Our world needs the quiet approach of St. Joseph

St. Joseph does not speak a single word in the Gospels as he conveys a powerful message of faith, hope and love. His silent, quiet witness speaks volumes in a noisy world that needs more of us to listen to one another and to respond through acts of love and service. We honor his role in the history of salvation on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, by setting aside time in prayer to reflect on this humble, servant leader and his quiet approach to spreading our faith.

On Dec. 8, 2020, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis released his apostolic letter on the “150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as patron of the universal church.” Concurrently, the pope launched the Year of St. Joseph, to be celebrated from Dec. 8, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021.

“I would like to share some personal reflections on this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience,” the Holy Father said in his apostolic letter (https://tinyurl.com/tmh4fkr9). “For, as Jesus says, ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Mt 12:34). My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how ‘our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility.

How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer.’”

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’’ — a phrase to commit to memory, to write down on a post-it note to attach to our laptops or to affix to the bathroom mirror. It can serve as a vaccine to stop the spread of our own knee-jerk reactions and responses to social media posts, pundits, and others with whom we disagree.

St. Joseph is “quiet, he’s silent but we really need his mentorship, his example, his strength, his faith, his obedience,” observes Father Nicholas Akindele, a priest who serves in our diocese. He will conclude a 33-day consecration to St. Joseph with Mass at 6 p.m. March 19 at St. Alphonsus Church in Davenport (in person and virtual). The priest appreciates St. Joseph’s “silent way of working. That’s the beauty of his spirituality.”

“Everyone’s Way of the Cross” by the late Clarence Enzler, includes this prayer by the assembly reflecting on the eighth station of the cross: “Lord teach me, help me learn. When I would snap at those who hurt me with their ridicule, those who misunderstand, or hinder me with some misguided helpfulness, those who intrude upon my privacy — then help me curb my tongue. May gentleness become my cloak. Lord, make me kind like you.”

“Help me curb my tongue” … what if we prayed this simple petition every time we felt the urge to use hot-button words in a discussion or debate with someone whose viewpoint differs from our viewpoint? Our passion for our faith and our desire to pass it on to the next generation will convince no one when we use accusatory language to make our point.

St. Joseph’s “actions were powerful and he did not use words to convey his faith and willingness to serve God,” Bill Doucette, a member of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, said in a reflection he wrote. “This silence of St. Joseph points to his strong interior life of prayer. We can learn from him that we should have both a life of prayer and a life of service. The Year of Saint Joseph brings us a time to attend to improving our prayer life and our service to others.”

“The silence of St. Joseph points to his strong interior life of prayer. We should have both a life of prayer and a life of service.” More excellent advice for our approach to honoring, emulating and living out the faith demonstrated — not spoken — by St. Joseph.

Our diocesan website offers a page dedicated to the Year of St. Joseph, which includes prayers and other resources on which to reflect:(www.davenportdiocese.org/year-of-saint-joseph).

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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A contrite, humbled heart

Nearly 7,000 miles separate Iowa from Iraq, where Pope Francis made a historic journey last week to build bridges between Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities. Equally important, he offered encouragement to Christians, whose numbers have been decimated by war and persecution. His message about how to foster hope and peace is as relevant to Iowans as to Iraqis, as we struggle to make peace among Catholics with different views on how to live, practice and share our faith.

During his March 6 visit to the city of Ur, Iraq, Pope Francis said, “We raise our eyes to heaven in order to raise ourselves from the depths of our vanity; we serve God in order to be set free from enslavement to our egos because God urges us to love,” (Ines San Martin, CRUX, 3-6-21).

In Iowa, as elsewhere, sadly, we people of faith seem to be enslaved to our egos. That enslavement prevents us from conveying love toward the people with whom we disagree.

In that same meeting with religious representatives of different faiths, the pope said, “It is up to us to remind the world that human life has value for what it is and not for what it has. That the lives of the unborn, the elderly, migrants and men and women, whatever the color of their skin or their nationality, are always sacred and count as much as the lives of everyone else!”

How are we in Iowa demonstrating that every life has human value? Our Iowa Legislature, for example, is sending mixed signals. Legislators advanced some bills that affirm the dignity of the human person. One, a proposed constitutional amendment, states that no right to abortion exists in the Iowa Constitution. Another constitutional amendment proposal would allow people coming out of prison the right to vote. Other bills aim to increase affordable childcare, provide for additional legal protections to residents of mobile home parks, provide affordable housing funds/eviction protections, increase the tax credit for adoptive parents and establish penalties for elder abuse.

However, Iowa legislators also advanced legislation that would not affirm the dignity of the human person. Both the Senate and House Labor Committees passed versions of bills that would slice unemployment benefits for bigger families and implement a one-week waiting period for benefits, according to the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC). Still another bill could potentially kick 50,000 people off food stamps in Iowa who qualify for that program because they qualify for another government assistance program. Landlords would be able to reject renters who pay rent with federal Section 8 housing assistance, under another proposed law. Reinstatement of the death penalty, fortunately, did not make the cut.

Affirming the dignity of the human person, as our church teaches, compels us to press our legislators to reject bills that contradict that teaching. The ICC is a good resource for current legislation and its impact on the dignity of the human person. Contact your legislators (legis.iowa.gov/legislators) and insist that they support bills that affirm the dignity of every human person — from womb to tomb.

A Lenten reflection that Father Jeff Belger, priest director of the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa, wrote for the third Sunday of Lent provides guidance that can put us back on course toward a right relationship with God and one another:

“If we are to become the signs we are meant to be, pointing to Christ, then we must root out that which contradicts Christ in our lives. Prayer (relationship with God), Fasting (being mindful and disciplined in what we consume), and Almsgiving, (extending God’s blessings to those in need) are the tools needed to make our signs have the desired effect of moving people in the direction of Christ and his Church.”

Iraq is nearly 7,000 miles from Iowa, but Pope Francis’ message of hope and peace, manifested in the dignity of every human person, echoes across the continents and oceans, to Iowa.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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