Sometimes I find myself feeling bad about things that I have absolutely no control over. An example is when I see a young kid fall down and skin his knee. I feel bad for the child, even though I had nothing to do with it, and I can’t really do anything about it. Likewise, something I have felt bad about is that over a month ago, Bishop David Ricken inaugurated a Year of St. Joseph in the Diocese in the Green Bay. We really haven’t been able to celebrate it.
My hope is that everyone has heard of it, but we haven’t been able to go to Mass due to the pandemic so maybe not. Maybe this is how St. Joseph wants it because, at least when it comes to the Gospel accounts, he didn’t have much to say. I think we owe it to this great saint and to Bishop Ricken — who felt we needed to focus on him within our diocese — to learn more about him.
As a way to help grow in our knowledge of this saint and the reason why we are asking for his intercession in the areas of our families, our spiritual fathers and an increase in vocations, I thought I would suggest a few good reads that all of us could dive into while we presumably have more time on our hands. A caveat: I have not read all of them, but the ones I haven’t have come highly recommended.
- “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father,” by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, published by Marian Press. This is by far the newest book on this list. Fr. Calloway created a 33-day preparation for consecration to St. Joseph using the Litany of St. Joseph as the basis. This mirrors the total consecration to Jesus through Mary devised by St. Louis de Montfort. For those who are serious about drawing closer to St. Joseph, the head of the Holy Family, as the litany states, this is a great way to do so (326 pages).
- “Joseph the Silent,” by Michel Gasnier, OP, published by Scepter Publishers. This book was given to all the seminarians by Bishop Ricken as a Christmas gift a few years back. The author elaborates on what life was probably like for the Holy Family using the Gospels as the basis, but also using his knowledge of that time in history to expand upon it. It is an excellent read, and one I have used for the basis of a yearly retreat to glean from St. Joseph what it means to be a spiritual father (186 pages).
- “Quamquam Pluries,” by Pope Leo XIII. I was taught by my formation advisor in seminary that some of the best reads on a topic come from our Holy Fathers. Pope Leo XIII reigned from 1878-1903, and this short document highlighted the need for St. Joseph as a model while the world dealt with changing circumstances. This document can be accessed for free on the internet by simply searching the title (five pages).
- “The Life and Glories of St. Joseph,” by Edward Healy Thompson, published by Tan Books. I have not read this title, but it comes highly recommended by one of our seminarians. The author goes into the role that St. Joseph had in salvation history and his role in the church today (516 pages).
- “Go to Joseph,” by Fr. Richard Gilsdorf, published by Star of the Bay. This title was written by one of our own priests from the Diocese of Green Bay. Reading this book has been described as going on retreat with the greatest male saint in the church’s history (134 pages).
- “Redemptoris Custos,” by St. John Paul II. This is another work from one of our Holy Fathers. The secondary title of the document states that it is about the person and mission of St. Joseph in the life of Christ and of the Church. St. John Paul elaborates on St. Joseph’s role as a guardian, husband and worker and the implications it has on all of us today. This document can be accessed for free on the internet by simply searching the title (22 pages).
- “St. Joseph: Man of Faith,” by Jacques Gauthier, published by Catholic Book Publishing. This title comes recommended by Bishop Ricken himself. Like some of the other titles, the author tries to sketch out a portrait of St. Joseph using the Scriptures as a basis. The book includes prayers to help the faithful draw closer to this saint (96 pages).
In closing, at the beginning of March, I had the opportunity to go on silent retreat, and I decided to have St. Joseph be the focus. I used “Joseph the Silent” as the basis of that retreat, and I learned much, but probably the biggest lesson I learned was St. Joseph’s complete abandonment to God’s will. He didn’t always know how things were going to work out, for instance, traveling with his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, fleeing to Egypt, trying to find Jesus in the Temple, etc.
But what he did know is that God was with him every step of the way, and that’s all that mattered. I think this is exactly what we need today as we find ourselves in the midst of this pandemic. We do not know how this is going to affect us and we do not know how long life is going to be like this. But like St. Joseph, we do know that God is with us every step of the way, and when it comes down to it, that’s all that really matters. Good St. Joseph, pray for us!
Fr. Mleziva is vocation director for the Diocese of Green Bay.