As we celebrate the feast of St Joseph (19 March) – Patron of the Universal Church and the Sisters of Saint Joseph – in this year dedicated to prayer and the synodal pathway, we are called to live and respond with a contemplative heart to what the Spirit is asking of us in the midst of the reality of our lives.

It is about being attentive to the signs of this time, calling us to new pathways and ways of being Church.

As the Church, the people of God, prepare our hearts and minds for the next stage of the Synod on Synodality, let us call on the wisdom and humility of St Joseph to guide the process and lead us to new life for the Church today.

Above all, Joseph was a deep listener with a contemplative heart. The process chosen for those involved has been one of ‘deep listening’ through what is known as ‘Conversations in the Spirit’. This means taking time to listen to the ‘whisperings of God’ to each one’s heart through attentive listening and responding.

In the life of Joseph, we see these elements interacting – Joseph first takes note of the reality of Mary’s pregnancy – perhaps somewhat disturbing. He ponders what this could mean for their relationship. He listens to the voice of the angel in his dreams – take Mary as your wife. He responds with a compassionate action. This cycle continues in the recorded stories in the gospel. In obedience to the law, he needs to go to Bethlehem for the census. Here he finds that there is no room in the inn. He ponders what this means and finds safety in the stable. He sees the shepherds approaching – what will this encounter mean? Whose voice do they represent in this synodal journey?

Four times Joseph is called to listen to the invitation of the Spirit in his dreams. Each response is risky, yet Joseph steps out in faith having heard God’s call in his moments of contemplation. May Joseph teach us in the year dedicated as the Year of Prayer, to bring a contemplative mindset to all our responses and actions.

Inspired by the contemplative heart of Joseph, may we be people who take time amid the hustle and bustle of life to listen deeply to our good God, to the needs and voices of our neighbour and world, and to respond as Joseph did with a generous heart. It means at times, taking a significant risk and stepping out into an unknown reality, trusting God who walked with Joseph in each situation.

In a time when our Church and our world is living in uncertain times, we take courage from Mary MacKillop who reminds us, like Joseph’s noble and generous heart, we must be burning with zeal in the service of God:

We must let no obstacles deter us from proceeding with courage in the path marked out for us. It may sometimes be dark and full of many windings, but a beautiful, bright light shines at the end of the path, and a few more windings will bring us to it.
Mary MacKillop, 10 March 1907

Happy feast of St Joseph.

Sr Monica Cavanagh
Congregational Leader