

As God told Joseph, “Be not afraid” (Mt.1:20), so you, too, heed those words as you live out each day with a creative courage that continues to build up the local Church. For that, I am truly grateful.

Sometimes we might be tempted to look to the future with real discouragement, maybe even fear. But, as Pope Francis tells us, “God always finds a way to save us, no matter our circumstance, provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.”

And so, we confidently trust that the carpenter of faith, this Guardian of our Church, will continue to be a model of hope for you and me. The times, yes, they are a changing, but the Lord’s love and care is the same yesterday, today and forever! Good St. Joseph pray for us! Happy Feast Day everybody!


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