About 100 members of the St. John the Evangelist Guild got a special insight into St. Joseph from Father Dan Schlegel as part of their quarterly program on March 16.
The virtual presentation also featured a segment with Bishop Edward Malesic.
Patrick Grace, executive director of the Catholic Community Foundation of the Diocese of Cleveland, welcomed new members to the group, which he said helps to guide, expand and enrich – under the leadership of the bishop – the personal and spiritual journey of those who have been extraordinarily generous to the diocese.
Father Schlegel, vicar for clergy and religious, said he welcomed the opportunity to speak on “Why St. Joseph? Why Now?” since he is one of his favorite saints.
Describing him as an unsung hero, Father Schlegel said St. Joseph played a key role in God’s plan of salvation, something highlighted more in the past 150 years since his designation by Pope Pius IX in 1870 as the patron saint of the Universal Church. He drew a comparison between St. Joseph’s role in the Holy Family and many unsung heroes of the current pandemic, explaining the saint was “a discreet and hidden presences, an intercessor, protector and guide in times of trouble.” His role was to lead, protect, guide and love his spouse and earthly son, Father Schlegel said.
St. Joseph also is the patron saint of:
- Unborn children – In a dream, an angel told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. He does, and protects her and her unborn child.
- Travelers – He guided the Blessed Mother and baby Jesus to safety in Egypt. Although there is no official teaching on his age, Father Schlegel said he must have had stamina because he walked 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then 40 miles from Bethlehem to Egypt while Mary and baby Jesus rode a donkey.
- Fathers – He taught Jesus many things and sacrificed for his family.
- Workers – He taught the dignity of work to Jesus, and worked to support his family.
- Immigrants – The Holy Family did quite a bit of moving around, including spending time in Egypt, a foreign land.
- A happy death – Although we don’t know much about his death, he was believed to die peacefully surrounded by his loving family.
In his recent apostolic letter, “Patris Corde,” “With a Father’s Heart,” Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph’s declaration as patron saint of the Universal Church and proclaims a Year of St. Joseph to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8, 2021.
As an “ordinary” person, Father Schlegel said St. Joseph – much like many of those laboring during the ongoing pandemic – was overlooked. He said St. Joseph and these other workers, including doctors, nurses, public safety workers, priests, religious, teachers and others “practice daily patience and offer hope. They have a shared responsibility for others.”
Pope Francis refers to St. Joseph as:
- A beloved father who sacrificed for his family. Although not much is known about St. Joseph, he was a descendent of King David and was a connection between the Old and New Testaments.
- A tender and loving father who was a first teacher to Jesus, teaching him things like how to walk. He bends down and holds Jesus to his cheek, which is symbolic of the tender love of God.
- An obedient father because he listened to God’s messages, delivered by angels in dreams, and cast aside his doubts and fears.
- An accepting father who was a patient and endearing man who creative a welcoming space for Mary to deliver baby Jesus. “The new evangelization calls us to use our creativity,” Father Schlegel added.
- Working father who taught his earthly son the value and dignity of work.
- And a father in the shadows because he didn’t need to be in the limelight. “Fathers are not born that way, they’re made that way. They help their children to make good decisions. St. Joseph didn’t make himself the center of things,” Father Schlegel said.
Guild members are receiving the book, “Day by Day with St. Joseph,” a one-year prayer book with daily reflections based on an attribute of St. Joseph to help deepen their understanding of the saint and their faith.
Bishop Malesic spoke briefly to the group, expressing his hope soon there will be an end to the pandemic. “I’m praying for a quick end and a return to better than normal,” he added.
The bishop also encouraged guild members to participate in the ongoing parish survey to help the diocese assess the spiritual health of parish life in order to make decisions for the future. The Cleveland Diocese is one of 47 participating in the pilot program.
“We want vibrant parishes,” the bishop said.
He also mentioned that a diverse group from around the diocese was formed to help him as plans are made for a full return to church. “They will help guide me in landing the plane,” he said, with the goal of encouraging everyone to feel safe as they resume normal parish life and to invite others to become part of the faith family.