The day dawned clear and bright, perfect for a drive north to Ogden. We were four pilgrims headed to St. Joseph Catholic Church, one of three parishes in the Diocese of Salt Lake City that is named for the foster father of Jesus and spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the car, we all wore masks, but we talked about the relief of finally being able to meet after months of social distancing because of the pandemic. The other three each had gotten their first immunization shot against the coronavirus; I wasn’t yet eligible but was willing to risk venturing out while taking precautions such as the mask and frequent applications of hand sanitizer.
During the 50-mile drive, we also discussed Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), which was released on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal Church. In conjunction with the letter, the Holy Father also proclaimed this the Year of St. Joseph.
All of us in the car had read the letter, which is about eight printed pages. My mom commented that it was an easy read, “Even a fifth-grader could understand it,” she said.
Giselle particularly was struck by the description the pope gave of St. Joseph as a father. The pontiff offers seven roles that Jesus’ foster father filled, such as “a tender and loving father” and “a creatively courageous father.” Giselle especially liked the part about Joseph being “a father in the shadows” who allowed Jesus to become his own person.
As Pope Francis writes, “When fathers refuse to live the lives of their children for them, new and unexpected vistas open up. Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father who respects that child’s freedom. A father who realizes that he is most a father and educator at the point when he becomes ‘useless,’ when he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied. When he becomes like Joseph, who always knew that his child was not his own but had merely been entrusted to his care. ...”
Of the entire letter, it was the prayer to St. Joseph at the end that Andy found the most meaningful.
We arrived at St. Joseph Catholic Church a few minutes before the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass. In the garden outside, white and yellow and purple crocuses were blooming.
The church itself is a massive sandstone building set on the top of a hill. The interior is spacious, with a gleaming white altarpiece adorned with spires and backed by a blue stained glass window. Other stained glass windows are installed all along the east and west walls, as well as above the choir loft in the back of the church. The Eternal Light is suspended from a gold chandelier above the altar. It’s such a beautiful church that it sometimes is called the Cathedral of the North.
Mom said the altarpiece reminded her of Holy Angels Catholic Church in Omaha, Neb., which she attended as a child.
Upon entering, we met up with Carol, another pilgrim, who had never been to St. Joseph’s before. A parishioner of St. Thomas More who also attends other parishes in the Salt Lake area, she said she appreciated the traditional architecture of the Ogden church, as well as the modern touches such as the Lenten banners and the Tree of Life in front of the altar.
At the front of the church was a screen on which was projected a reflection to contemplate before Mass began. During the service, words of the hymns were projected, then the readings; Mom commented how helpful this was.
The celebrant and homilist was Fr. Joseph Minuth, the parish’s parochial vicar. Focusing on the Gospel reading, about the Cleansing of the Temple, Fr. Minuth said he didn’t think Jesus was angry when he drove out the moneychangers; rather, Christ was zealous, the priest said.
Fr. Minuth gave a description of the attributes of righteous anger: SMALL – Specific, Meaningful, Actionable, Limited and Let go. Those who have righteous anger focus it on a specific, meaningful issue on which they can take action, they limit their anger to just that issue and, once they act, let it go, he said.
Afterward, discussing the homily, all five of us pilgrims said we appreciated the message about the difference between being mad and having righteous anger.
As we left the church, Carol said she found the pilgrimage to St. Joseph Catholic Church inspirational, a sentiment I shared. It’s refreshing to see other churches of the diocese, to hear different homilists, to experience how things are done outside my home parish, and know that we are all one Church even amid our differences.