Colleen Rowan Photo Bishop Mark Brennan celebrates Mass on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, opening the Year of St. Joseph for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling March 19. From left are Deacon Doug Breiding, who served as deacon of the word; and concelebrants (standing behind the bishop) Father Carlos Melocoton, Jr., pastor of St. Michael Parish in Wheeling; Very Rev. Leonard A. Smith, V.F., pastor of St. James the Greater Parish in Charles Town; and Very Rev. John S. Ledford, V.F., pastor of St. Jude Parish in Glen Dale.
By Colleen Rowan “Everyone can find in St. Joseph a model of loving service to others,” Bishop Mark Brennan said in his homily at the Mass opening the Year of St. Joseph in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. St. Joseph was the indispensable man to show the incarnate son of God what a truly good man and a truly good human father was like, the bishop said. Celebrated on the Solemnity of St. Joseph March 19 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling, the Mass gathered faithful and priests of the diocese to open this special year honoring St. Joseph, not only as the patron of the universal church but also as the patron of Wheeling-Charleston. Joining the bishop at the Mass were concelebrating priests: Very Rev. John S. Ledford, V.F., pastor of St. Jude Parish in Glen Dale; Very Rev. Leonard A. Smith, V.F., pastor of St. James the Greater Parish in Charles Town; and Father Carlos Melocoton, Jr., pastor of St. Michael Parish in Wheeling. Father Martin Smay, vice rector of the cathedral, was master of ceremonies, and Deacon Doug Breiding served as deacon of the word. Also present were a few of the newly elected members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and of the Wheeling Vicariate Council as well as those gathered at the cathedral and watching the livestream on the diocese’s website. St. Joseph speaks no words at all in the New Testament, Bishop Brennan said in his homily. “We know him only through his actions,” he said, “but they reveal why God the father wanted this man to be his son’s adoptive father.” Joseph was obedient to God, the bishop said. Like Abraham, he put his faith in what God told him. Even when things were not entirely clear he did God’s will. Joseph took Mary as his wife, the bishop said. He took her and Jesus to Egypt to escape King Herod and returned to Israel when God said the danger had passed. “We too are challenged to obey God even when we don’t understand everything,” Bishop Brennan said. “We trust that he knows best.” “Joseph also teaches us to sympathize with people who, like the holy family, leave their country because of threats of many kinds to themselves and their families and who come here in hopes of a better life as our own ancestors did,” the bishop said. In addition to being obedient and trusting in God’s word, Joseph was a loving man, the bishop said. Even thinking that Mary had betrayed him he wanted to spare her public shame by divorcing her quietly, he said, and his tender consideration of her must have continued in their marriage. Joseph’s love for Jesus led him to find a safe, warm place for him to be born when there was no room in the inn, Bishop Brennan said. It led him to protect the infant from Herod and later to look diligently for the boy when he was missing from the caravan returning to Nazareth from the temple in Jerusalem. The bishop said that surely Joseph took time to teach his son how to shape wood into useful objects and, for his faith, how to read the Hebrew Scriptures. “We do not know when Joseph died, but surely the Jesus who wept at the death of his friend Lazarus shed copious tears when such a loving father died,” Bishop Brennan said. Men, the bishop continued, especially learn from St. Joseph to cherish their wives and children and to serve them. “Those of us who are fathers in another sense also learn from him,” the bishop said, “but everyone can find in St. Joseph a model of loving service to others.” Joseph has many other admirable traits, the bishop said, but there was one more he wanted to mention: hard work. Joseph worked to provide for his family, the bishop said, noting that he is described as a righteous man. “His integrity as a worker is a model for workers today,” Bishop Brennan said. “We also see how necessary it is for people to have meaningful work and earn a living wage. Our work on earth allows us to develop God’s creation, making it bear fruit beyond its natural ability. So many people having lost their jobs during the pandemic, so many small businesses having been closed—we must pray that those capable act creatively to help them find work.” Along with the focus on St. Joseph’s virtues the faithful should also invoke his intercession more intensely during this year dedicated to him, Bishop Brennan said. As he is the patron of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, “we have a special relationship with St. Joseph,” the bishop said. “His intercession is very powerful before the Lord Jesus whom he raised and who loves him unreservedly.” The bishop then shared the story of St. André Bessette, who attributed everything he did to St. Joseph’s power of intercession. “My brothers and sisters in Christ,” the bishop said in closing, “our people have been enduring difficult times not only the pandemic and its … economic and educational maladies but the scandals we’ve witnessed or heard about in our church, divisions now so prominent in American society. We must pray to St. Joseph, that indispensable man in God’s plan, to intercede for us that we may have the wisdom and the courage to continue our pilgrimage of faith and become more effective agents of God’s integrity, justice, and peace. And as our patron saint models those very virtues so his prayers can help us to attain them and put them to work for the good of our people.” The opening of the Year of St. Joseph included other prayerful gatherings at the cathedral, beginning with vespers on the evening of March 18. On the solemnity, the cathedral had morning prayer, noon Mass which was followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until 5 p.m., Stations of the Cross with Father Smay, and the Mass celebrated by Bishop Brennan.