Invigorating symbols of the faith

| Deacon Gordon Bird | May 21, 2020 | 0 Comments

Behaviors are beliefs in action. Standards of evangelization are often set high for all of us in representing the faith we cherish and love. Whether we like it or not, so much is at stake for Catholics in articulating what we say about what we believe, and how we act upon our beliefs as Christians.

Perhaps more important is the latter, as I ponder on Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of May: “We pray that deacons, faithful in their service to the word and the poor, may be an invigorating symbol for the entire Church.”

Thank you, Holy Father! Deacons will take all the prayers the pope offers up! Even during these days of restricted movement, face masks and hand sanitizers, proclaiming the word and reaching the margins of those in need are paramount. Yet, integrating and extrapolating this prayer to all the faithful makes sense — clergy, religious, laity and especially the family — because we all come from a family.

Being “an invigorating symbol” of the holy Church reminds me of St. Pope John Paul II referring to the family as a learning center for prayer, urging it to be “ecclesiola” — a little church. Within it, the Eucharist and the Scriptures are the center of the life of the family. And, from a disciplined and joyful prayer life at home, the word reaches out in action to those in great need — the poor both materially and spiritually.

We can embrace the love and the study of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph to invigorate this symbol of faith we are to represent. The month of May — Mary’s month — begins with the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. In their examples of prayer and service, we put the word of the Gospel into action as a family. Since he was 12 until his ministry at age 30, we know very little of the times of Jesus and his family through sacred Scripture. We do know, however, of the humility, obedience and devotion of Mary during Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And the silent obedience of St. Joseph portrays the foster father’s great strength, authority and leadership given by God to raise his only begotten son — “the son of a carpenter” (Mt 13:55).

For Mary, as an “open vessel of longing (for God),” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains, “life becomes prayer and prayer becomes life.” He elaborates on why the Church needs a Marian mystery, “because the Church is not a manufactured item; she is, rather the living seed of God that must be allowed to grow and ripen.” And, this kind of fruitfulness in the Church starts at home, where we learn to become “holy soil for the word.” Mary helps us “retrieve the symbol of fruitful soil” by learning through the Scriptures and sacred traditions “the depth of (her) prayer, longing and faith (that) give the Word room to grow.” Morning prayer, evening prayer, rosaries, the Angelus and “Regina Caeli,” the examen, the sacraments — all feed, strengthen and vitalize “the little church” as an invigorating symbol for the Church.

St. Joseph’s spiritual and physical leadership, his labor and years of service in bringing up God’s son as his own, was no easy task. I support the view of Mother Angelica — may she rest in peace — that “old men don’t walk to Egypt.” We as Catholics are not required to succumb to any age placed on Joseph during Jesus’ infancy narratives. We can, however, assess his courage, perseverance and stalwartness given the dream-driven tasks he accomplished. He was not wealthy, but he trusted God in his divine providence through it all.

The Pillar of Families, the Lover of Poverty. Given here are only two among a litany of many titles and attributes of St. Joseph. He is the patron saint of the Catholic Watchmen for no small reason. His example as provider, protector and leader of the first domestic church — the Holy Family — are what Watchmen recollect and work to embrace, from the breach and to the heights of their households. St. Joseph’s primary vocation was to be the adoptive father of Jesus — complementing the Blessed Mother who was entrusted to his care. His entire life was focused on working for God, and all his work became sacred.

Take an integrated, cohesive look through the lens of our Blessed Mother and the Protector of the Holy Church with your family. There are consecrations and devotions dedicated to both great saints designed to bring you closer to God through the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Mary and Joseph are indeed invigorating symbols par excellence of the faith for all times.

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount, All Saints in Lakeville, and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement. Reach him at Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at

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Category: Catholic Watchmen