Wednesday, 31 March 2010

April, the Month of the Blessed Sacrament

How appropriate that today, the first day of April, is both the first day of the month of the Blessed Sacrament, and the day of the Lord's Supper, when this Sacrament was instituted: God is clearly a liturgist. As many will know, Catholic piety assigns various devotions to specific months. Originally, certain devotions were given generous indulgences should they be made within a certain time, and gradually every month gained a devotional title to focus the piety of the faithful when no liturgical feast is being celebrated :

January: The Holy Name and Childhood of Jesus
February: The Holy Family
March: St. Joseph
April: The Blessed Sacrament
May: The Blessed Virgin Mary
June: Sacred Heart of Jesus
July: The Precious Blood
August: Immaculate Heart of Mary
September: Seven Dolours (Sorrows) of Mary
October: The Holy Rosary (and, less formally, the Holy Angels)
November: Poor Souls in Purgatory
December: The Immaculate Conception

Indeed, the twelve month cycle of non-liturgical devotion provides another set of squares in the rubiks-cube of the Christian year, which consists of a "dominical" cycle celebrating those movable feasts of the Passion, Resurrection and of Pentecost etc and the "sanctoral" cycle, which celebrates the Saints on fixed calender dates. Last week we saw how these two primary cycles can interact, when the Feast of the Annunciation, which is fixed on March 25th fell a day before the Feast of the Seven Sorrows, which is pegged to the Friday before Palm Sunday in the dominical cycle.

The devotional cycle adds another layer to the Christian year, and can bring us into a closer, more intense experience of the other, liturgical cycles. The devotional cycle demands of us personal, non-liturgical prayer, while the other cycles are about public, liturgical celebration or commemoration. The two are quite distinct, but at times their meeting can be a fruitful encounter for the soul. One common practice that was criticised in the early twentieth century was praying the Rosary during Holy Mass, and rightly so. In this case, there is no connection between what is happening at the altar and what is happening in the pew; there is no participio actuosa or "actual participation", as there was always meant to be, as the faithful "assisted" at the Sacrifice by praying it with their hearts and minds.

But where there is a connection, the public and private can fructify each other. From tomorrow, our private devotions will focus on the Eucharist, and our public devotion will be a re-enactment of the Passion of Our Lord, starting in the Upper Room and the Garden. As we enter into this Paschal mystery with devotion to the Eucharist on our hearts, we are able to seek in the Eucharist a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Passion, and vice-versa. As we make our preparation for our Paschal Communion, with that "sister Sacrament" of Holy Communion, Confession, we begin to grasp in our hearts the meaning of what's going around us in Church over the Paschal Triduum, and when we receive that Communion, which the Church advises we do, we truly become a people reborn.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Seven Sorrows and Joys of S. Joseph

March is not over yet, and I haven't forgotten S. Joseph. One of the classic devotions to S. Joseph is that of his Seven Sorrows which also have seven corresponding Joys. Often they are prayed together on a Special Chaplet for this devotion which has seven large beads each followed by three Smaller ones. A meditation on the Joy and/or Sorrow is made on the large bead, and then followed by Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be on the small beads. I'm trying to work out how to pray them on my new Servite Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary but I'm not sure how. Ah, so many beads. Anyway, this is the devotion as described by

Two Fathers of the Franciscan order were sailing along the coast of Flanders, when a terrible tempest arose, which sank the vessel, with its three hundred passengers. The two Fathers had sufficient presence of mind to seize hold of a plank, upon which they were tossed to and fro upon the waves, for three days and nights. In their danger and affliction, their whole recourse was to St. Joseph, begging his assistance in their sad condition. The Saint, thus invoked, appeared in the habit of a young man of beautiful features, encouraged them to confide in his assistance, and, as their pilot, conducted them into a safe harbor. They, desirous to know who their benefactor was asked his name, that they might gratefully acknowledge so great a blessing and favor. He told them he was St. Joseph, and advised them daily to recite the Our Father and Hail Mary seven times, in memory of his seven dolors or griefs, and of his seven joys, and then disappeared.

(Recite one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be after each number)

1. St. JOSEPH, Chaste Spouse of the Holy Mother of God, by the SORROW with which thy heart was pierced at the thought of a cruel separation from Mary, and by the deep JOY that thou didst feel when the angel revealed to thee the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation, obtain for us from Jesus and Mary, the grace of surmounting all anxiety. Win for us from the Adorable Heart of Jesus the unspeakable peace of which He is the Eternal Source.

