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Mar 14, 2014

Spirituality

Joseph's Joy

Spirituality

In his introduction to Redemptoris Custos, John Paul II summed up Joseph’s mission as follows:

“He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife. (cf. Mt 1 :24)... He took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing...”

With Fr. José Mirande, let us be introduced to the mystery of Joseph’s joy.

In the Bible, my attention is drawn to two figures of Patriarchs and both are called Joseph. As I see it Providence has given me more than a name: it is a vocation, a call to liberty and joy in God.

Joseph of Egypt, betrayed and sold by his brothers, is the image of a God who chooses poor means, to the point of being taken for a victim; he takes no decision for anything in his life, thrown into a cistern, then sold as a slave; kept in prison then upgraded to the position of Master of the Palace, slandered and deposed, reinstated in his former position, it would seem that he wasn’t free to choose his own wife! Finally proclaimed governor of the whole country, ever the same in all situations, he is the image of a God who forgives, whose forgiveness is so deep that he seems to forget himself. Finally he saves his father and his brothers and plans the place where the People of God will bloom.

Joseph of Nazareth has often reminded me of what “Joseph’s joy” could be like. He was called to such a very special service in God’s plan that he didn’t have a minute to think of his own projects. He has no choice but to adapt and accept the indications from Divine Providence and lead a life of total renouncement. He seems to me to be the perfect answer to the individualism of today. He reminds us that we receive our joy as the result of something, and that the Christian’s joy and even more so the joy of the consecrated soul, is a joy from God and according to God’s plan.

Father Garicoits is presented to us as a man full of optimism and joy; yet there is a certain evolution in his interpretation of God’s joy.

He begins by being a person who pleases everyone: as a child, servant, student and young priest; he is happy to be at the service of all and to the best of his ability. But he was soon to discover religious life and finds himself member of a community, bound by choices taken together.

But what must have been St Michael’s joy between 1841 and 1863, that is from the day when the Bishop told him that he wanted to have a simple missionary Congregation at the service of the Diocese, and so putting an end to his genuine wishes? Maybe he felt reassured by the growth and quality of his community which marked real development despite the contradictory demands of his Bishop. The shadow of interference by his Bishop continued to hang over his good work.

Michael’s discernment was to the point; even the Church approved of his choice and research of an “ever higher degree of perfection” as he used to say. Mgr Lacroix wasn’t wrong in wanting to keep good labourers in the service of the parishes of his diocese. But there were two interpreting the “will of God”, the magisterium and the charism. Michael will always have responded with total vigour to the Bishop’s way of thinking, who is imbued with the grace state. But it cannot be denied that there is also the grace of foundation, commonly known as “charism” which is priceless in the eyes of God and of the Church. How therefore can we call “joy” a life where one gives up a large part of what one believes in?

It is at this point that we must return to “Joseph’s joy” or rather that of Jesus on his way up to Jerusalem there to carry out his destiny. Our interpretation of God’s will is like the millstones in the old mills. Under the action of running water these millstones are constantly moving, constantly rubbing off each other, they crush the grain and produce good white flour. The Word of God, which seems to be a stumbling block between Michael Garicoits and Francois Lacroix becomes a source of research resulting in the manifestation of God’s Will and the existence of our Congregation.

There is therefore just now with Garicoits a real joy, a bitter-sweet joy if you like but for real, a bit like that of a child who has total confidence in his Father: joy of the new flour to be consecrated like Bread.

Michael returns from Mirepeix, dead beat as much by fatigue as by the last chat with His Lordship who led him to understand that his project of foundation was over. He will die “from lack of air” where his illness is mixed with the expectations of the baby fox enjoying in advance the definitive meeting with the little prince. He therefore dies in a state of joy.

This is what Saint Michael tells me: “I must urge you with every fibre of my being to live constantly in the joy of the Lord, and let it shine through everything you do, in all your relations with God, your neighbour and your innermost self as Mary did “(DS 135 – 136).

José Mirande, scj

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