The lead-up to Christmas in Valladolid was very busy, but mercifully the college allowed us to take advantage of a puente – which translates literally as 'bridge', but whose nearest equivalent is our bank holiday weekend – with a trip north. The other men and I hired a car and headed up to Asturias for a few days. It was a time of true friendship and an opportunity to make the most of our being here in Spain.
Following this, we had the blessing of a visit from a fascinating Scripture scholar, Father John Farrell OP, a dear friend of our own Dominican Archbishop. Fr John completely opened my eyes to just how much Scripture is a gift to us, and made me feel very at home with the Synoptic Gospels (those of Matthew, Mark and Luke).
For me, Matthew's account of Joseph is a source of particular intrigue, particularly the readings we heard the Sunday before Christmas. It is only in Matthew that we receive so much detail about Saint Joseph, and since Joseph is my patron saint – not to mention patron of our diocese, and of Upholland which formed so large a part of our history – it is easy to understand why I was drawn to this great saint.
We, as Catholics, tend to imagine a hard-working carpenter, which indeed he was. The point we may overlook is that he was also a man of mystical union with the Lord; this is integral to our understanding of our call to holiness, or as Saint Josemaría Escrivá put it: "Everyone and everything for the glory of God."
So if we leave our understanding at Joseph the carpenter, then we are completely missing the true Joseph – St Joseph the mystic. Apart from Our Lord, Joseph is the true hero in Matthew's Gospel. All throughout Matthew we see this beautiful fulfilment of prophesy. Prophesy, for Matthew, is not just a checklist to be completed, but instead it is the golden thread linking the Old Testament to the New, exile to salvation.
Imagine if we watched a film without the sound on. We wouldn't quite comprehend the enormity of the message; we would still understand what was going on, but it wouldn't be as captivating as with the soundtrack. When Matthew is explaining the fulfilment of prophesy, we mustn't think of it as a dull checklist, but rather as the enchanting symphony which completes the Gospel.
Joseph's dreams give Matthew this very music. He was so in tune with the Holy Spirit – and more importantly, he does not only dream, but takes action. Consider his actions: accepting a father's responsibility for the Messiah (a Messiah conceived of the Holy Spirit, so truly Son of God and Son of Mary); moving his family to Egypt; and then, after all that, returning to Nazareth. Part of the spiritual life is to be open to our instincts which are prompted by the Holy Spirit, and for this we can take true example from St Joseph, a holy man of deep prayer and action.