2. St. JOSEPH, Foster-Father of Jesus, by the bitter SORROW which thy heart experienced in seeing the Child Jesus lying in a manger, and by the JOY which thou didst feel in seeing the Wise men recognize and adore Him as their God, obtain by thy prayers that our heart, purified by thy protection, may become a living crib, where the Savior of the world may receive and bless our homage.

3. St. JOSEPH, by the SORROW with which thy heart was pierced at the sight of the Blood which flowed from the Infant Jesus in the Circumcision, and by the JOY that inundated thy soul at thy privilege of imposing the sacred and mysterious Name of Jesus, obtain for us that the merits of this Precious Blood may be applied to our souls, and that the Divine Name of Jesus may be engraved forever in our hearts.

4. St. JOSEPH, by the SORROW when the Lord declared that the soul of Mary would be pierced with a sword of sorrow, and by thy JOY when holy Simeon added that the Divine Infant was to be the resurrection of many, obtain for us the grace to have compassion on the sorrows of Mary, and share in the salvation which Jesus brought to the earth.

5. St. JOSEPH, by thy SORROW when told to fly into Egypt, and by thy JOY in seeing the idols overthrown at the arrival of the living God, grant that no idol of earthly affection may any longer occupy our hearts, but being like thee entirely devoted to the service of Jesus and Mary, we may live and happily die for them alone.

6. St. JOSEPH, by the SORROW of thy heart caused by the fear of the tyrant Archelaus and by the JOY in sharing the company of Jesus and Mary at Nazareth, obtain for us, that disengaged from all fear, we may enjoy the peace of a good conscience and may live in security, in union with Jesus and Mary, experiencing the effect of thy salutary assistance at the hour of our death.

7. St. JOSEPH, by the bitter SORROW with which the loss of the Child Jesus crushed thy heart, and by the holy JOY which inundated thy soul in recovering thy Treasure on entering the Temple, we supplicate thee not to permit us to lose our Saviour Jesus by sin. Yet, should this misfortune befall us, grant that we may share thy eagerness in seeking Him, and obtain for us the grace to find Him again, ready to show us His great mercy, especially at the hour of death; so that we may pass from this life to enjoy His presence in heaven, there to sing with thee His divine mercies forever.

Let Us Pray

O God, Who in Thine ineffable Providence has vouchsafed to choose Blessed Joseph to be the Spouse of Thy most holy Mother; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may deserve to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom on earth we venerate as our holy protector: Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Exclusive Preview of Black Folded Chasubles

It is my pleasure to present the new set of Black folded chasubles for Good Friday made by Nick Sargent at S. Magnus the Martyr for this Holy Week. As you can see in the above photograph, we had decided to go for the Spanish cut of chasuble, and to fold them at the breast as one would a Roman chasuble. These are certainly the only Spanish-cut folded chasubles I have ever seen, most certainly unique in London and possibly in the UK.

This shot from the back shows the exquisite shape from the back, plus the effect given by the uniform single orphrey at the back. The contrast between the fine pattern of flowers on the chasuble fabric and the large, round cross-based motif is very pleasing. But these are not fussy vestments that distract the eye. Rather, they beautify the liturgy and contribute to a sense of solemnity which is entirely appropriate to Good Friday.

The orphrey fabric came from Damascus, from a supplier on Straight Street which has long had a friendly relationship with S. Magnus. Our purple High Mass set with dalmatics also features fabric from this shop. The orphrey pattern for this set features an anchor amidst circular crosses, a sign of hope for those who chose to discern it in the Passion which these vestments recall.

Here I am posing as a Deacon, although I think I can get away with it since it's just a photo-op. The broad stole features a band of the same purple as used on the maniples. The broad stole is also designed to cross over at the bottom to form the sort of "fish-tail" effect seen in other examples of the broad stole.

Palm Sunday in the pre-Pian rite

With no disrepect intended to the Venerable Pius XII, the Holy Week reforms that became effective during his pontificate truly make a dog's breakfast of the most important week in the liturgical year. I didn't quite realise how true that was until yesterday, when I assisted at a pre-Pian Palm Sunday for the first time, and realised why so many choose to cleave to this excellent tradition of liturgy. Not everyone will be familiar with the old-Old Rite rites, so I will try to describe the photos I have shared.

