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Hey everybody,

Today is the feast of St. Joseph, and you’re reading The Tuesday Pillar Post.

I’m a dad, and (I hope) a serious Catholic, so you might expect that I’d have a deep devotion to St. Joseph, the foster father of the Redeemer. 

In truth though, Joseph is a saint with whom I’ve not really connected in my life as a Catholic. And this weekend in prayer, I realized that I’ve been thinking about him all wrong. 

Because he was silent in Scripture, we often hear about St. Joseph as the “strong, silent type” — a craftsman who sort of went around (silently) teaching Jesus carpentry, and then standing next to Mary and not saying anything at all, just very piously and very quietly doing his duty as the foster father of the Redeemer. 

“Joseph’s Dream.” Rembrandt, 1645.

That vision of St. Joseph is often placed before men as a model of masculine Christian holiness, and a model of good Christian fatherhood.

But I’ve never connected with it. Now, I hope I’m strong (through Christ who strengthens me) and I hope that I carry out my duties as a father and a husband. But I don’t do them silently, or even especially piously. I do a lot of talking for a living, as you know. I like telling stories and jokes, and I’m happiest in our family life when my children, my wife, and I are sitting around the table with friends, and the kids are learning to tell good jokes and stories, too. 

So I’ve not wholly connected with the John Wayne vision of Joseph of Nazareth. I’ve actually felt inadequate and insufficient before it, worried that my own way of engaging the world is inferior to the image usually presented of St. Joseph.

But I’ve begun to suspect that picture is overstated.

Listen, it is certainly true that St. Joseph had a deep interior and contemplative life — we know that because he heard the voice of God so clearly and directly at critical times in his life. And there is something to be gleaned from the Church’s traditional sense of the saint’s quietude.

But I’m beginning to suspect that’s not the whole story.

Joseph’s foster son, Jesus of Nazareth, was a compelling and charismatic enough preacher to attract apostles, disciples, and to see thousands of people gather around him to hear him preach. He told witty, insightful, and extemporaneous parables that made a point. He was often funny. He was comfortable with all manner of people. 

Jesus, of course, is both fully human and fully divine. The interplay of his divine and human is a mystery we can’t wholly understand. But as Jesus is a person with a fully human nature, the Church has always known that Jesus learned at the table, and workbench, and hearth of his foster father, St. Joseph. 

And given the Lord’s presence — his abilities as a raconteur and as a preacher — I think it’s fair to assume he learned some of that from the old man.

I’ve begun to suspect that St. Joseph was a really enjoyable guy to spend some time with. And I’ve started to wonder whether — if you ambled into his carpentry shop — he might not sometimes talk your ear off. He might have even been funny.

When Jesus told his apostles that “whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” he was talking about his heavenly Father. 

But I think it’s also true about his earthly father — He who has seen Jesus has seen St. Joseph, too. 

The history of devotion to St. Joseph is really fascinating. And I want to be careful here — I don’t want to remake the saint in my own image, and thus turn devotion into a kind of self-worship. 

But I think the lesson of St. Joseph is that there’s not only one template for what it means to be a Christian man or woman. Being a saint means being more fully who we are, not less.

And St. Joseph embraced his vocation with the whole of his own personality — whatever it was. 

May we do the same. 

St. Joseph, Redemptoris custos, pray for us.

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The news

The bishops of Germany will meet on Friday with Vatican officials, for a new round of talks over the German “synodal way” project — and the Vatican’s concern that the project could eventually lead to a wholesale breach of ecclesial communion

Among the questions posed by the meeting is this: Is the “synodal committee” — a body of bishops and lay people established after the synodal way ended a year ago  — dead or alive?

The “synodal committee” is an idea approved by the German synod in 2022 — a working group meant to prepare the Church in Germany for a permanent “synod council” of bishops and laity, who would be empowered to make policy decisions for the dioceses of Germany.

The Vatican has pushed back on the idea, and in February the country’s bishops’ conference agreed to delay a vote approving the synodal committee’s statutes. So now the body is in a kind of limbo — officially approved, but functionally stalled.

A decision on what happens next will have a major impact on whether the whole of the “synodal way” project will have ongoing legs in Germany. 

So what might happen? Read about that, right here.

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Founded in Milwaukee in 2018, Awake is a lay-run apostolate that aims to “awaken our community to the full reality of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, work for transformation, and foster healing for all who have been wounded.”

The organization — “a community of abuse survivors, concerned Catholics, and allies who are working together to respond to the wounds of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church” — is broadening its mission, as it works across the country with people who have been hurt in the Church.

