By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
St. Joseph had a silent, tender, compassionate presence and displayed creative courage in the midst of difficulties. Those qualities served as the leaven for the homily Bishop Thomas Zinkula gave July 26 during the Clinton Deanery Mass in honor of St. Joseph at St. Joseph Catholic Church in DeWitt. The Mass also paid tribute to the people who have been of service to others during the ongoing pandemic.
The bishop wove into his homily the threads from the Scriptures for the Mass and Pope Francis’ apostolic letter on St. Joseph, “Patris Corde” (With a Father’s Heart). “No words are attributed to Joseph — none — but he was always quietly present to Jesus and Mary. Perhaps the silence is intentional, in the sense that Joseph’s actions were such that a record of what he said isn’t necessary.”
“In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God. He saw humility, compassion and obedience,” the bishop said. “It reminds me of nurses and other health care workers who spent countless hours during the pandemic quietly tending to patients with tenderness and compassion, serving as surrogates for loved ones who weren’t allowed to visit them. It reminds me of child care workers and grandparents who lovingly took risks to care for children in need.”
The bishop asked those gathered for the Mass, concelebrated by seven priests and assisted by three deacons, to ask themselves, “How am I being called to reflect the tender love of God in my life?”
Joseph also set the example for creative courage in the midst of difficulties, the bishop said. “Every episode of Joseph’s life that we hear about in the Gospels is a crisis. In each instance, Joseph responds immediately. He was a man of action.”
The bishop referred to Joseph discovering that Mary is pregnant and courageously taking her as his wife after an angel explains what has happened. When an angel tells Joseph that his child is in mortal danger, Joseph leaves immediately with Mary and Jesus for an unknown country, Egypt. Years later, on their pilgrimage to the temple, Joseph desperately seeks his lost 12-year-old son. When Joseph and Mary finally find Jesus, they quietly take him home.
In courageously putting aside his feelings and trusting in the purposes of God, Joseph “reminds me of teachers,” the bishop said. “In the midst of the crisis and pandemic, they calmly and creatively figured out new ways to teach their students and establish a sense of normalcy.” Joseph “reminds me of essential workers who, during the pandemic, courageously responded to emergencies or worked in meat-packing plants or served customers in grocery stores.”
Again, Bishop Zinkula asked the congregation to consider a question: “When a situation in my life is out of control, do I trust God and let myself be led by him through the situation? Do I actively, creatively and courageously engage the situation and allow God to turn the problem into a possibility?”
At the end of Mass, Father Ken Kuntz, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton and dean of the Clinton Deanery, thanked all who prepared and participated in the liturgy. “My first assignment as a new priest in 1977 was here (at St. Joseph in DeWitt),” he said.
He remembered, with humor, that the statues of Mary and Joseph were on opposite sides of the sanctuary. The pastor at the time, Father Tony Conrad, said, “We need to get them together!”
Father Kuntz was grateful for all who came together for the Year of St. Joseph Mass. He and the other priests of the deanery thought this Mass would be “a wonderful way to honor St. Joseph.” Father Stephen Page, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, agreed enthusiastically to host the liturgy, Father Kuntz said.
He asked people in the pews who helped during the pandemic to stand. The congregation applauded. “Pope Francis talked about honoring people who helped during the pandemic in service to others, modeling St. Joseph in the humble service he gave,” Father Kuntz said.