The blessing of the palms takes place within a ceremony that has the form of a little Mass, with its own Liturgy of the Word, Collects, Preface, Sanctus, and "Canon" of Blessing. This imitation-Mass clearly links the entrance to Jerusalem with the Passion that follows (in the Mass of the day). The vestments worn are folded chasubles for the Deacon and Subdeacon, and a cope for the Celebrant. The blessing and Mass both use purple, unlike the reformed rite instituted by Pius XII, and God only knows what happens in the Modern Roman Rite! In this picture the ministers arrive at the altar and move to the Epistle side.

Hosannah, Son of David is the Antiphon that corresponds to the Introit of a Mass, and at Oremus of the Collect, the Subdeacon goes to his place and removes his folded chasuble, before going to sing the Lesson from Exodus at the appointed place.

There is also a Gospel proper to the blessing, which recounts the entrance of Christ to the city. For this, the Deacon wears his broad stole as he would at Mass. The Celebrant is listening from the Epistle side, because the Missal has not been moved from the place of the Palms.

The Celebrant kisses the book and is censed as at Mass.

A preface follows, then a "canon" of five blessing prayers is said over branches of Olive and Palm.

The branches are lustrated and censed.

An assistant priest hands a palm to the Celebrant, and the ministers receive theirs kneeling.

Palms are then distributed to the faithful

The procession forms and leaves the church

The Subdeacon carries the veiled cross

When the procession arrives back at the church, two cantors remain inside and shut the doors. From inside they sing "all honour, laud and glory" which is repeated by those outside. After this dialogue, the Subdeacon strikes the door of the church thrice with the foot of the cross....

And the procession enters the church to the chanting of another Antiphon Ingredientem. As a side-bar, the piety of the women who chose to wear a Mantilla or a hat on this day is to be praised.

Mass proceeds as normal with the rules for Passiontide, except for the Chanting of the Passion, after which the end of the Passion is chanted as a normal Gospel, with incense (and acolytes but no lights) thereafter. Unfortunately I couldn't load the picture of the Celebrant, chanting the Passion as Christus at the Gospel side, while the narrator Chanted from the lectern.
This liturgy affected me in ways I didn't know it would. The sense of event which followed the first collect and reading, so familiar yet so different really caught my imagination. The silent, pregnant pause between the end of the Passion sung but the narrator, and the bit sung as the Gospel was truly dramatic and affecting. I have read that this climatic moment represents the desolation of the Church at the events described in the Passion. Even the slight pause that I made to genuflect while singing "and at the name of Christ...every knee shall bend" in the Epistle seemed appropriate, all leading up to the Great Event of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. I have rarely felt so free to engage with the Sacrifice as I did yesterday having heard the Passion sung. Hopefully I'll have time to post photos from the Triduum later this week. Stand by for a preview of our Good Friday vestments.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Annunciation

There must be something wrong with me; I just haven’t managed today to feel very spiritual about the Annunciation. Compared to the effort I put into the celebration of my Name Day last week, I feel like my efforts today have been entirely feeble. To be fair, it is my penultimate day in my current job, and so I’m mostly tying up loose ends in the office and saying goodbye to colleagues. The thought of serving as Subdeacon on Palm Sunday (and having two epistles to chant!) is playing on my mind, as I must remember to revise the rubrics for that day. Holy Week and the desperate need for some quiet time before the Sacred Triduum is similarly looming over my waking hours and stressing me out mildly. I woke up this morning, said my prayers and my novena devotions to S. Rita of Cascia for my grandmother’s health (!), but despite the short time I’ve offered to God in prayer today; I feel that between myself and the mystery of the Incarnation is an unfathomable spiritual distance that frustrates me and leaves me feeling, well, disappointed.

I don’t know what I should do, but I have a good idea of what I’m going to do. Before or after Mass today, I will try to spend some time in quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and I will try to pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, because that is where we are promised a way into the boundless mystery of the Incarnation which we celebrate today. The Eucharist is that sacred rite in which the entire redemptive act, which begins to play out at the Annunciation, is made present to us. The Mass brings together every line of the story, from Annunciation to Presentation, to Passion to Crucifixion to Resurrection, bringing the bookends of the narrative together and fusing these moments into one. In the shadow of these other events, especially of the Passion and Death of Christ, the Annunciation begins to round-out, and we see it for what it is, a Holy Mystery, as unfathomable as all the others, but comforting, meaningful; the manifestation of a Love that knows no bounds. We see Mary’s fiat, in which the exuberance of love for God that she had been storing up in her Immaculate Heart, suddenly overflows, only to be replaced by the bitter grain of Simeon’s prophecy, and ultimately the sword that pierced that same innocent heart at the sight of her Son and Lord crucified.

