Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St. Joseph

There is a small town in Provence, France, name Cotignac.  It would be honest to say that few American Catholics are aware of this historic town.  On two different hillsides in its history, there have been two apparitions.  In the first apparition Mary appeared to an ordinary worker.  She asked the man to approach the city consuls and clergy with the message:  "Build a church" on this spot.  Which was done.  It was, according to tradition, to be named Our Lady of Graces.  Note the plural!  Some years later another ordinary worker, Gaspard Ricard, a 22 year old shepherd was guiding his herd of sheep on a stifling hot day.  Exhausted, Gaspard laid on the ground.  He was in a part of Provence where there was not water: neither river nor stream.  Suddenly a tall and older man stood beside him.   He pointed to a large rock (bolder) and said:  "I am Joseph; lift it and you will drink."  The young man looked at the rock and then back to Joseph in disbelief.  Joseph repeated his instructions.  Gaspard did what Joseph asked him to do.  As soon as the rock was moved with no great difficulty, water began to flow from the earth ... and continues even until today.  Many miracles have been attributed to the waters of the stream.  Of course a sanctuary was constructed.  It was after this that Joseph was selected to be the patron for France.  It has become a tourist site as well as a place of prayer, especially for fathers.

Today, in Rome, Pope Francis spoke about St. Joseph.  Several times in his homily, delivered in Italian, the Bishop of Rome, as he seems to prefer as his title, spoke of Joseph's mission: custodire!  Joseph's vocation was to take care of Mary and the child she brought into the world.  Pope Francis urged all those present at his Installation Mass in St. Peter's Square, to recognize their vocations to be custodians of the world and the people of God in our lives.

When I was growing, as a young man, devotion to Joseph was not unknown.  Today, however, there is little attention to him and the extraordinary vocation he had.  Would that there would be a shepherd on a parched hillside in our country where Joseph could appear.  Perhaps more likely Joseph might opt to appear on a sports field or in a computer lab!  Nevertheless, if you Google Joseph and Cotignac, you will find what I found:  a source of "spiritual water" about the saint of this day and all that has occurred there in the small town.  Remember:  good things come in small packages!

Happy St. Joseph's Day!