Regnum Christi

The Way of St. Joseph 1 Introduction

The Way of St. Joseph
The Way of St. Joseph
Welcome to a new 14-part blog series called “The Way of St. Joseph,” written by Fr. Daniel Brandenburg, LC, and offered as a practical, imaginative, and prayerful way to get to know the saint who was the earthly father of  Jesus, and the husband of Mary, during this Year of St. Joseph.

Genesis

I started helping in my dad’s welding repair shop in Bancroft, Iowa, even before attending kindergarten. I recall the thrill of being a big boy, old enough to go to the shop. I’d watch with saucer eyes the sparks flying from the grinder, or peek through squinty eyes at the bright flashes of the welder, and gape at the awesome power of the hydraulic press to bend mighty metal like butter. Each visit was an adventure of discovery. I felt so important the first time Dad entrusted me with a broom, or when he told me the names of tools and showed me where to put them away. So many lessons are imparted in a father’s workshop.

Saint Joseph, our spiritual father, wants to draw us into his workshop where we can observe, marvel, learn, and discover. How can I be a better person? Watch the “righteous man” (Mt 1:19). How can I become a better lover? Observe the man betrothed (cf. Mt 1:18) to the most remarkable woman ever (cf. Lk 1:28; Rev 12:1), who sets aside the wisdom of the world to commit to love, despite the known limitations and the unknowable future (cf. Mt 1:20-24). How can I deal with the vagaries of life? Learn from St. Joseph, the man who lived life to the full and attained an eternal reward. If we are attentive, we can pick up every lesson for life from this extraordinary man chosen by God to be his foster father, entrusted with the most precious lives in history, who faithfully fulfilled his mission.

In the upcoming blog posts, I will share some insights from my own prayer and reflection. Throughout 2019, I was praying through the 19th Annotation (a form of St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises) and St. Joseph kept turning up in my reflections, so I jotted down many of those lights in my journal, but shared them with no one but my spiritual director. As they accumulated, though, I felt nudged to write for others about St. Joseph, countering the pietistic caricatures of him as a hands-clasped and eyes-floating-to-the-sky-dreamer or a senile, gray-haired dolt. I don’t relate to that. I don’t think St. Joseph was like that. That’s certainly not the image that emerges from scripture.

When Pope Francis announced the Year of St. Joseph on December 8, 2020, I knew the time had come to get moving. I drew upon those insights from prayer and then continued to reflect further on this remarkable saint to begin crafting a retreat on St. Joseph that I am directing three times in January and February of 2021. I’m hopeful the prayer, retreats, and these blog posts will coalesce into a book by the end of this year that can make even more broadly available lessons from the workshop of St. Joseph.

I must also confess a selfish purpose here. My middle name is Joseph, and he’s a protector saint of my religious congregation – the Legionaries of Christ – so I am excited to dedicate time to better know and make known this singular saint. Any man could have been chosen, but no other man was. If we marvel at God’s choice of Mary as his mother, should we not also take notice of Joseph whom he chose as his foster father? I am convinced that God chose St. Joseph so that he could model for every Christian the faith, religious practice, parenting, spousal fidelity, and mission completion that will bring us to our fulfillment. Just a Jesus fulfilled the Jewish law, including the 4thCommandment, may we also honor our spiritual father and learn lessons from his workshop.

Rehash the Old?

Excellent materials already exist to introduce St. Joseph. Some of the best include a growing list of relatively recent papal pronouncements on our father in faith, beginning with Pius IX in 1870 declaring St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church and then official letters from Pius X, Benedict XV, John Paul II, and Pope Francis.[1] There are dozens of good books available on St. Joseph, exploring his historical framework, aspects of his virtue, or fostering prayer and consecration.[2]

Though I have read many of these texts, I do not draw directly from them for this blog and the subsequent book. Rather than rehash what others have written about so eloquently, I draw directly upon scripture and the fruits of prayer. If you find that helpful, God be praised; if not, don’t give up on Joseph, but try other sources that resonate better with you.

