By Marie Nigro

On September 23rd, the Feast of St Padre Pio, a group of friends and I embarked on a spiritual adventure that lasted 33 days: we prepared ourselves for consecration to St. Joseph!

Consecration to St. Joseph: the Wonders of Our Spiritual Father

Backgrounder: one of my closest friends, who lives in another city, contacted me because she was excited about “the best book ever written about St Joseph!” and offered to give it to me as an Easter gift. I thanked her for her generosity and took her up on her offer. At roughly the same time, I purchased Mark Carney’s book Values and became absorbed in it, thus leaving St. Joseph aside, but promising him I’d get to it before the Year of St. Joseph ended. Well, that day came in late August.

As I began skimming it (by “it” I mean Consecration to St. Joseph: the Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Rev. Donald H. Calloway, MIC), I said to myself, “I don’t want to do this alone!” and made the decision then and there to invite my friends – one of whom convinced me to have it added to the parish bulletin.

The book is divided into parts, which necessitated flipping back and forth during the group discussions, and, in order to keep track, I needed bookmarks. Being an editor by trade, they’re something I have on hand, so, reaching into my trusty drawer, I grabbed one blindly. Which one? The 165th anniversary bookmark of one of the parishes I attended growing up: St Joseph, Snyder, in the St. Catharines diocese. Immediately I texted my friend and said, “I think St Joseph really wants me to lead this consecration group!”

Bookmark with an image of St Joseph Catholic Church, Snyder

Prior to the first day, I felt ‘inspired-with-a-touch-of-resistance’ to fast, in order to prepare myself spiritually. Fasting does not come easy to me (I’m Italian, need I say more?) but, being aware of the great importance our faith gives to this discipline, I understood that, as the facilitator, I would need the extra graces and humility that would come from including fasting in my preparations. Was I dreading it? Oh yes! Did God and St. Joseph help me through? Absolutely. The graces were so astounding that the time went by quickly and I noticed my appetites less than on days when I’m not fasting.

Day One made me nervous! Would anyone come? My next-door neighbour came, and we sat in front of my computer, waiting for others on Zoom. It felt like an eternity! Finally, a text from a friend broke the silence that had become deafening. People were waiting for me somewhere else on Zoom! People were coming! And because I can be technologically-challenged at times, I entered Zoom incorrectly and wound up somewhere else. The joy my neighbour and I felt when we navigated to the correct virtual space was palpable – and an amazing surprise awaited me: Pope Francis found Holy Rosary’s bulletin and decided to join us too – JUST KIDDING! The real surprise was some of my friends from Toronto were there! It felt like a reunion because the last time we saw each other was before the pandemic. Another surprise was that the leader of the monthly Marian Way of the Cross found our little bulletin announcement and joined us out of love for St Joseph. I was touched.

A prayer  card depicting Saint Joseph

To open our meetings, we used a prayer to St Joseph on the aforementioned bookmark. This was followed by the daily reading in the book, the Litany to St Joseph, and then a discussion about the reading. Challenging to do in 40 minutes, but we managed. We had some great conversations about a variety of topics, which garnered a range of viewpoints – as unique as all of us who joined in. I didn’t mind the small group size, as I figured whomever the Lord and St Joseph wanted to be there, would be there. We had a great dynamic and got along well. I learned from all participants – and truly do feel closer to St Joseph, as, admittedly, I neglected him for too long.

The book recommended keeping statues or images of St Joseph nearby during the meetings. Earlier this year, before knowing I’d be leading this group, I saw an announcement in the Friday Facts about olive wood statues from the Holy Land, carved in the likeness of St Joseph, for sale, so I ordered one. It was on my window sill every meeting. Also on my sill was a statue of St Joseph that belonged to my late mother, which I don’t recall seeing around the house, but my father brought it to me during a visit in the summer. It’s made out of the volcanic ash of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, and was handcrafted by its victims. I didn’t even know you could make statues out of ash! These two items entering my life this year – the Year of St Joseph – before knowing I would be undertaking this endeavour – that’s no mere coincidence.

Statues of St. Joseph

Skipping ahead to Day 28 – it turned out to be a big one for the Church here because that was when the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that Pope Francis had accepted their invitation to visit Canada!

Even with that excitement in the air, we did focus well enough to have a thought-provoking discussion about the evening’s theme, the Works of Mercy:

Seven Corporal

  1. Feed the Hungry
  2. Give Drink to the Thirsty
  3. Clothe the Naked
  4. Shelter the Homeless
  5. Visit the Prisoners
  6. Comfort the Sick
  7. Bury the Dead

Seven Spiritual

  1. Teach the Ignorant
  2. Pray for the Living and the Dead
  3. Correct Sinners
  4. Counsel Those in Doubt
  5. Console the Sorrowful
  6. Bear Wrongs Patiently
  7. Forgive Wrongs Willingly.

Could it be a bit of a “God-incidence” that the news broke on the same day as the Works of Mercy were the theme? Remember, His Holiness once called a Year of Mercy for the universal church. When Pope Francis comes, he will be only the second pope to visit our great country. May God keep our land glorious and free!

When Day 33 arrived, it wasn’t the way I envisioned it. I forgot to fast, had a stressful day at work, and became frustrated with the high-tech sector for the wastefulness of planned obsolescence. Fortunately, a couple of good conversations before the start put me in the right frame of mind just on time. Our last gathering was grace-filled; the entire group was there; and we ended on a high note. Consecration Day was timed to end on the Feast of All Saints – and I hope the experience has made us all a little holier.

May God bless everyone who prayed for us during this sacred time – and a special thanks to our pastor, Rev. Dan Hawkins, MSF, for providing us with facts about, and a prayer to, St. Joseph from the book Go to Joseph by Michael O’Neill McGrath, OSFS.

The cover of "Go to Joseph" by Michael O'Neill McGrath

I’d especially like to given an extra special thanks to the participants in this consecration journey (you know who you are). I learned from all of you, and enjoyed the virtual community we created. It was wonderful sharing my faith with you – and listening to your experiences. Each of you have made me a better person, and the memories of these past 33 days will be treasured by me forever. It’s my hope that they will be by you as well.

St. Joseph, Patron of Canada, pray for us!

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