Friday 14 May 2021

St. Joseph and His World - Mike Aquilina

St. Joseph and His World
Scott Hahn (Forward)
ISBN 9781594173936
eISBN 9781594173943

I have read and reviewed many books by Mike Aquilina, I have benefited from each. And have many of his other volumes on my ‘to be read’ list. I have also read many books about Saint Joseph. And the fact that this volume released at the beginning of a Year of Saint Joseph is a blessing. But even if you stumble across this review long after the Year dedicated to Saint Joseph you will be greatly blessed by picking up and working your way through this volume. It is an excellent read and wonderful resource!

This is the thirteenth volume from the pen of Mike Aquilina that I have read. And it is one of my favorites. I have said it before about his works and say it again, this is one of those books that every Catholic, every Christian should read. The description of the book states:

“A TREMENDOUS BREAKTHROUGH” in the study of St. Joseph...
...There are few subjects so challenging” to authors as St. Joseph. So says scholar Scott Hahn in his foreword to this book. Yet the pages that follow give not merely glimpses, but vistas, of St. Joseph’s world. Hahn continues: “You’ll learn about Nazareth — and how it was created almost ex nihilo shortly before Joseph’s birth. You’ll learn about religious practice and education in that place and time. You’ll travel to Egypt and encounter the fascinating settlements of Jews in that land. You’ll also find out how a carpenter worked in those days: what tools he used, what items he crafted, where he got his training, and how he got to and from his job sites.” This book provides an imaginative entry into one of the most important lives in all of history — a life too often obscured by later legends. " 

This book was a hard book to put down, and to be honest even harder to review. It was a book I loved. And one I know I will return to and read again. A few of the passages I highlighted on my first read through the book are:

“What we do know is that the descendants of David lived as a clan while exiled in Babylon. Once kings, they now plied common trades and crafts. They kept a low profile, but within the home they passed their royal identity from one generation to the next, and they kept meticulous records of the family’s genealogy.”

“Later in that century, one of the families in Nazareth— a family of artisans— gave birth to a boy and named him Joseph. His name, like the name of his birthplace, reflected the hope of his people. Joseph, in Hebrew, means “God will increase.””

“It is possible that Joseph and Mary knew from a very early age that they were intended for one another. It is possible, too, that a young couple, influenced by Essene asceticism, could commit themselves to continence within marriage.”

“The great difficulty in sketching the character of Joseph of Nazareth is that Scripture never shows him speaking. He never says yes or no. He never makes a nod or gesture. And not only is he never shown to speak, the Gospels never show a single human being speaking to him— not even his wife or son. 

No humans speak to him; but four times, an angel speaks to him. 

Christian tradition makes much of Mary’s Annunciation. The Church commemorates it by a feast day and dedicates a daily prayer to it (the Angelus). But Joseph’s “annunciations” are also worthy of scrutiny— certainly for what they reveal about him, but also for what they reveal about angels. The Gospels present almost every episode in Joseph’s life as an encounter with an angel.”

“Though God had chosen Joseph for the greatest mission ever, he was an ordinary workingman. And this is a supremely important fact: he was no less ordinary for the fact that he was close to the angels. 

Why is this fact so important? Because in the midst of every believer’s daily work, the angels are there; God wants everyone to be close to the angels, attentive to the angels, and alert to their promptings. This is not a gift or a skill for unusual people. This is for everyone, as it was for Joseph.”

“God calls ordinary believers, as he called Joseph, to be his messengers and guardians, his power and his voice. He calls ordinary believers to be contemplatives in the middle of their neighborhoods and workplaces.”

“The unspoken word behind God’s call is trust. Joseph was called to remember the marvels of the Lord— to remember the divine acts that were proclaimed in synagogue and temple and at home— and trust the Lord who had worked those marvels.”

“It was no shame to feel fear. To be fearless in such a time is to be truly mad. Fear is the instinctive human response to bodily danger. In a father, it triggers the actions that will preserve his family and himself. Fortitude means not a lack of fear, but a right ordering of fears. Joseph feared the possibility of failing God far more than he feared the wrath of Herod. And he feared the loss of his son more than the loss of his own life.”

