Where do you feel most free? Is it a place, a time, with a particular person or activity?
Physically when crisp air tickles the side of my cheeks and swirls past my ears, I can’t help but smile. I feel lighter, part of something in motion, something beyond me. Experiencing this motion has come through snowboarding, riding my old Vespa, running with windy rain or standing with a friend, palms open, out in nature as our God whips up windy wild face tickles. Wind and rain are like playtime with God - pure freedom to me.
Pope Francis details how freedom links with our Saint Joseph in Patris Corde:
"Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. …. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus." ~ Patris Corde 7 (1)
This section of Patris Corde has stayed with me over the past couple of weeks. While pondering this illustration for the latest Connection email. I felt drawn to continue on from my other two recent illustrations - Go To Joseph (2) and Ir Con Jose (3).
I also happened to recently read an article by our Sr Marion Gambin, she highlights Pope Francis’ words from the 'Let Us Dream' book in her article: “Each of these peoples experiences the gift of God according to its own culture, and in each of them the Church expresses its genuine Catholicity, the beauty of its many different faces.” (4)
Like wind moving melodically, my monkey mind began to meander, what would Joseph look like as another 'different face' today. Thinking about some of the beautiful faces I had journeyed with in Sydney over the last few years and within our congregation I felt drawn to imaginatively travel to Vietnam.
What would Joseph look like in Vietnam today, what would he be doing?
How might we see and remember his freedom in Vietnam today?
Remembering my time in Vietnam a few years ago, I remember the first morning, my foot stepped onto the pavement of Hanoi, the wind tickled my cheeks, my ears buzzed with the sound of infinite motorbikes. I found myself looking around and inhaling a sense of freedom from people zipping by on the motorbikes. Truth be told, I also simultaneously picked up my jaw from the pavement as I swallowed and thought... 'how am I going to cross the road!?' Long story short, I quickly learned to trust how the locals walked, I felt an odd sense of freedom after the ‘o God here we go' moment...
Jaw drops aside, we can certainly understand that the Vietnamese people have known and still know the loss of freedom today. I have always been struck by the creativity, generosity and resilience of the Vietnamese culture. Their history and this present time is sacred. I believe our God is present with us through all history.
Maybe now through the Old Testament, we may also have fresh insights into how the ancestors of our Saint Joseph would deeply understand the journey into finding freedom. I have always been struck by the powerful Old Testament stories of how the Israelites sought freedom from slavery and relied on God - Isaiah 61 and Psalm 33 remind me to rely on God and trust with hope. Perhaps the ancestors of Saint Joseph, our ancestors, would empathise with the Vietnamese people and all those who seek freedom today?
With much prayer, community, and pondering of God's promise to Abraham, leaving Egypt, parting the seas and beyond this new image has emerged. I am truly grateful to our Sisters from Vietnam that kindly supplied me with feedback on a rough sketch and gifted us the translation of the biblically rooted saying “Go To Joseph” (5) - Hãy đến cùng Giuse.
I imagine Joseph travelling with Mary and Jesus, perhaps taking Mary to a traditional event, there is laughter and humble giving. Perhaps Joseph is encouraging Jesus to be free, to stand up, to feel freedom as the wind tickles his cheeks…
I hope this illustration creates connection and reminds us that God wants us to be free. We can all love with true freedom like Saint Joseph, he showed Jesus the way, and shows us the way today to be truly “set free” (6).
“The logic of love, is always the logic of freedom." (7)
Perhaps you might join me in this simple prayer: God of truth and freedom, we know you journey with us always, we thank you.
P.S. On a personal note, my own Father has recently and suddenly gone to God. Thank you very much to those who have supported my family and I over the past few weeks. We know that Dad journey’s with our God in a new kind of way now, experiencing a new kind of freedom. And to all those who also grieve in this Covid time - my love and prayers to you.
I am also delighted to be beginning a new part time ministry with NCRS here in New Zealand. I will be part of a team, helping with design, creating new resources and visual media for the new RE curriculum for Catholic Schools in NZ. God of providence strikes again!
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