Next Thursday we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph. What we know about his life comes from the accounts of Our Lord’s nativity in the gospels. He comes across as a devout, upright, and honourable man. But his integrity and his devotion do not make him a narrow minded prig or a religious bigot. Rather he is sufficiently open to the workings of God that when Mary tells of her child’s divine origins he does not dismiss her out of hand. And once he had been told of the child through a messenger of God he has no further doubt at all about his role.
We know that children learn so much from their parents. Jesus too had to learn from Mary and his foster father Joseph. Some of the calm, assured, confidence that Jesus manifests must have been learnt from Joseph. And Joseph would have been key in helping the child develop his self-understanding.
One of Pope Francis’ first acts was to ask that the name of Joseph be inserted into all the Eucharistic prayers. This was a very sage act as it reminds us of the importance of fatherhood as well as the importance of Joseph.
On Thursday it would be good to reflect on what makes a good father – and to ask St. Joseph to pray for us.
Perhaps it comes as something as a shock to realise that north Africa was once a thriving outpost of Christianity. Apart from the Coptic Christians in Egypt little now remains of those communities. But what does remain is vitally important. On Saturday we celebrate once such legacy: the feast day of Saints Perpetua and Felicity. Unlike some of the early martyrs we know quite a bit about these two woman and their deaths.
They died in the year 202. The Emperor had just forbidden conversion to the ‘new’ religion of Christianity. Perpertua and Felicity were catechumens when the decree came but still proceeded to baptism. They did nothing to hide their new allegiance and died in the arena at Carthage.
These two martyrs tell us so much about our faith. They remind us of the centrality of Christ and of the absolute demands of his gospel, which are above even those of the state. But they also remind us of the catechumenate which slowly we’re rediscovering: the state of preparing for baptism. Up and down the country we now have catechumens who are preparing for baptism at Easter. Although they will not be called on to die for Christ like Perpetua and Felicity they can revive our belief and love of God by their own manifest enthusiasm and faith.
As we journey to Easter let us these two saints to pray for us and also for those who, like them, long for baptism and