While much of the English speaking world is recovering from the green haze that is St. Patrick's Day (and God Bless that blue wearing Welshman, who was dragged in chains as a slave to Ireland, escaped back to Wales to return later as a Roman Catholic Bishop), we are celebrating the feast of St. Joseph, a favourite patron in our family for so many reasons. First of all, we have a son named Joseph. Secondly, my husband is a cabinetmaker and of course a father. St. Joseph is the patron of woodworkers and fathers. For many years my husband has felt a growing closeness to St. Joseph. With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few reflections on this Saint who is a daily example for our lives.
How can you not feel some love and affinity for this man? He was a hard-working man, the breadwinner for his small family. Carpentry is no easy trade. It can be back-breaking, and requires attention to both the big and the small picture. I love the idea of Joseph leaning over his work with the child Jesus watching on, probably playing amongst the curls of wood falling to the floor as Joseph's well-worn plane glides across the wood. A small act of creation and re-creation, patiently achieved under the watchful eyes of the Creator. I wonder too at what beautiful work Joseph and Jesus made together as the father taught his adopted son his trade. Something so ordinary in those days, but so extraordinary in the light of the Incarnation, the Creator putting a hand to shaping things anew.
God chose Mary for His Mother, and created her, immaculate and without sin. Her 'yes' allowed God to do His saving work from her womb, to the manger, to the Cross. She is there in the background of so many stories in the bible. Meanwhile Joseph is only prominently featured in the story of the Nativity. He is Mary's betrothed. Despite the fact that he could have cast Mary off and had her stoned, Joseph trusts the message of the Angel and joins her with a second 'yes', a 'yes' which protected her and the Child who would be born King of Kings, but brought public shame on himself. After carrying Mary and Christ child off to Egypt to protect them from Herod's murder of innocent children, Joseph fades from view, taking a backseat to his adopted son. The childhood of Christ is known more or less in the few moments shared in the Gospels. Joseph is there, like any father, supporting, loving and teaching, but asking no credit. I believe that just as He chose Mary, God chose Joseph as part of his plan for Salvation. Not every man could take on faith that Mary was carrying the Son of God, and ignore the appearance of scandal Mary's pregnancy brought to their lives. God chose a man who would trust in Him, and then after one great 'yes', spend the rest of his life saying a daily 'yes' to the duties of being a father to his adopted Son.
I'm sure it was no easy task raising Jesus, hearing Him declare He was in His Father's temple, after Joseph and Mary had spent several frantic hours racing around Jerusalem, trying to find Him. I'm sure, like any adoptive parent who hears "you're not my REAL father!", this simple phrase must have been hard for Joseph to hear. Still, he stood by his little family, and continued with devotion to raise up the Son entrusted to him. I think there's a lesson for all of us parents in the works of St. Joseph. Every child, be they are our own flesh and blood or adopted, are a precious gift to be cherished, nurtured, and protected. Be they the Christ child, or our own child, God has asked us to say 'yes' to being parents every day. I hope, like St. Joseph, I can do it quietly, knowing that my true reward at the end of my days will be seeing the wonderful people my children will hopefully become, and that they too will choose to love and serve the God who gave them to us.
St. Joseph, pray for us!