Our comfort and our joy, on the feast of the Annunciation, is to participate in that bitter-sweet sacrifice of Mary’s “yes” by receiving Jesus into our souls in Holy Communion, and nurturing Him there as Mary did in her womb. Mary’s sacrifice is joined to Christ’s, as it is so often said; one could not happen without the other. No matter how lazy or unmoved I feel today, I know that in the Blessed Sacrament I will receive the grace to dive into that Mystery and dwell there for as much as my soul can bear, and that I will be sharing in Mary’s sacrifice, which begins today with her joy at the Annunciation, and is completed tomorrow when her Heart is pierced by the last of her Seven Sorrows.

For readers in London, there will be a Low Mass with Cantor at S. Magnus the Martyr at 6pm. You will be very welcome to join us there.

Monday, 22 March 2010


Passiontide veiling in the church of Ss. Trinita, Rome, from the New Liturgical Movement

For a long time I didn’t actually know why we veiled images in the church during this portion of Lent we call Passiontide. I thought it was probably the beginning of that process of stripping away adornments and creating an impression of shocking starkness in the space where heaven meets earth, a process which reaches its zenith on Good Friday, when we see the altar bare and unadorned, suddenly so much like a sepulchre, or the empty hill upon which the Cross will soon be raised.

This Sunday however, in looking over the readings of Mass in the Roman tradition, I read that the meaning behind this custom of veiling is found in the Gospel reading. After answering to the accusations of blasphemy made by the Jews, and in the midst of an attempted stoning, Our Lord does something simple and almost obvious but redolent with importance. “Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple”. Our Lord, the King of Heaven, went away and hid himself to those around him.

In S. Magnus on Sunday, we heard a different reading from the Gospel, the story of the woman taken into sin who was to be stoned. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” says Our Lord, calling those around Him to self-examination, and the realisation of their own hypocrisy. All they can do, on reflecting momentarily on the enormity of their own sins, is walk away. In this story too, we find Jesus hidden. In the middle of this episode, in which He teaches us so much with so few words, He is still mysteriously writing in the dust, tracing words which are hidden to the Gospel-writer and the crowd, and hidden to us.

We know that before the agony of His Passion, which started with the first realisation of what was to come, Jesus went away to fast and to pray. When we in Lent prepare ourselves by prayer and fasting, we are sharing in Our Lord’s own preparation, and in Passiontide we do so more by following Christ into our own hiding place. Under the purple veil of penance, we are taken into a face-to-face encounter with ourselves, and an intensive process of self-examination begins. The Prince of Glory on the crucifix is hidden to us, as also is the glory of heaven, represented by His saints. Now we are being called into a time of hiding with ourselves, a time of honest self-encounter, of penance and decision. In Passiontide we veil ourselves and hide ourselves away to be transformed by prayer, and to be like the One who came to save us.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Happy Feast of S. Joseph

Since first Vespers have been said already, it's time to wish everybody a Happy Feast of S. Joseph. May the Foster-father of Christ, the Terror of Daemons, be your protection. May the Light of Patriarchs bring to you the light of Holy Wisdom, and may the most chaste spouse of the Blessed and Glorious Ever-virgin Mary be your intercessor in heaven before the throne of the Almighty.

Ite ad Joseph! Go to Joseph, because he is always awaiting your prayers and petitions. Just as Christ never failed in obeying his earthly father, so in heaven too he cannot but grant the requests made by Joseph on your behalf.

Sancte Joseph, Ora Pro Nobis!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Mass of S. Joseph

...I do, however, have the pleasure to announce a Mass of the Solemnity of S. Joseph at S. Magnus, for those who cannot attend Mass on the feast day itself on :

6.15 pm
S. Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, London EC3R 6DN
(This Mass will be celebrated according to the Older Rite of the English Missal)

Votive Mass of S. Joseph

Today is Wednesday. On ferial wednesdays, it is permitted to say a Votive Mass of S. Joseph, and although I don't have the pleasure of being able to advertise such a Celebration, I will share the Mass propers from the English Missal. I don't know a great deal about the history of this Mass, or indeed about votives in general. However, it seems to me that this Mass was composed not too long before its entry into the Missal, as the scriptural material is selected from Genesis in reference to the Old Testament Joseph, merging the two "patriarchs", which I understand is a relatively late feature of devotions to S. Joseph. However, the Mass also makes reference to the "crowning" of Joseph, perhaps dating it a little earlier. I wonder if anyone could help me with that?