I hope from those few quotes you will get a feel for this work. It is a book of great scholarship. It was a very engaging read. And Aquilina is one of the greatest scholars of the early church and world of our times if not all time.  But he writes not just an academic volume, but a volume with will stir your faith. It is not fluff. But a real feast. It is a fantastic book to read for your personal sanctity and growth. I highly recommend this volume. Pick it up, you will not be disappointed!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

For reviews of other books by Mike Aquilina click here.
For reviews of other books about Saint Joseph click here.

Other reviews and articles about Saint Joseph:
Consecration to St. Joseph - Fr. Donald Calloway
Favorite Prayers to St. Joseph Compiled from Traditional Sources- TAN Books
Prayer to Saint Joseph Prayer of the Day
Joseph of Nazareth - Federico Suarez
Devotion to St. Joseph - F. Declaux
Go to St. Joseph: Do Whatever He Tells You - Brian Kiczek
Saint Joseph: Help for Life's Emergencies - Kathryn J. Hermes
Feast of Saint Joseph 2018 Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary Principal Patron of Canada
Companion to Saint Joseph - J.B. Midgley - CTS Companions Series
Saints of the Roman Canon - Julien Chilcott-Monk - CTS Living the Liturgy Series
Seven Saints for Seven Virtues - Jean M. Heimann

Books by Mike Aquilina:
A Year with the Angels: Daily Meditations with the Messengers of God
A Year With The Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living
Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts
Companion Guide to Pope Benedict's 'The Fathers' 
Faith of Our Fathers: Why the Early Christians Still Matter and Always Will
Fire of God's Love: 120 Reflections on the Eucharist
Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons 
Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life
Ministers & Martyrs: The Ultimate Catholic Guide to the Apostolic Age
Praying in the Presence of Our Lord: With St. Thomas Aquinas
Roots of the Faith: From the Church Fathers to You
Sharing Christ's Priesthood: A Bible Study for Catholics
Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols
Sweet Gridlock: Selected Love Poems 
Terms and Conditions: Assorted Poems
The Apostles and Their Times
The Church and the Roman Empire
The Fathers of the Church Bible
The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers
The Mass of the Early Christians
The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, & the Hope for Tomorrow
The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church
The Way of the Fathers: Praying With the Early Christians
The Witness of Early Christian Women: Mothers of the Church
Understanding the Mass: 100 Questions, 100 Answers
Why Me? When Bad Things Happen
Yours Is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World

Books co-written by Mike Aquilina:
A Pocket Catechism for Kids - Fr. Kris Stubna
Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth - Dion DiMucci
Keeping Mary Close: Devotion to Our Lady through the Ages - Fr. Frederick Gruber
Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians - Scott Hahn
Praying the Psalms the Early Christians - Christopher Bailey
Saint Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer - Mark W. Sullivan
Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again - James Papandrea
Something More Pastoral: The Mission of Bishop, Archbishop, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl - Ann Rodgers
Take Five: Meditations John Henry Newman - Fr. Juan Velez
Take Five: Meditations Pope Benedict XVI - Fr. Kris Stubna
Take Five: On the Job Meditations With St. Ignatius - Fr. Kris Stubna
Talking to Youth About Sexuality: A Parents' Guide - Fr. Kris Stubna
The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today - John Michael Talbot
The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Doubter's Novena: Nine Steps to Trust the Apostle Thomas - Christopher Bailey
The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The Grail Code: Quest for the Real Presence - Christopher Bailey
The Great Life: Essays on Doctrine and Holiness in Honor of Father Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap. - Kenneth Ogorek
The Holy Land: A Guide for Pilgrims - Fr. Dave Halaiko
The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions - Regis J. Flaherty
The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition - Cardinal Donald Wuerl
The World's First Christmas: Jubilee 2000 - Regis J. Flaherty
Weapons of the Spirit: Selected Writings of Father John Hugo - David Scott
What Catholics Believe: A Pocket Catechism - Fr. Kris Stubna

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