Monday, March 18, 2013

Saint Joseph, Protector of the Holy Family, Protector of the Church

José de Ribera 1591 – 1652
San José y el Niño Jesús
Oil on canvas
126 cm x 100 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Ribera was born in Spain but in 1620 moved to Naples permanently. At that time the Kingdom of Naples was part of the Spanish Empire

At the time of this painting he adopted the technique of the Tenebrists, the followers of Caravaggio

St Joseph was a figure deeply revered by the Franciscan order. After the Council of Trent, his devotion was encouraged.

His cult was very strong in Spain and from there extended all over the Spanish Empire which at that time included the Spanish Americas

Many are the writings about St Joseph in Spanish as well as Spanish paintings

Among his devotees include the Venerable Bede, St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Thomas Aquinas, St Buonaventure, John Duns Scotus, and St Teresa of Avila

In this work we see the middle aged and vigorous Joseph with his young charge, a young Jesus. Both poor and engaged in manual labour. Both are in Joseph`s workshop. Joseph is Jesus` protector and by extension the protector of the Church

The young Christ is holding St Joseph`s implements. It will be these implements which will be used to torture Him in his Passion and in making his Cross on which He will be crucified

In 2001 at the Synod of Bishops which discussed the Ministry of Bishops, Pope Francis (then Archbishop Bergoglio) made a solitary intervention in one of the debates. It was on the theme of Bishop as protector, watchman whose model is Saint Joseph. 

In the rather clumsy translation into English below (provided by the Vatican), Pope Francis attempts to distinguish between a Bishop "keeping watch" as distinct from "overseeing", "watching over". One would like a better translation from the Spanish, the language in which he gave his speech

The Pope`s inauguration as Pope is tomorrow, the Feast of St Joseph, a saint whom he praised and said "manifests and consolidates the parresia of the bishop". It is therefore an appropriate day for his inauguration

"The bishop is he who keeps watch; he cares for hope keeping watch for his people.  
A spiritual attitude is that which places the emphasis overseeing the flock with a "look of togetherness"; it is the bishop who cares for everything which maintains the cohesion of the flock. 
Another spiritual attitude places the emphasis on watching over, paying attention to danger. 
Both the attitudes have to do with the essence of the episcopal mission and they acquire all of their strength of this attitude that is considered the most essential, and that consists of keeping watch. 
One of the strongest images of this attitude is that of the Exodus, in which it is said that Yahweh will keep watch over his people during Easter night, therefore called "the eve".  
What I would like to underline is the peculiar profoundness that the act of keeping watch has, in respect to overseeing in a more general way or a more punctual watch. 
To oversee refers more to the care of the doctrine and of the customs, while to keep watch alludes rather to the caring that there is sun and light in our hearts. 
To watch over speaks of being on the lookout for the advance of imminent danger, while keeping watch speaks of holding up with patience the processes through which the Lord carries ahead the salvation of his people. 
To watch over is sufficient to be awake, astute, quick. 
To keep watch one needs to be more meek, more patient, and more constant in giving charity. 
To oversee and to watch over they speak of a certain necessary control. 
On the other hand, to keep watch one speaks of hope, the hope of the merciful Father who keeps watch over the process of the hearts of his children. 
To keep watch manifests and consolidates the parresia of the bishop, who displays the Hope "without altering the Cross of Christ". 
Together with the image of Yahweh who keeps watch over the great exodus of the people of the alliance, there is another image, more familiar but equally strong: that of Saint Joseph. 
It is he who keeps watch until he falls asleep dreaming over Baby Jesus and Mother. 
From this the deep keeping watch of Joseph gives birth to that silent look that signifies he is able to care for his little flock with poor means; and thus ‘sprouts’ also the vigilant and astute look which succeeded in avoiding all the dangers which threatened the Baby Jesus."