INTROIT. Ps. 33. Ajutor et protector

The Lord us our help and our shield: Our heart shall rejoice in him because we have hoped in his holy name. Ps. 80. Hear, O thou Shephard of Israe, thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep. V. Glory.


O God, who by thy ineffable providence didst vouchsafe to choose blessed Joseph to be the spouse of thy most holy Mother: grant, we beseech thee, that we who venerate him as a protector on earth may be found worthy to have him as an intercessor in heaven: Who livest.

LESSON. Genesis xlix. 22

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

GRADUAL. Ps. 21 Thou hast prevented him, O Lord, with the blessing of goodness: and hast set a crown of pure gold upon his head. V. He asked life of thee and thou gavest him a long life, even for ever and ever. Alleluia, Alleluia. V. Grant us, O Joseph, to lead our life in innoncency: and may it ever be safe under thy protection.

(After Septuagesima, omitting Alleluia and the Verse following, is said:)

TRACT. Ps. 112. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he hath great delight in his commandments. V. His seedshall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the faithful shall be blessed. V. Riches and plenteousness shall be in his house: and his rightenousness endureth for ever.

(In Eastertide, the Gradual is omitted, and in its place is said:)

Alleluia, alleluia. V. In whatsoever tribulation they shall cry unto me, I will hear them, and I will be their protector for ever. Alleluia. V. Grant us, O Joseph, to lead our life in innocency: and may it ever be safe under thy protection. Alleluia.

+ The Continuation of the holy GOSPEL according to Luke (ii.21)

At that time: It came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.


Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: for he hath made fast the bars of thy gates, and hath blessed they children within thee. (Alleluia.)


O Lord, forasmuch as we put our trust in the advocacy of the spouse of thy most holy Mother, we entreat thy mercy: that thou wouldest make our hearts to despise all earthly things, and to love thee the true God with perfect charity: Who livest.

(Preface of S. Joseph)


Jacob begat Joseph the Husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ (Alleluia)


We beseech thee, O Lord our God: that we whom thou hast refreshed with the fountain of the divine gift, may by thee be enabled so to rejoice in the protection of blessed Joseph; that, by his merits and intercession, we may be made partakers of thy heavenly glory. Through.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Novena to S. Joseph

Today is the traditional date to start praying the Novena to S. Joseph before his feast on the 19th. Starting today, your nine days of prayer will take you up to the vigil of the feast, which is when the party starts!

There are no shortage of novenas or novena-type devotions to S. Joseph, including the Devotion of the Holy Cloak recommended by devotees to the Divine Mercy. The Novena prayer below is recommended by tradition being found "in the 50th year of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ". In 1505, it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. It is said that whoever shall read this prayer or take it with them, shall never die a sudden death or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect on them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy, or shall be burned in any fire or shall be overpowered in battle :

Novena Prayer

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me. (Mention your intention)

This novena prayer can be followed by : Memorare to S. Joseph Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. And then....

Litany of S. Joseph

Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary,
Pray for us.
Holy Joseph,
Pray for us.
Noble Son of the House of David,
Pray for us.
Light of the Patriarchs,
Pray for us.
Husband of the Mother of God,
Pray for us.
Chaste Guardian of the Virgin,
Pray for us.
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Pray for us.
Sedulous Defender of Christ,
Pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family,
Pray for us.
Joseph most just,
Pray for us.
Joseph most chaste,
Pray for us.
Joseph most prudent,
Pray for us.
Joseph most valiant,
Pray for us.
Joseph most obedient,
Pray for us.
Joseph most faithful,
Pray for us.
Mirror of patience,
Pray for us.
Lover of poverty,
Pray for us.
Model of all who labor,
Pray for us.
Glory of family life,
Pray for us.
Protector of Virgins,
Pray for us.
Pillar of families,
Pray for us.
Consolation of the afflicted,
Pray for us.
Hope of the sick,
Pray for us.
Patron of the dying,
Pray for us.
Terror of the demons,
Pray for us.
Protector of the holy Church,
Pray for us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

He made him master of his house, and ruler of all his possesions.
O God, You were pleased to choose Saint Joseph as the husband of Mary and the guardian of your Son. Grant that, as we venerate him as our protector on earth, we may deserve to have him as our intercessor in heaven. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

Monday, 8 March 2010

Another S. Joseph Shrine

This is another home shrine for the month of S. Joseph shared by Andrew Wilce, a parishioner of S. Silas, Kentish Town. No doubt this place of prayer greatly enhances his devotions to our Patron during this month of piety.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Coptic devotion to S. Joseph

Although devotion to S. Joseph in the latter centuries of the Church's history has been more prominent in the West, it is useful to remind ourselves that it was in the East that we have our first evidence of his cult, more specifically in Christian Egypt. The first feast day of S. Joseph was reputedly kept by the Copts from the beginning of the 4th century AD, and a feast of S. Joseph the Carpenter is certainly entered, on the 20th July, in the oldest Coptic calenders known to scholars.

