Feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph

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Espousal of Joseph and Mary

Marriage of Mary
Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1486 – 1490
Santa Maria Novella Basilica, Florence, Italy

You give the Church the joy of celebrating the feast of the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph: in her, full of grace and worthy Mother of your Son, you signify the beginning of the Church, the resplendently beautiful bride of Christ; you chose him, the wise and faithful servant, as Husband of the Virgin Mother of God, and made him head of your family, to guard as a father your only Son, conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Preface to the Mass, Feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph

Today is the lesser-known Feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph. It is also known as the Feast of the Holy Spouses.

This feast was first celebrated on August 29, 1517, when Pope Leo X granted the Nuns of the Annunciation permission to do so. In the 19th and 20th century, permission was given for this feast to be celebrated on January 23, though this varies in different parts of the world. This feast is not on the universal liturgical calendar of the Church and is typically celebrated at various shrines dedicated to St Joseph.

St John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, discusses the importance of St Joseph in the Holy Family. The marriage of Joseph and Mary is the prototype and model of Christian marriage and an example of the profound union of hearts and spousal self-gift that is meant to be the reality of all married couples.

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Pray for Our Nation and Our Families

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We are living in tumultuous times in the United States. We are a divided nation; there is no common ground to rally around. The very existence of our country as founded is on shaky ground. Our nation has been besieged by unrest and rioting. A dark cloud of division and strife is covering our land. Families are crumbing at an alarming rate. We are living in a time of despair, despondency, and hopelessness. Let us rise up and call out to God to heal our nation and our families.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” Matthew 8:23-25

This story from scripture is not about the storm. As in our lives, the biggest issue is not the crisis. The issue at hand is whether we are trusting in the Lord to bring us through the storms of life. An even bigger issue is whether we can trust in Jesus for his protection and care even when He does not appear to be paying attention to our needs.

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The Baptism of the Lord

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The Baptism of the Christ
Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1475

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11

Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus humbled himself to receive John’s baptism of repentance not to purify himself but to purify you and me. Because of Jesus’ baptism, you can be confident that God has “grasped you by the hand” (Isa 42:6 – 1st reading at today’s Mass), saving you from the oppression of Satan, sin, and death. Through this act, we too are made beloved sons and daughters of the heavenly King, pleasing to Him.

In our restoration work with couples who are struggling in their marriages, we see many individuals with father wounds. These wounds effect their understanding of God the Father’s incredible love for them. It is through our earthly father’s love, mercy, and forgiveness that we come to know who God the Father is. If we have not received these from our earthly father, our view of God is distorted. If our father was harsh, critical, or overbearing, this will be our image of God the Father.

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Families: An Epiphany of the Lord

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Adoration of the Magi, Gentile da Fabriano, c. 1423

“I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

Today the Church celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord, which commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. Epiphany means manifestation. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world. After having been made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem, Jesus is revealed to the Magi. They have come from the East to adore the Christ Child.

Christian tradition sees in the Magi “the first fruits of the Gentiles.”[1] Epiphany is an affirmation of universal salvation as prophesied in Isaiah in the Old Testament. The adoration of the Magi is the beginning of the Christian faith among Gentiles.

May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! Psalm 72:11

Christian families also have the task of manifesting the light of Christ to the world. Through their example of holiness, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, give witness to the love of Christ in a world living in darkness, sin, and despair. You are to be a daily “epiphany” of the Lord to your children, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, and the world. You could not find a more noble task.

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Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

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Theotokos, the Inexhaustible Cup, Russian Icon

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The origin of the title “Mother of God” dates back to the third or fourth century. In 431, the Council of Ephesus officially declared Mary as the “Mother of God” or Theotokos (Greek term meaning “The God-bearer”). This is the first Marian dogma of the Church. As we begin the new year, the Church invites us to contemplate the divine maternity of Mary as an icon of peace.

Pope Paul VI, in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus, said…

It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels (cf. Lk. 2:14), and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace. It is for this reason that, in the happy concurrence of the Octave of Christmas and the first day of the year, we have instituted the World Day of Peace, an occasion that is gaining increasing support and already bringing forth fruits of peace in the hearts of many.[1]

In these unsettled times, it is fitting that we start this new year focusing on the fruits of peace brought to us in Jesus through His mother Mary. The year gone by was rife with fear, uncertainty, unrest, despair, and hopelessness. It behooves us to take time today to pray to the Mother of God for peace in our hearts, our homes, our neighborhoods, and throughout the world.

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Families Are an Icon of God

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Holy Family
Matthias Stom, c. 1640

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. As the earthly parents of the Christ child, Mary and Joseph provide the perfect parenting models. Their commitment and obedience to God, exemplify the spirit of love for Christ that guided their lives.

Mary and Joseph both answered “Yes” to God’s call. They humbly accepted God’s plan for their lives, trusting that His purpose would be accomplished through their obedience. Their singular purpose in life was to serve God. Husbands and wives today would do well to imitate the honor, love and devotion that Mary and Joseph had for their family, as well as their wholehearted trust and obedience in God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his Angelus address on the Feast of the Holy Family in 2009 said:

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God Renews His Promise

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Adoration of the sheperds_Matthias Stomer_c1632

Adoration of the Shepherds
Matthias Stom, c. 1632

Do not fear…do not be discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, Who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love… Zephaniah 3:16-17

This has been a very difficult year. We have been attacked by a virus that has much of the United States on lockdown. Many have been infected, some to the point of losing their lives. Many major cities in our country have been under assault by rioting and looting. People are out of work due to forced lockdowns and many businesses are failing. Our country is divided on what direction we should be taking in the future. So many individuals are angry, hopeless, and in despair.

Christmas has come in spite of all that we have faced this year. We have a mighty savior in our midst and we need not be afraid. He has come to renew us and save us from sin and death. God came to earth in human form to be close to us and He did it out of pure love. We are safe in the loving arms of Jesus.

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A Prayer for Families

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The third Sunday of Advent coincided with our 18th wedding anniversary. We celebrated by driving to Cleveland. Our day started with the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Rocco Catholic Church.

St. Rocco is the first and oldest Italian Parish on Cleveland’s West Side, founded in 1914. It is known as a “Do-It-Yourself” parish because of the numerous self-building projects undertaken over the years by the parish members, including construction of the current church in the years 1949 to 1952. The craftsmanship is this church is stunning!

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Blessings from the Lord

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And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 28:2

Eighteen years ago today, we were joined together in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. We believe that was the fulfillment of God’s promise to us.

We were both widowed, and in the midst of our grief, God encouraged both of us with this verse from Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11). We held on to these words tightly as the days, months, and years passed by without our beloved spouses.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:56-58

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Balm for Turbulent Times

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Sacred Heart of Jesus

Ninety-eight years ago this month, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio (When in the Inscrutable Designs of God). In this encyclical written at the end of World War I, he described the state of human society…

A much more serious and lamentable evil than these threats of external aggression is the internal discord which menaces the welfare not only of nations but of human society itself. In the first place, we must take cognizance of the war between the classes, a chronic and mortal disease of present-day society, which like a cancer is eating away the vital forces of the social fabric…from this class war there results frequent interruptions of work, the causes for which most often can be laid to mutual provocations. There results, too, revolutions, riots, and forcible repression of one side or other by the government, all of which cannot but end in general discontent and in grave damage to the common welfare. To these evils we must add the contests between political parties, many of which…originate[in]…the desire for power and for the protection of some private interest which inevitably result in injury to the citizens as a whole.[1]

Sound familiar? After nearly 100 years, we are still plagued with these same issues. As Ecclesiastes says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9).

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