The first day of this month, the Month of Our Lady, we turned to St. Joseph the Workman. Work is good and holy and pleasant, when it is offered to God. I love my often arduous work as a parish priest, building up God’s household here on Geary Boulevard. Our Lord defines “work” in John 6:29. “The work God demands of you,” he said to the crowds “is that you believe in the One He sent.” Believing, and helping others believe in a God beyond themselves, is hard work!
Joseph the Workman believed before he put his hand to any project. You can imagine him bowing his head to recite the Shema Israel before putting his powerful hands to shape wood and stone. The work that St. Joseph does now is to bring us to Mary, who brings us to Jesus, who brings us to the Father. That is why the Month of Mary begins with the Feast day of St. Joseph. God, apparently, loves mediators. He chooses others to share in His work, and He “sends” them. He sent his Son from heaven to earth to complete the mighty labor of the Redemption. He likewise “sends” Mary, and Joseph, and you and me, to assist in this mighty task. The Father loves his children by giving us all a role in managing His household. The greatest poverty, Mother Teresa observed, is to be unwanted and unneeded. God needs us!
The Catholic Church in America has needed clarity on the Holy Eucharist for some time. The pastoral letter my Archbishop issued on May 1st was “long overdue,” as he himself says, but it represents a great labor undertaken as yet by no other prelate. The luminous text is clearly the fruit of much work, over many months. The media, and one or two other bishops, are misrepresenting his letter as an attack on Nancy Pelosi over abortion, but a closer reading of the text reveals its core purpose: to define the inestimable gift of the Holy Eucharist. Archbishop Cordileone has often pointed out how the Church’s essential weakness at this time is ignorance about the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist, the Church's source and summit. The vast majority of Catholics do not do the one thing necessary to be Catholic, which is to “eat the Body and drink the Blood.” A great number of Catholics who do attend Mass receive the Eucharist “unworthily,” which is a technical term in Catholic theology meaning they don’t “recognize the Body and the Blood:” they don’t know what they are receiving, or with what disposition a person must take into themselves the infinite power of God Incarnate. Taking the Body and the Blood “unworthily” is not medicinal but toxic, like giving insulin to a person suffering from diabetic shock. Nancy Pelosi is not the only Catholic who receives Holy Communion while denying the Body. Any Catholic who receives Holy Communion while denying any of the natural laws of God eats and drinks condemnation unto themselves (1 Cor 11:29).
A Parish Named for St. Joseph
Back to St. Joseph. There used to be a parish named for St. Joseph in downtown San Francisco, but it was sold to a developer after the 1989 earthquake for “lack of interest”—not enough parishioners willing to repair it. It was acquired by the “St. Joseph Arts Society,” a wealthy club, which graciously restored the building’s exterior to its former glory. But what goes on inside this former Church of St. Joseph? In a Dec 17, 2018 article by Tony Bravo, the San Francisco Chronicle describes it: “Inside the church where religious statues once gazed out, papier-mache bear sculptures by the society’s first featured artists in residence, Dutch taxidermists-photographers Jaap Sinke and Ferry van Tongeren, watched over a VIP crowd. Guests drank at the new bars, inspected the art installations by Carpenters Workshop Gallery and took in the night’s entertainment, which included a performance by drag queens Juanita More and Glamamore on the former altar.”
Does it matter to the Catholic Church in San Francisco that wealthy elites are paying to see unnatural acts on the altar once dedicated to St. Joseph, the poor carpenter? I propose a partial remedy: name another parish for St. Joseph, placing the entire archdiocese under his mighty protection. St. Joseph is co-patron of the City, along with St. Francis and St. Patrick, but there has been no St. Joseph’s parish in San Francisco for 30 years. This is one of the reasons San Francisco is suffering social decline. We all feel the increasing tension on our streets, within our families, and among our colleagues of a society struggling to order our lives together without God. I think that giving St. Joseph a more prominent role in the Church would strengthen all of us, but especially us clergy, with greater prudence and courage. Sensing this need, Pope Francis has given us the Year of St. Joseph.
A Pastor’s Plea
Archbishop Cordileone, whose middle name is Joseph, released his pastoral letter on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. He will need Joseph’s fortitude and protection, because his enemies cannot tolerate a clear teaching on the Holy Eucharist. Moreover, his watertight argument from embryology, law, psychology, and theology leaves only one conclusion: no Catholic in good conscience can support abortion. Nevertheless, he writes,
“I tremble that if I do not forthrightly challenge Catholics under my pastoral care who advocate for abortion, both they and I will have to answer to God for innocent blood. To my fellow Catholics who openly advocate for the legitimacy of abortion, I beg you to heed the perennial call to conversion God Himself addresses to His people.”
Addressing Catholic political leaders, he writes:
“Your Catholic ideals inspire you to help those who experience discrimination, violence, and injustice, and you deserve the gratitude of your fellow Catholics and our nation for this service. But we cannot empower the weak by crushing the weakest! A compassionate, inclusive society must make room at the table for the most defenseless, and it should help a woman to keep her unborn child, not kill her or him. If you find that you are unwilling or unable to abandon your advocacy for abortion, you should not come forward to receive Holy Communion.”
The powerful Speaker of the House falls under our Archbishop’s pastoral jurisdiction. Through the intercession of St. Joseph, may she surrender her heart and will to the Good God, who loves her infinitely. May she use the power God has given her to believe, and to bring others to believe.