Bishop Glen John Provost, D.D., M.A.
Bishop of Lake Charles
Solemn Pontifical Mass
Votive Mass for St. Joseph as part of
diocesan observance of the "Year of Saint Joseph"
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
“Joseph, her husband, … was a righteous man.” Matthew 1:19
One important characteristic of St. Joseph stands out from all the rest in the Gospels. He is silent. Nothing of what he might have spoken is recorded. The Gospels recount only what he did, not what he said. Most importantly it is through Joseph’s dreams, a truly silent experience, that the will of God is made known to him.
Dreams play a major role in the life of Joseph’s namesake In Genesis. Joseph, son of Jacob, is called “that master dreamer” (Genesis 37:19) in derision by his brothers before they sell him into slavery. While his dreams drove his brothers to jealousy, Joseph’s ability to interpret the dreams of the Pharoah bring about his promotion (cf. Genesis 41). Pharoah elevates him, placing him “in charge of the whole land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:41). Joseph is, in the words of the Pharoah, “a man … endowed with the spirit of God” (Genesis 41:38).
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, four dreams occur in the life of St. Joseph. Each proclaims the will of God to him. In the first dream, the angel explains how the child of Mary was conceived. His name will be Jesus, in fulfillment of ancient prophecies (cf. Matthew 1:20ff.). In the second dream, the angel warns Joseph to “take the child and his mother” and “flee to Egypt” (Matthew 2:13). A third time the angel appears to Joseph in a dream and instructs him to leave Egypt with the child and His mother and return to Israel (cf. Matthew 2:19ff.). And, finally, frightened of returning to Judea, because Archelaus rules there now, a dream confirms the danger and St. Joseph moves the Holy Family to Galilee (cf. Matthew 2:22).
The dreams of St. Joseph must never be seen through the lens of modern psychology. Quite to the contrary, they reveal to us, just as they did to St. Joseph, God’s Will. The New Testament recounts no dream of Jesus. “[I]t does not dwell on the psychology of the Master, … because it sees in Him the one who ‘knows’ the Father without the need for any intermediary” (Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Xavier Léon-Dufour, p. 128).
St. Joseph is granted this favor of an angel’s mediation because he plays a pivotal role in the life of the Holy Family. He is given special insight into God’s redemptive Will, as it is unfolding in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her Son. He is taking part in the great drama of God’s redeeming work. His contribution is essential to bring about how God wishes everything to take place.
I think this is, in part, why Blessed St. Pius IX declared St. Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in Quemadmodum Deus. At that time in the 19th Century, the Church was beset by Her enemies. Persecutions and threats were rising in every corner of what had been at one time Christendom. The children of Mother Church needed to listen to God’s Will and respond to that Divine Will, just as St. Joseph had.
These conflicts and attacks upon the Church have continued. They have, of course, undergone vicious transformations with the rise of Fascism, Nazism, Communism, and the disillusionment brought about by two catastrophic world wars. There are those in the Church, most regrettably, who have contributed to these assaults against the Body of Christ. They have and continue to compromise the Truth, as revealed by our Lord Himself. They espouse behavior, which is contrary to the Divine Will and which, in some cases, is unprecedented in the history of mankind. They call into question the very act of human conception, redefine that which cannot be redefined, and unite what cannot be united. It is an age that proclaims paradigm shifts of things that cannot change, all the while ignoring what indeed must change, which is the human heart.
We live at a time which desperately needs the example of St. Joseph, beginning with his primary Gospel attribute — “he was a righteous man” (Matthew 1:19). His example must lead us further into listening to God’s Will proclaimed in the dream of God’s messenger. We must be silent, as he was, and listen. What is God telling us? What clogs our ears to hear what He says to us? If Herod seeks to kill the Christ child, then we must protect Him. If we must flee to Egypt, then we do what must be done. If we cannot return to Judea, then we must move on to Galilee. We do what we must and what we should in accord with God’s Will. In this, true righteousness exists.
St. Joseph, we live in troubling times. So did you. We are puzzled by all that transpires. So were you. Intercede for us. Let us learn from your example to be silent and to listen. Through this silence and listening may we hear God’s voice more clearly, as you did. May we understand better the mystery of God’s Will in our lives, taking Mary into our homes, finding refuge from the plots of evil men, discovering safety in our pursuit of the Kingdom of God, and cherishing the presence of Word of God made flesh. St. Joseph, pray for us. All this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.