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Saturday, March 31, 2012

A few more haloed "March"-ers.....

worthy of veneration. This set includes the Foster Father of Jesus Christ and the Wonder-worker of Britain. Check it out:

St. Joseph

     According to the Gospels, Joseph was a member of the House of David and was born in Bethlehem. For some reason, probably work-related, he moved to Nazareth and labored as a carpenter, although this type of job probably included working with stone as well as wood. He was betrothed to be married to Mary, the daughter of Joachim and Anne, and it is believed in Catholic tradition that both would-be spouses intended to remain virgins and offer their lives to God. As odd as this may sound today, such practices were not unheard of in Biblical times. Indeed, the marital union is much more than physical at any rate.

     The situation was about to take an unlikely turn, however, when Mary was found to be pregnant. Joseph, disillusioned by what seemed to be betrayal, decided to break off the marriage quietly. A public denouncement of Mary would have resulted in her stoning, and Joseph was too much a man to resort to that kind of vengeance. But before he had the chance to divorce her, an Angle of the Lord visited Joseph in a dream and informed him that the child his betrothed had conceived was of God, the promised savior of the Israel. He was instructed to go ahead with the marriage to Mary and become the guardian of the Holy Mother and Child.

     Joseph acted upon what had been revealed to him and married Mary. We can easily picture the Blessed Virgin being overjoyed at having her husband by her side, trusting in God and in her word, ready to protect and defend her and her child. But hard times were ahead. A census was called by Caesar Augustus and the heavily-pregnant Mary and her husband were forced to make the long overland trek to Bethlehem, the town of Joseph's birth. As everyone knows from Christmas pageants and pop-up books, there was no room in any of the inns and the couple was forced to take refuge in a cave used for animals.

     The Baby Jesus was born of the Virgin and laid in a feeding troth for cows. Israelite Shepherds would come to pay him homage, and many months later, astrologers from the East would do the same. When Jesus was ready to be circumcises according to the Jewish Law, Joseph and Mary traveled to the Temple of Jerusalem. There, they were greeted by the holy man, Simeon, and the prophetess, Anna. Simeon informed the couple that Jesus would come to be the rising and falling of many nations. Then he turned to Mary and told her that a sword would pierce her own soul. We can imagine Joseph cringing at the idea of his wife's future suffering.

     Not long after, the mad king Herod slaughtered the male children of Bethlehem in hopes of killing Jesus, and the Holy Family fled to Egypt. After Herod’s death, they went home to Nazareth where Jesus grew up, probably learning the trade of his foster-father, and becoming accustomed to the feel of stone and wood.

     When Jesus was 12 years old, the Holy Family went to Jerusalem for the Passover. But when they prepared to return home, Jesus was no where to be found. For three days Joseph and Mary searched. Finally, they found Him in the temple, speaking with the elders and scribes who marveled at the young man's wisdom. When Mary asked Jesus why he had caused his parents so much sorrow, He asked her why they had looked for Him and why they had not known He had to be about His Father's business. Perplexed, Joseph and Mary took their son home, and He was obedient to them.

    The Bible does not record when Joseph died, but tradition holds it was just before Jesus set off on His public ministry. Since he has no direct dialogue in the Gospels, Joseph is called a man of few words. However, since his actions of defending and nurturing the Blessed Virgin and the Son of God speak louder than any words, he has been given the title, The Just Man. The Feast of St. Joseph, Foster Father of Jesus Christ, is celebrated on March 19th.

St. Cuthbert

     Cuthbert was born in the 7th century of well-to-do parents in Northern England. Like many people of their class, Cuthbert's parents let him be raised by foster-parents who trained him in the arts of war. In his late teens, Cuthbert saw a strange vision in the fields of Northumbria. A flash of light in the night sky allowed him to see angels carrying a ball of fire upwards to heaven through. He knew in his heart that this signified the death of the Bishop of Lindisfarne, St. Aidan. He also understood the vision to be a sign telling him to enter the service of God and become a monk.

