In the middle of Lent, the season of Penitence and self-denial, we’re offered the two feasts (well, solemnities, technically!) of St Joseph, on 19th, and the Annunciation on 25th: high points in an otherwise subdued season.
This year, of course, St Joseph is accorded special attention, since the holy father declared it to be a time of special devotion to Jesus’ foster father. In his Apostolic Letter announcing the year, Patris corde, ,Pope Francis said,
The evil one makes us see and condemn our frailty, whereas the Spirit brings it to light with tender love. Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us. Pointing fingers and judging others are frequently signs of an inability to accept our own weaknesses, our own frailty. Only tender love will save us from the snares of the accuser (cf. Rev 12:10). That is why it is so important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we experience his truth and tenderness. Paradoxically, the evil one can also speak the truth to us, yet he does so only to condemn us. We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us.
Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.
Many of you may have been preparing throughout the preceding month or so for the special Consecration to St Joseph on his feast, coming to know his friendship, or deepening a spiritual relationship you already had. May his loving, fatherly glance watch over us as he watched over God’s Son.
The celebration of the Annunciation is always and obviously a red letter day in the life our beloved shrine at Walsingham. Here, on this feast especially, we are invited to share Our Lady’s joy in receiving God’s invitation to bear his Son. Although the Original Holy House in this village is long gone, its site remains, and what really matters is the bringing into the present day the essential qualities of that Holy House, truly a place where God is recognised, honoured and served. It was the home where the young Mary conceived God’s word in her heart and then in her body.
Do not be afraid
the angel Gabriel said. How much we all need to hear and receive that word, to be able to recognise that our saying no to self and yes to God, in love, is always, without exception, fruitful. When we come to Walsingham, either physically, or in spirit, let’s never forget that Our Lady stands beside us, remembering her promise,
Whoever seeks my help there will not go away empty-handed
On Sunday 29th March last year, the Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary was celebrated. This year, since that date falls in Holy Week, we shall keep the anniversary on 25th March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation.
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