Happy Feast of St. Joseph, friends!
St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers (a the earthly father of JC), foster care (as the foster father of JC), craftsmen and engineers (as a carpenter), families (as the lynch pin that held the holy family together) , the dying/a happy death (because he doesn’t feature in any of the gospel stories around Jesus’ death, it’s believed that Joseph had died by then), travelers (see: Journey to Bethlehem), immigrants (see also: Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt and back), and real estate. To wit, when my family had our house for sale a decade ago, it wasn’t showing as well as we’d like. The market was different then, and it was on the market longer than we’d like. I went out to dinner with a friend, and we passed by a Christian bookstore. The following conversation ensued:
Me: Oh! Lets pop in here to see if I can get a St. Joseph statue to help sell my house.
My friend the Atheist: We’re going to do the what, now?
Me: I need a St. Joseph statue to bury in my yard.
MFTA: You need a statue to.. Wha?
She teased me, but I got my little statue, buried it as described, and sold my house. Then, I dug it up and it lives with us in our current house.
For someone about whom not much is known except by his relationship to his young wife and as the human father of Jesus, it’s the things we can infer about his life that inspire me. Consider, when he was betrothed to a woman very much younger than him, and she turns out to be pregnant, he could have had her stoned to death. He could have left her. He was considering discreetly breaking the contract. But in a dream, a message from God Himself told Joseph to stick it out – her story was legit. When I think about the dreams I have – the one where me and my Shakespeare professor had to take a large cake up to the roof of a building because we have to save the little brown bats. The one where a many-jobs-ago colleague had a glorious burgundy velvet 3 piece suit, and ran a 1980’s Berlin style underground nightclub. The one where a new piece of Hadrian’s Wall was discovered in my backyard, right here in the Downtown Preston. The one where I had to save the Kanban board we use at work from both Super Mario *and* Donkey Kong… If God or a messenger angel showed up to give me a personal message about the direction of my life, I’d think I shouldn’t eat so close to bedtime. But srsly, think about how easy it would have been to not believe – Sure, you’re a virgin *and* pregnant. Makes total sense.
And when God visited Joseph in a dream again to influence his travel plans to avoid a homicidal King Herod, Joseph once again just chose to believe. He chose faith over fear. He became a father to a child that wasn’t his, he protected his family from those who wished them poor fortune at best, and death at worst. That sounds like a pretty great mentor to me.
Friends, I get that religion is a tough concept for some people. The key points of the RC story can seem illogical – a virgin birth, miracles of healing and booze, a crucified man rising from the dead and then he and his mom floating into the clouds to their everlasting reward. But that’s the thing about Capital-F Faith. You believe because somehow it does make sense to you. And maybe that is God actually talking to you somehow.
There’s a reflection from Martin Luther King that I sometimes use when I’m struggling: Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
May the example of St. Joseph help me have faith to take steps forward through Lent, through these troubled times, and through the rest of my life.
I’ve created landing pages for the last 3 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!