Awake’s director Sara Larson sat down with The Pillar recently, to talk about her conviction that “the Holy Spirit is doing something in our Church today.”

“If we can just trust the Holy Spirit, we will be a stronger, healthier, holier Church as we move through this,” she said.

Read about her work, her discernment, and the reasons for her hope.

Catholic education should pass on the joy and hope of Catholic culture. Trust Catholic Textbook Project for rigorously accurate, authentically faithful history textbooks that will transform your classrooms. Our unique, engaging narrative style invites students into the full story of history and reignites their imaginations. View digital samples today!

The nation of Belize is without a bishop this month, after Pope Francis accepted the very early resignation of auxiliary bishop Christopher Glancy, who had been the country’s sole bishop since the death of its diocesan bishop two months ago

But while Bishop Glancy’s resignation was accepted only this month — and he is only 63 — the bishop hasn’t actually lived in Belize since around 2017. In recent years, he has been apparently working as a case manager at an Illinois youth facility affiliated with his religious order.

With Glancy now officially out of office, the country’s apostolic nuncio, who is nuncio to a bunch of Caribbean countries, has to decide what’s next for a country with 38 priests, 104 religious, and 13 parishes, and no bishops.

Read about it here.

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A Michigan priest was sentenced to at least four years in prison Monday, a month after a jury found he stole more than $830,000 from elderly priests for whom he supposedly helped to care. 

The account of his thievery and embezzlement is harrowing — and a reminder to diocesan bishops that they should ensure someone competent and trustworthy is helping elderly priests manage their finances. Without that help, they’re vulnerable to predatory behavior.

While Fr. David Rosenberg was taken immediately into custody yesterday, his diocese is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether the priest will next face a canonical penal process.

Here’s the full story.

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The Coptic Orthodox Church announced this month that it has suspended dialogue with the Catholic Church because of Pope Francis’ Fiducia supplicans — which Coptic leaders have taken as a Catholic “change of position” on homosexuality.

When the Copts made their announcement, we realized in The Pillar newsroom that we didn’t actually know very much about the Coptic Orthodox Church, and we knew even less about the Church’s dialogue with Rome. 

So we did a bit of reading. And we learned that the Copts are a very interesting body of Christians — and that their dialogue with the Catholics has been pretty productive.

Want to learn about it? Read here.


Finally in the news, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago turns 75 today, and will send his resignation from office to Pope Francis

Don’t expect the cardinal’s resignation to be accepted anytime soon — it is customary for cardinal diocesan bishops to serve in office until well after their 75th birthday, often even until they turn 80.

And while Cupich is part of a big wave of bishops and metropolitan archbishops turning 75 this year, the word from Pillar sources in Rome is to expect many of them to stay in post for quite a while. 

In some corners, apostolic nuncio Cardinal Christophe Pierre has been criticized for that expectation, with some observers saying that Pierre hasn’t done enough to slot episcopal and archepiscopal candidates into the pipeline. 

I’m not sure that’s the case. 

With regard to the archbishops, my sense is that it’s not so much that there are no bishops available to take their place, it’s that the Americans on the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops — including Cupich — have few candidates in mind who share their theological, pastoral, and administrative style and priorities. 

Eventually, I suspect, they’ll recommend that the pope appoint bishops to replace the aging caste of metropolitans, but I think it will be a while before they find the bishops they’re looking for to do those jobs, or accept the contours of the pool in which they’re fishing. 

But that’s not what I want to tell you about. In fact, reading about Cardinal Cupich’s birthday sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole this morning. I hope you’ll indulge me:

Readers of The Pillar know that 15 U.S. diocesan bishops will turn 75 this year, and another 13 next year.

What they may not know is how many are members of the Pontifical North American College’s remarkable ordination class of 1975 — probably the peak year for the NAC’s one-time reputation as a training ground for those called to the “transitional presbyterate.”

By my count — and thanks to the current NAC seminarian who helped me get a class list — there were ten bishops chosen from the North American College’s Class of 75, including three cardinals: 

(Cardinal) Cupich, Zurek, Hoeppner, Cote, Mulvey, Kagan, (Leonard) Blair, (Cardinal) Harvey, Provost, and (Cardinal) Burke.

That’s right, readers, Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Cupich were classmates at the North American College, with a bunch of other future bishops, including Hoeppner, the first American bishop to resign after a Vos estis lux mundi investigation.