S. Joseph's early appearence in the devotions of Egyptian Christians is probably due to his important role in one of the Biblical narratives most cherished by the Copts: The exile of the Holy Family to Egypt. Countless popular legends have grown up around the Exile, with many monasteries, churches and shrines in Egypt positioned somewhere along the projected route taken by the Holy Family. To this day one can visit, in S. Sergius Church in Old Cairo, a grotto where the Holy Family took shelter. One can also dodge traffic on the highway through Ain Shams, a dusty modern suburb of Cairo, to sit under the paltry shade of The Virgin Mary's Tree, where the Blessed Virgin is rumoured to have stopped to feed the Divine Child. The exile has always been a popular subject for Coptic iconographers from the earliest times, and an example is above. The Holy Family entering Egypt, greeted joy by the leaping fish in the Nile, is the typical image of the Exile, with S. Joseph either leading the donkey, or walking behind the Mother and Child, who form the central image of this icon. The image also features in one of the modern iconographic mosaics which adorn the courtyard of Egypt's oldest church: the Mu'allaqah ("Suspended" church) in Old Cairo.
Coptic devotion to S. Joseph is rooted in his place in the Holy Family. It is his silence that abounds, not his words or actions. He is always there with Mary and Jesus, but never centre-stage. Let this inform your devotion to S. Joseph today:
The silence of Saint Joseph is given a special emphasis. His silence is steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God in an attitude of total availability to divine desires. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of His holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence. It is no exaggeration to think that it was precisely from his "father" Joseph that Jesus learned -- at the human level -- that steadfast interiority which is a presupposition of authentic justice.... Let us allow ourselves to be "filled" with Saint Joseph's silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God's voice.

Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus, December 18, 2005
(Please excuse the lack of paragraph breaks in this post. If somebody could give me a hint on how to actually make Blogger work, then please let me know. It's driving me nuts....)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

S. Joseph with the Infant Christ

Another Spanish painting of S. Joseph by Murillo (1670s). This is another image popular in the 16th and 17th centuries in Spain, S. Joseph in some fatherly pose with the Divine Infant. In this case, he is normally shown as a younger man with a black beard, although here we can also see the flowering staff is still present. The younger S. Joseph is part of a programme of re-evangelising European city states by promoting the Holy Family as the ideally harmonious and ordered family unit. From :

"In 1570 Johannes Molanus, the Counter-Reformation's arbiter of religious art, demanded a clean sweep of legendary material in Christian art. Among the subjects his writings denounced were the Holy Kindred and apocryphal accounts of St. Joseph's selection as Mary's spouse. Molanus insisted that St. Joseph be depicted as young and vigorous, with the Christ child firmly under his paternal authority."
Prayer to S. Joseph for Protection
Gracious St. Joseph, protect me and my family from all evil as you did the Holy Family. Kindly keep us ever united in the love of Christ, ever fervent in imitation of the virtue of our Blessed Lady, your sinless spouse, and always faithful in devotion to you. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Coronation of S. Joseph

Something for the second day of this month of S. Joseph. Images of the coronation of S. Joseph are a fairly late introduction to the devotional repertoire, and most were created in Spain, where devotion to San Jose developed rapidly in the period after the Council of Trent. This is Zurbaran's depiction, which reflects some images from the Proto-evangelion, such as the flowering staff, and the elderly S. Joseph. An excellent history of devotion to S. Joseph can be found here. Here's also one of the most beloved prayers to S. Joseph. Please pray it generously for me, while I suffer from an ugly rash brought on by antibiotics!!!

Memorare To Saint Joseph

Remember, O most pure spouse of Mary, and my dearly beloved guardian, St. Joseph, that never was it known that anyone who invoked your care and requested your help was left without consolation.
Inspired with this confidence, I come to you, and with all the ardor of my spirit I commend myself to you. Do not reject my prayer, O Foster Father of the Savior, but graciously receive and answer it. Amen!