We Go to Joseph!

Sister M. Anna Astell

In a year dedicated to Saint Joseph what could be more fitting than to take time to raise our hearts and voices to the earthly guardian of our Lord and of the Blessed Mother. Sister M. Anna Astell, from the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, has written a Novena dedicated to Saint Joseph. She felt inspired to write it before the Holy Father dedicated this year to Saint Joseph. We have asked her to tell us a little about the novena and her inspirations.

What inspired you to write this Novena?

In March, 2018, at the start of the nine days before the Feast of Saint Joseph, the Schoenstatt Family in Indiana sponsored a bus pilgrimage to the Schoenstatt Shrine in Waukesha, Wisconsin. 2018 also marked the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Father Joseph Kentenich in 1968. It seemed fitting to draw a spiritual link between the two Josephs by remembering what Father Kentenich had to say about his great patron saint.

The theme “We Go to Joseph” was also partly inspired by a word from Saint André Bessette, a Brother of Holy Cross, who regularly sent people who came to him in need of miracles to St. Joseph. Father Kentenich similarly sent the people who came to him for help to our Lady in the Schoenstatt Shrine. In every shrine of the Mater Ter Admirabilis there is a statue of St. Joseph. Mary, Jesus, and Joseph are all present in the shrine as Holy Family to form holy families.

What inspired you to use the verses of the song at the beginning of each day?

As the proverb goes, “singing is twice praying”! Singing is always a joyful thing to do, especially if you gather in a group to pray. On the bus and in the shrine when we arrived, we made a “joyful sound unto the Lord” with our hymns.

Why do you think the person of St. Joseph is a timely figure in our day and age?

The first word that comes to mind is “father.” In our times it is very difficult for men to fulfill their mission as fathers for their families. Without a father, children lack an indispensable source of strength and shelter for their development. Without a positive, trusting relationship with a father-figure, children cannot easily relate to God the Father. St. Joseph was chosen by God to be the earthly representative of the Heavenly Father for the Child Jesus. Every father has a similar mission to reflect God the Father’s love, wisdom, and strength within the family.

Did you know that the missionaries of the Pilgrim Mother are focusing this year on how the Pilgrim Mother helps people build the Domestic Church? It comes from their experience of having to keep the Blessed Mother for longer periods of time, during the pandemic. What would you say is the role of St. Joseph when we reflect on this topic?

The novena includes an interesting observation by Father Kentenich. He points out that Saint Joseph was told twice in a dream to “take the child and his mother”—first, when they fled to Egypt; second, when they returned to the land of Israel (Matthew 2:13, 20). The first was a protective taking of the mother and child to a safe place, away from danger; the second involved a homecoming to Nazareth. In both cases, Father Kentenich says, St. Joseph was an apostle who proclaimed the two-in-oneness of Mary and Jesus. The missionaries of the Pilgrim Mother are apostolic like St. Joseph when they take the picture of grace into their homes and when they carry the Pilgrim Mother to other homes. For us, the times of quarantine might be compared to the time the Holy Family spent in Egypt. How close Jesus, Mary, and Joseph must have been to one another during those years when they were strangers in a foreign land! This was a formative time for them as “Domestic Church.”

What words would you use to encourage our missionaries to look up to St. Joseph in their task as missionaries of Schoenstatt’s Pilgrim Mother?

The same words St. Joseph heard again and again in the dreams: “Take the Child and his Mother and go . . .” The Pilgrim Mother brings the holy Child in her arms, but the missionary who treasures and carries the picture of grace is like St. Joseph who brings Jesus and Mary together to their destined homes, whether those homes be in Bethlehem, Egypt, or Nazareth.