I, for one, like to imagine that group of ten walking to the refectory or evening prayer together, each dutifully insisting that he had no hopes beyond becoming one day a parish priest.

In case you’re wondering, here’s a partial photo of the class of ‘75, with young Messrs Burke and Cupich circled for your edification:

(thanks again to the NAC seminarian who hooked me up with the picture.)

Now, by my observation, fewer NAC alumni have been appointed diocesan bishops in recent years, and administrators at the NAC itself have told me recently that it’s important to them to focus on good, comprehensive, serious priestly formation — that the NAC is not a Roman finishing school for would-be bishops, and it shouldn’t be seen that way. 

I believe them. It’s my observation, at least, that the formation at the NAC aims to focus on forming good pastors and good men, whatever their vocations.

But I’ve met some of those good men, and should they become bishops someday, I think they’d lead the Church from a place of deep and abiding love.

Plus, if you go to the NAC, you do get some pretty sweet cufflinks out of the deal. 

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A quick announcement: I’ll be the moderator today of a virtual seminar sponsored by the National Catholic Partnership for Disability and the CUA Institute for Human Ecology. 

The seminar is called “Prenatal Diagnoses and the Future of Down Syndrome.”

Some smart and holy people will be having a panel discussion, and I have the good fortune to moderate it. 

Here are the details, and a link to register.

‘We are greatly blessed’

Last, because it’s the feast of St. Joseph, it seems opportune to write a few words about my own father, Daniel Flynn.

Dad is 68, and he retired a few weeks back, though he insists that it’s a kind of partial retirement, and that he’s got to find some more projects to work on. 

Right now, he’s spending a lot of time shooting pool. Between games, he’s picking up grandchildren, and taking them to do cool stuff. 

My father, a one-time pool hustler, in his native habitat. He’ll probably throw this game, and then ask the guy in the camo pants if he wants to play for money.

Back in 2020, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was working then as a contractor for the U.S. government, and was based in Kabul, Afghanistan. You might recall that there was a pandemic on in 2020, which meant that my dad couldn’t get home for treatment for several months. 

He did eventually get home, and had his cancer treated, and all was well. Until Thanksgiving, when my dad told us that the cancer was back. He’d need to go through a couple months of radiation, and he’d enrolled in some study which would have him taking some other medication.

He’s completed the radiation now, and the study is almost done, and then we’ll find out where things stand for him. 

But his cancer bout has given me some time to reflect on my dad. 

In truth, when he told us he was again sick, I thought it meant that the time had come for a role reversal: That after my dad spent decades taking care of us, it’d be my turn to start taking care of him. 

But it hasn’t quite happened like that. My dad is the kind of guy who calls us on his way from radiation to find out if we need anything from Costco. He’s the kind of guy who’s looked past his nausea and exhaustion, because he wants to make it to a scout meeting, or school plays, or to Mass.

And he’s also the kind of guy who’s entertained us with some really funny stories about his time at the radiation clinic, or his subtle trolls of the doctors conducting the study he’s in. 

I hope my dad is a lot like St. Joseph, because I hope the Lord had an earthly father as good as mine.

Now, look, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our stuff. Every family has their stuff, and every family relationship has both graces and crosses. And we’ve all had to do our fair share of reciprocal forgiveness in our family. But one thing cool about my dad is that he’s often led the way on that front, he’s often made sure it’s OK that all of us know we can really talk about the family crosses we’ve carried, and that we can bring them to the Lord for healing, reconciliation, redemption. 

My dad says a lot that our family is “greatly blessed.” He says it often enough that we tease him about the catchphrase. But he’s right. We are greatly blessed. And as my father has faced serious health problems — and I’ve had to think about his mortality, and mine — I’ve been grateful to the Lord for how much of that blessing has come through my dad. 

I hope to be a father like that. And I hope you’ve had a dad like that in your life. If not, might I suggest the (possibly) funny St. Joseph?

Please be assured of our prayers. And please pray for us. We need it.

Yours in Christ,

JD Flynn
The Pillar 

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Editor’s note: Subsequent to the publication of this newsletter, The Pillar was informed that Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles, not initially listed, was also a member of the NAC class of ‘75. He has been added to the list above. The Pillar regrets the error, while noting that His Excellency was apparently absent on class picture day.

Catholic education should pass on the joy and hope of Catholic culture. Trust Catholic Textbook Project for rigorously accurate, authentically faithful history textbooks that will transform your classrooms. Our unique, engaging narrative style invites students into the full story of history and reignites their imaginations. View digital samples today!

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