Several years ago, while leafing through books at a religious goods store, I came across a small volume on St. Joseph. Amid the prayers and meditations, one passage in particular caught my attention — a plea for the head of the Holy Family to adopt all those wounded by their earthly fathers.
The simple, direct words caught me off guard. My eyes filled with tears, and I quickly purchased the book and left the store.
To say I had a troubled relationship with my own father would be an understatement; more often, I had no relationship with him at all. For a number of bewildering reasons, we were disappointments to each other, and we had the soul-scars to prove it.
But although I had honored St. Joseph from my childhood, I’d never thought of actually asking him to fill the void left by my dad. Not a single word from the humble carpenter is recorded in Scripture; many artists have portrayed him as elderly. Perhaps he’s too busy, or too old, I thought; besides, his silence and his spiritual stature intimidated me.
Reading through that little book, however, I began to invite St. Joseph into my life, even (and particularly) in the most mundane areas. When, as a single woman, I bought a home and tackled renovations, I would increasingly ask for his help — and, I might add, more than once in tears, as I scraped, hammered and painted while begging him to guide the work, or miraculously complete it himself.
Automotive repairs were soon delegated to St. Joseph, as I prayed to understand my mechanic’s diagnoses and restrain my tongue at the cost of repairs. Shopping trips, once a favorite pastime, became lessons in prudence; a paternal hand kept my whims and my wallet in check.
At the office, St. Joseph calmed frayed nerves and showed me how to prioritize tasks, while gently encouraging me to lay aside projects when a break was due.
With St. Joseph at my side, I found myself listening more to others, rather than interrupting with unsolicited advice and opinions. Under his kind gaze, I traded my crown of self-importance for a workman’s apron, seeking to serve those whom God had placed in my path. And when, as so often happens, I fail in that regard, St. Joseph’s compassion gives me the strength to take up my tools — the virtues of faith, hope and charity — and resume the effort.
Through St. Joseph, I am learning that “faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses” (Patris Corde, 2). Amid uncertainty, lack and anxiety, the foster father of Christ remained steady and centered, relying not on his own strength, but on that of the One who spoke to him in his dreams and in the depths of his heart.
Such humility and trust drew down treasures of grace upon this wise laborer, and as a result, we can with confidence follow the ancient directive: Ite ad Ioseph, “go to Joseph,” (Gen 41:55), and in him find a father born of the Father’s own heart.
Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast and author of the forthcoming book “Stations of the Cross for Sexual Abuse Survivors.” Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.
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