     In spite of this, Cuthbert initially resisted the prompting and became a soldier for the king of Northumbria who was engaged in a struggle with the king of Mercia. It is more than likely that Cuthbert took part in the Battle of Winwidfield which finally ended the war and restored peace to countryside. After this, the young warrior finally obeyed the voice of God and rode off, still armed for battle and mounted on a war horse, to Melrose Abbey where he soon became a priest. There, he gained renown for his great learning and holiness. He had a great devotion to the mass, and he could not bring himself to say it without being reduced to tears.

     Eventually, Cuthbert became the prior at Melrose. During this period a controversy developed when certain groups of Celtic monks refused to abide by the decision of the Synod of Whitby and adopt Roman liturgical practices. Knowing Cuthbert's keen sense of diplomacy, he was sent to the Isle of Lindisfarne to make sure that the Roman liturgical practices were adopted by the community of monks there. Although it was a difficult task, Cuthbert won over the monks with his charity and holiness.

     He worked tirelessly to evangelize the people of Lindisfarne and became famous for performing many miracles in their midst. He was an outgoing, cheerful, and compassionate man, and he used his God-given powers to heal the infirmed of body and soul. So great was his fame that he became known as the "Wonder-worker of Britain." The constant attention of the pilgrims made Cuthbert uneasy, and he yearned for solitude. Thus, for a time, he lived as a hermit on another nearby island, living at peace with God and his natural surroundings.

     According to the Celtic custom, he often prayed nearby water, which was traditionally believed to be a place where the natural and the supernatural could meet. The Celtic belief in the timelessness of events and the innate presence of the spirit world in the world of man influenced him greatly, and his meditations were long and deep. During one of his prayer sessions, when he waded into the ocean to better feel the presence of God, he got his feet terribly wet and cold. Miraculously, otters came out of water and warmed his feet with their breath and their fur.

     Unfortunately for him, Cuthbert's fame lured visitors to his isolated island, and soon he had to build a guest house for them. To make a bad situation worse, Cuthbert was chosen to become bishop of a distant diocese. He loved his peaceful islands and wished to stay there if at all possible. Therefore, using the diplomacy that he was so well-known for, he swapped dioceses with another bishop so that he could become Bishop of Lindisfarne and stay in the places he loved best. In this way, Cuthbert came to become St. Aidan's successor, and the prophetic vision Cuthbert had experienced as a teenager came to pass.

     Only two years after his consecration as bishop, however, Cuthbert contracted a deadly fever. Surrounded by his faithful monks on Lindisfarne, Cuthbert exhorted them to be true to the faith and traditions of their fathers. Then he passed from this life into the next. The Feast of St. Cuthbert, Wonder-worker of Britain, is March 20th.

St. Joseph of Nazareth

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne


  1. Another great couple of posts, Pearl! Very fitting for the reverence of Holy Week :-)

    Have a blessed Triduum and Easter!

  2. Thank you, my friend. May you have a blessed Passiontide and Eastertide as well! Do you have anything special planned?

  3. We will be attending the Triduum masses/services and the Easter Vigil, and my sister and I will be cantoring in the choir (exciting!).

    Any special plans for your family?

    God Bless,

  4. All the best with your singing, Mary! I'm sure you and your sister will do great. Does your choir sing with harmonies or just in unison?

    As for our Holy Week schedule, we'll probably go to a Good Friday service at the Annunciation Parish and then go to Easter Sunday mass at St. John's Parish. You know us; We really "Rome"!

    We might also go to a restaurant or something on Easter Sunday. I'm not sure yet. It would be nice on such a special occasion :-)

    1. Thank you, Pearl! It all went really well. Our choir often employs separate parts for sopranos, altos, and baritones, though we often sing in unison, too - it just depends on the song and how well the congregation knows it, I guess.

      I hope you and your family had a blessed Holy Week!

  5. As for our Holy Week schedule, we'll probably go to a Good Friday service at the Annunciation Parish and then go to Easter Sunday mass at St. John's Parish. You know us; We really "Rome"!

    Happy Easter Pearl! (slightly belated!)

    I hope you and your family had a nice time. I did at reading at our easter vigil, it was a very nice service, well attended and very traditional, with candles, a choir etc.

    Hope you did well in the easter egg count as well!

    The blog is coming along great by the way, keep up the good work!