Approach

The approach I will take in these blogs is threefold.

  1. First, I strive to be practical. Pietistic or saccharine presentations of spiritual realities turn my stomach and turn me off. I’m more interested in authentic piety, from the Latin pietas, which refers to sense of duty, loyalty, and faithfulness to natural ties. Real piety is manly, not sweet. Though I may use poetry, images, and prayers, these are all oriented toward fostering a down-to-earth, practical piety applicable to your life and vocation.
  2. Second, imaginative. The insights I share are not some sort of private revelation, nor am I drawing upon visions of mystics or saints. I simply surmise what could have been, from Scripture and the human or historical context. These are personal reflections, and if you find the images and feelings I evoke helpful, great. If not, there are plenty of other excellent resources available for you to draw closer to St. Joseph.
  3. Lastly, prayerful. If these reflections don’t result in your own musings or lead to deeper conversation with God, they fail. The artwork, litanies, prayers, and questions I will offer are all oriented toward enriching your relationship with Jesus Christ, whom we get to know better through his foster father. Just as Mary always leads us to her son, so does Joseph.

The Common Thread

Brilliant things have said about St. Joseph by saints and theologians. Instead of regurgitating their insights, these blog posts will present an entirely different side of St. Joseph.

In my recent book “Journey to Joy: Reflections on the 7 Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, I explored the passion of sorrow and how Mary teaches us to find fulfillment, transforming suffering and sorrow into joy.

It comes naturally, then, for me to question Joseph about his passions. Scripture calls him a “righteous man” (Mt 1:19), which is the same as calling him a virtuous man. Perhaps no other virtue sets apart a man more than courage. As a cardinal virtue, fortitude or courage is one of the pivotal good habits that marks the life of the good man. Courage does not mean having no fear, but of facing it, and overcoming it. So over the course of these blogs, we will explore the fears of St. Joseph through the fourteen passages in Scripture that relate his life, constituting thus a “Way of St. Joseph”. My prayer is that this Way helps you to recognize and conquer your fears, so that you can imitate Joseph’s triumph of fortitude in a world ever more in need of heroes.

[1] Here are highlights of papal magisterium on St. Joseph over the past 150 years:

  • Quemadmodum Deus. Pope Pius IX declares St. Joseph to be Patron of the Universal Church. Dec 8, 1870
  • Inclytum Patriarcham. Liturgical norms for the celebration of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. Jul 7, 1871
  • Quamquam pluries. Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Devotion to St. Joseph. Aug 15, 1889 – the first Pope in history to dedicate an entire encyclical to Saint Joseph.
  • 1909 Pius X approved the litanies of St. Joseph and invited the faithful to honor him on the Wednesday, dedicated to him.
  • Bonum sane was a motu proprio on Saint Joseph written by Pope Benedict XV and delivered on July 25, 1920.
  • In 1955 Pope Pius XII instituted the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker and decreed that the new Mass in the saint’s honor be said on May 1st. It is not by chance that this day was chosen. May 1st is May Day, a Communist legal holiday in honor of the radical workers. In contrast, the Holy Father sets aside May 1st to give honor to St. Joseph and to restore dignity to labor.
  • Saint Joseph is named Patron of the Second Vatican Council. Mar 19, 1961
  • Redemptoris Custos. Apostolic exhortation on St. Joseph by John Paul II. Nov 24, 2013
  • Homily on the Feast of Saint Joseph, 27 March 1969. Pope Paul VI preaches on the person of St. Joseph and his many virtues.
  • Angelus Address on March 19, 2006. Pope Benedict XVI considers the importance of the person of St. Joseph.
  • Paternas vices. Pope Francis inserts the name of Joseph into Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. May 1, 2013
  • Patris corde. Letter of Pope Francis December 8, 2020

[2] I provide a partial bibliography at the end of this book, without vouching for the content of any. Beyond theological reliability, each person has different sensibilities and tastes, so what I find helpful may not meet your needs. Choose your texts wisely, seeking the counsel of a spiritual director as needed.

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!