As our journey through this Lent continues, in this month of March the Church celebrates two saints, on March 17th Saint Patrick and on March 19th Saint Joseph. Not only can they teach us about holiness but they can encourage our Lenten practices of Prayer, Penance and Charity. For some people the fervor of their initial commitment to the penitential spirit of Lent lessens as the season goes forward. It becomes more challenging to maintain our resolve to have more and better time in prayer with the Lord, to make personal sacrifices of self-denial in order to allow more room for God and to practice the virtue of Charity with concern and sharing for the least among us. We need encouragement and rekindling to be faithful to the three pillars of Lent, Prayer, Fasting and Charity, and these two saints can help.
Although Patrick is the National Apostle of Ireland, it is generally accepted by scholars that not a drop of Irish blood pumped through his veins. Yet, he went to the Irish people who were not his own people and brought them to Christ and to His Church. Saint Patrick was a Missionary who respectfully inserted himself into the culture, mores, language and customs of the people. In this way of Charity, Patrick attracted the Irish to the Gospel and to the Church. His respect for a people whose ways were strange to him was the magnet of his missionary endeavor that successfully brought the Irish to the Lord.
As we seek to grow in Charity this Lent, may the example of Saint Patrick encourage and inspire us. We are surrounded by blaring public discourse and diatribe against those whose languages, religions and looks are different from us. At times it can be deafening. Let us not fall into the trap of disrespect and prejudice against those who are not like us. The example of Saint Patrick teaches us that respect for others should characterize a Christian. Saint Patrick teaches us to look for goodness in all people and to see in them something of God. May we grow in Charity this Lent and by our Charity for all show that we are Godly women and men.
Our information about Saint Joseph comes from Sacred Scripture. A reminder that the Word of God, the Bible, is a valuable source for faith. We do not have even one word that Saint Joseph may have spoken but we have the stories of what he did. These are stories of a man of action who acted on the Word of God which he even heard in his dreams.
Joseph was a laborer, a family man, attentive to the voice of God and to doing God’s will, which for him was no piece of cake. He accepted Mary into his household despite her pregnancy, knowing that he was not the father of her unborn child. He did what God asked him to do, even when that was very difficult and challenging for him. Can you imagine his emotions when he had to escape with Mary and the Child Jesus and go to Egypt in order to protect the child?
Joseph must have prayed a lot, a man of prayer. He taught Jesus how to pray as was the custom of that time for the male child to be tutored by his father in the prayers and ceremonies of the Synagogue. Jesus would have attended the Sabbath services in Nazareth with Joseph and learned to pray from the example that Joseph gave him.
Consider the example of Saint Joseph as we seek to give more time to prayer in these days of Lent. Like Saint Joseph, may we learn to trust in God’s will for us. May the discipline of more time at prayer bring us deeper into the love of God which will carry us through the difficult and challenging experiences of our lives as it did for Saint Joseph.
These two saints, Joseph and Patrick, teachers and guides lead us to Jesus. They can also help us to grow in holiness and live Lent with more fervor.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden