May 1: St. Joseph the Worker
This is St. Joseph’s second feast day on the Church calendar of celebrations. We honor him also on March 19. St. Joseph is a very important saint. He is the husband of Our Lady and the foster-father of Jesus.
Today we celebrate his witness of hard work. He was a carpenter who worked long hours in his little shop. St. Joseph teaches us that the work we do is important. Through it we give our contribution and our service to our family and society. But even more than that. As Christians we realize that our work is like a mirror of ourselves. That is why we want our work to be done with diligence.
Many countries set aside one day a year to honor workers. This encourages the dignity and appreciation of work. The Church has given us a wonderful model of work, St. Joseph. In 1955, Pope Pius XII proclaimed this feast of St. Joseph the Worker to be celebrated every year.
Reflection: St. Joseph teaches us that the work we do is very important, because we give our contribution and our service to our family and society.
May 3 – Saints Philip and James, Apostles – Feast
Feast: Liturgical Color: Red
The Popes follow one another chronologically just like the presidents of the United States. One after another, after another, each inheriting the powers and responsibilities of his office. President John F. Kennedy followed President Dwight D. Eisenhower, just as Pope St. John Paul II followed The Venerable Pope John Paul I. But there is a difference. Jesus’ placing of St. Peter as the symbolic and jurisdictional head of the universal Church is, of course, more significant than the popular election of a political leader. The papacy is different in that every Pope is, theologically speaking, the “direct successor” of St. Peter, the first Pope. From this perspective, every Pope after St. Peter is a second Pope. So, for example, the two hundredth Pope, chronologically, was still the second Pope, theologically. No president would claim he is the direct successor of George Washington. He is the successor of his predecessor. Theological truths transcend space and time, since their source, God, exists outside of space and time. The office of St. Peter is theologically guaranteed by the easy-to-find, on-the-surface-of-the-text words of Christ Himself in the gospel. Today’s Pope, and every Pope, occupies that same office, is protected by that same divine guarantee, and immediately succeeds St. Peter when he is chosen by the Holy Spirit to occupy his chair.
What pertains to the office of the Bishop of Rome also pertains to the office of the Twelve Apostles. Today’s saints, Philip and James, were called by name by Christ Himself. And after being called, they took the step that many who are called never take. They followed! The Twelve walked at Christ’s side on dusty trails during His years of public ministry. They ate and drank with Him by the fire. They slept under the cold desert sky with Him. And Jesus looked right into their eyes, and only their eyes, and spoke directly to their faces, and only their faces, when He said on a Thursday night, “Do this in memory of me.” And then they did that in memory of Him, and many other things besides, for the rest of their lives.
The four marks of the true Church serve as a trademark. One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic form the four corners of the trademark stamp of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. The mark of “One” means the Church is visibly one in spite of its many tongues, nations, classes, and races. The Church is one in her doctrine, her Sacraments, and her hierarchy. This oneness is not theoretical. It is tangible, real, and identifiable even to those without a doctorate in theology. This one, Christ-founded Church began with twelve followers who gathered as one around Jesus. These Twelve eventually appointed their own successors, who then, in turn, appointed successors, and so on through the centuries down to the present.
The universal college of Bishops, the successor body to the Twelve Apostles, is the means by which the Oneness, or unity, of the Church is expressed, protected, and guaranteed. Bishops are not a secondary attribute or development of Christianity. They are embedded into, and conjoined with, the Word of God in one complex reality. They are not an outside source of authority external to Scripture. There simply would be no Scripture without that pre-existing authority to have nurtured it, developed it, and chosen it. The Church was the incubator of the New Testament.
Not much is known with certainty about the Apostles Philip and James, apart from their names and some few references in the New Testament. And that is just fine. It is more important to understand that their lives were the bedrock upon which the Church on earth still rests. Their theological legacy continues today in every Bishop who teaches, sanctifies, and governs the baptized people of God.
Saints Philip and James, your hidden witness to Christ is less well-known than that of other Apostles, but is eloquent testimony to your quiet fidelity to building the Church after the Ascension. From your exalted place in Heaven, intercede for all who seek your assistance.
May 14 – Saint Matthias the Apostle – Feast
Conservative Muslims believe that any territory that was once settled and governed by the adherents of Mohammed pertains forever and always to the Caliphate. Once Islamic, always Islamic. The greater part of the Iberian peninsula was occupied and governed by Muslims for many centuries. It took generations of fighting for the Islamic fist to loosen its grip on Spain. By 1492, native Spanish armies had slowly pushed the Muslim armies back into the waters of the Mediterranean, which they first crossed in 711. Nevertheless, some strict followers of Mohammed dream of former glories and hope that Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) will one day re-emerge.
Catholicism harbors no such illusions of glory for formerly Catholic lands, but it does practice a theological form of “Once Catholic, Always Catholic.” Many Bishops who serve in the Roman Curia exercise no authority over a diocese. Auxiliary bishops likewise share in episcopal authority but lack a territory themselves. These two categories of bishops are thus given a “titular” episcopal see. It is a see in name, or title, only of an ancient diocese that ceased to exist due to, typically, Muslim invasion. These “titular” sees were formerly called sees “in partibus infidelium,” or “in the lands of the unbelievers.” Although this Latin term is no longer used by the Holy See, its meaning is contained in the term “titular.” This custom not only preserves the memory of lost peoples and dioceses, it also has some theological support. A bishop and his diocese are married like spouses. And a diocese, once created, cannot remain a widow. A new bishop is always appointed to join himself to it. A diocese must have a spouse, even if he is a long way from home in distance and time.
The tradition that all bishops, beginning with the Apostles, must have successors is rooted not just in the early Church but in Judaism. The Twelve Apostles are more often referred to in the New Testament by their number than their names. They are, simply, “The Twelve.” This custom is rooted in the twelve tribes who settled Israel after the Exodus from Egypt. These tribes were founded by the twelve sons of the Patriarch Jacob, later renamed Israel. It was inside of this Old Testament Jewish tradition that Jesus Christ acted when He chose twelve men upon whom to found His Church. Jesus specifically states that His followers will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28, Lk. 22:30). And the Book of Revelation states that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel will be written on the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12 ff).
It was fitting, then, when “The Twelve” were reduced to “The Eleven” after Judas’ self murder, that the fullness of the biblical number had to be restored. And this is where today’s saint steps out from the shadows to play his role in Christian history. The first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the great history book of the early Church, tells us that, after the Ascension, the eleven Apostles returned to Jerusalem. There, Peter “stood up among the believers” to tell them that someone who had “accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us… must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” Two names were proposed to replace Judas: Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas. Then the Eleven prayed to the Lord to show them the way. They cast lots. Matthias was chosen. An Apostle, for the first time, had a successor. And, of equal significance, the appointment came from the group, or college, of Apostles, led by Peter. Thus was established, just days after Christ left the earth, a form of Church preservation and growth which would be repeated, and is still repeated, tens of thousand of times in Christian history.
The Church has placed the Feast of St. Matthias purposefully close to the Feast of the Ascension, just as his election in Acts occurred so soon after that event in the Bible. The Holy Spirit was yet to descend at Pentecost, and still the Church performed the will of God with authority. It was all there in the beginning. It is still here all around us. The miracle of the Church and her Apostles continues. It will always continue.
Reflection: St. Matthias, we beg your intercession from your powerful throne in the Heavenly Jerusalem, that you fortify all who govern your Church to emulate “The Twelve” in their wisdom, trust, prudence, and daring in leading and spreading the Faith.
May 31 – Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Feast
THE angel Gabriel, in the mystery of the Annunciation, informed the Mother of God that her cousin Elizabeth had miraculously conceived, and was then pregnant with a son who was to be the precursor of the Messiah. The Blessed Virgin out of humility concealed the wonderful dignity to which she was raised by the incarnation of the Son of God in her womb, but, in the transport of her holy joy and gratitude, determined she would go to congratulate the mother of the Baptist.
“Mary therefore arose,” saith St. Luke, “and with haste went into the hilly country into a city of Judea, and entering into the house of Zachary, saluted Elizabeth.” What a blessing did the presence of the God-man bring to this house, the first which He honored in His humanity with His visit! But Mary is the instrument and means by which He imparts to it His divine benediction, to show us that she is a channel through which He delights to communicate to us His graces, and to en, courage us to ask them of Him through her intercession. At the voice of the Mother of God, but by the power and grace of her divine Son in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, and the Infant in her womb conceived so great a joy as to leap and exult. At the same time Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, and by His infused light she understood the great mystery of the Incarnation which God had wrought in Mary, whom humility prevented from disclosing it even to a Saint, and an intimate friend. In raptures of astonishment Elizabeth pronounced her blessed above all other women, and cried out, “Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary, hearing her own praise, sunk the lower in the abyss of her nothingness, and in the transport of her humility, and melting in an ecstasy of love and gratitude, burst into that admirable canticle, the Magnificat. Mary stayed with her cousin almost three months, after which she returned to Nazareth.
Reflection.—Whilst with the Church we praise God for the mercies and wonders which He wrought in this mystery, we ought to apply ourselves to the imitation of the virtues of which Mary sets us a perfect example. From her we ought particularly to learn the lessons by which we shall sanctify our visits and conversation, actions which are to so many Christians the sources of innumerable dangers and sins.
Edited by: Evan Macklin