In 1941, when Paris had been occupied by German forces and France had fallen to the Third Reich, a Frenchman named Jacques Lusseyran gathered with friends to begin planning an important movement in the French Resistance. They called themselves the Volunteers of Liberty.
They began by helping downed British airmen sneak through France en route to Britain. They recruited hundreds, and then thousands, of men to join them in the Resistance. They published an underground newspaper to spread word of the Resistance, and to call for volunteers. Eventually, in 1943, 2,000 were caught, and sent to a concentration camp. By the time the camp was liberated in 1945, only 30 remained. Jacques Lusseyran, who had recruited nearly every leader in the Volunteers of Liberty, was among the few survivors.
Jacques Lusseyran was 16 years old when he helped begin the French Resistance. And he was completely blind.
Later in his life, he recalled that he was given extraordinary courage largely because his parents had trusted him to do extraordinary things. His father, he said, especially had formed him to believe that despite his physical limitations, he could be heroic, and valorous, and good.
His father encouraged young Jacques to develop a new way of “seeing” the world, despite his blindness, and to trust it. He encouraged his son to develop a rich interior life, so that he could hear, and see, and know what others couldn’t. Lusseyran said that his father encouraged him to see the deepest meaning of reality.
On March 19, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus Christ. And like the father of Jacques Lusseyran, St. Joseph trusted that his beloved child, Jesus, was made for something extraordinary.
Because St. Joseph himself had a rich interior life, he trusted the voice of God. When the Lord spoke to him, in dreams especially, St. Joseph listened. And as a faithful man of prayer, he trusted that when Jesus had a different way of seeing the world, and when he heard the voice of God, he should act with valor, and courage, and greatness.
St. Joseph trusted in the voice of the Lord. When he heard God’s voice, he took Mary as his wife without hesitation. And when the time required it, he protected his family by leading them in flight to Egypt.
St. Joseph trusted the Lord when Christ took up the great mission of his life. In fact, St. Joseph helped to form and encourage Jesus, in the mysterious path by which God’s incarnate Son, came to understand and prepare for his passion, death, and resurrection.
He formed, protected, led, encouraged, and trusted. And he did these things because he was a faithful follower of God the Father.
No man can hope to become a father like St. Joseph, or to raise holy and courageous children unless, before all else, he is a man of prayer. In 1999, Pope St. John Paul II said that in our country, “male Catholicism is not interior and deep enough; the male believer does not have a true interior life… we men do not have a deep enough interior life.”
To be like St. Joseph, we must develop a deep interior life. We must spend time reading Scripture, at Holy Mass, in Adoration, and praying the rosary. We must learn to hear the voice of God. We must find new ways of “seeing the world.”
Like St. Joseph, all men are called—as friends, and husbands, and fathers—to lead, to act, to form, and to protect. And to do these things, all men, like St. Joseph, must be men of prayer. Men of prayer, like St. Joseph, and like Jacques Lusseyran, will develop new ways of “seeing the world.” And men of prayer will do extraordinary things, and engender and promote greatness in others.
In September, Bishop Thomas Olmsted, published “Into the Breach,” a pastoral letter for men, encouraging them to become men of prayer, trust, and action. On the feast of St. Joseph, I pray that the all men in the Diocese of Lincoln might read it, and reflect upon it. We need men of courage, like Jacques Lusseyran today, and because of that, we need men of holiness, wisdom, and trust.
May the men of the Diocese of Lincoln become men like St. Joseph, our patron. And on his feast day, may St. Joseph intercede for the holiness of all men.
This is the latest column from Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, reprinted from the Southern Nebraska Register.