Greetings on the feast of Saint Joseph.
Currently, the Church worldwide is engaging in the Continental Phase for the Synod on Synodality. As Patron of the Universal Church, we might pause to reflect on the spirit of Synodality in the life of St Joseph.
The word ‘synodality’ means ‘walking together’. Through the Gospel stories, we see and recognise that Mary and Joseph walked together through all that confronted them – on journeys to Bethlehem, Egypt and to Nazareth. They listened deeply to all that was happening around them: the need to participate in the census, to be confronted with the reality of ‘no room in the inn’, and the insights gained through the visit of the shepherds and the magi.
Synodality – walking together – invites us to engage in these five realities: listening, dialoguing, discerning, deciding and acting. These movements are reflected in the life of Mary and Joseph. The angel engages Mary in a dialogue around the call to be the mother of the Jesus – the Messiah. Mary responds and tells Joseph. Imagine the dialogue that took place as Joseph tried to make sense of the news of Mary’s pregnancy. He spends time discerning his options: will he expose Mary publicly as the law required or quietly divorce Mary. In the middle of this quandary, he encounters the angel in his dreams inviting him to see things differently, to widen the space of his tent and to welcome this new reality. His discernment leads him to a new place. Joseph responds to this dream by taking Mary as his wife.
We see these movements again in the dialogue with the inn-keeper finding an alternative place to give birth, in the shepherds acting on what they experienced with others ‘all who heard it were amazed’ (Lk 2:18), in the magi discerning through their dreams to return by a different route, and consequently Joseph deciding to take Mary and the child to Egypt, ‘walking together’ to an unknown future.
As the Church engages in the journey of synodality, may it be inspired by Joseph its patron who has walked this path before us. May this mission of the Church to be synodal in nature, draw on the wisdom on Joseph who knew how to listen deeply, dialogue and discern. In doing so, he widened the space of his tent, engaged in the mission entrusted to him and lived in the spirit of communion with all those he encountered along the journey. Struggles were part of his reality, yet he remained faithful ‘to walking humbly with God’ (Micah 6:8) in and through it all.
In 1907, Mary MacKillop encouraged her Sisters on the feast of St Joseph to:
Let no obstacle deter those gathering Synod from proceeding with courage. May Joseph guide the work of the Synod on Synodality. This is my prayer for the church on this feast of St Joseph.
Sr Monica Cavanagh
View Sr Monica’s video message for the Feast of St Joseph below:
 Painting by Patrick O’Carrigan msc. Commissioned for the centenary of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Tasmania.