Date: March 19, 2021
By: Michele L.
I am in love with a man who is not my husband; several, in fact. I met and got to know this man in 1995 when, Sean, my husband and I, became aware of Saint Joseph’s Covenant Keepers. A ministry to help men embrace their vocations as husbands and fathers, and take their place as the spiritual leader of their homes, families, and communities under the patronage of Saint Joseph. From this came the inspiration for Sean to start doing men’s conferences here in Calgary, now known as God Squad Canada, celebrating 24 years as an organization. Yes, the man I am in love with is Saint Joseph. I am in love with many of the Saints, such as Padre Pio (who suffered from daily migraines, as do I, while he sat in a stuffy confessional and patiently listened to people tell him about their own problems and sins), Saint Francis of Assisi, because I love to garden and be outside in God’s creation, and Saint Anthony, because I’m in conversation with him throughout the day as he helps me locate lost items without fail. There are many more wonderful Saints of the Church that I also feel closely connected to. With this being the month of the great solemnity of Saint Joseph on March 19th, in this year of Saint Joseph (as pronounced by Pope Francis), I wanted to share my love for this beautiful Saint and how he has been such a big part of my life.
Without going into too much detail, both Sean and I had a re-version experience in 1994. This is a term coined by Jeff Cavins, the well known Catholic apologist. He had been raised in the Catholic Church, but left to study scripture to become a Protestant Minister. Many years later, he literally studied his way back into the Church through The Word of God. Hence the term; reversion. Sean and I took very different paths as we journeyed through our reversions, but both happened at the same time thanks to God’s providence. It was shortly after this that we were introduced to Saint Joseph’s Covenant Keepers.
Right from those early days, I felt a deep devotion to the Holy Family. In fact, one of the first religious statues I ever bought was one of Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus. I struggled for some time with understanding Mary because, after all, she had a perfect child and a perfect husband. What did she know about marriage and motherhood like the average person?! Don’t worry, I have that all sorted out now. At that time, I could relate more to Saint Joseph who was a simple man chosen to be the patriarch, protector, and provider for his Holy Family. He must have agonized over his ability to do the very best he could for the Mother of God and her Divine son, Jesus.
I began praying the rosary and thought about poor Saint Joseph in each Joyful Mystery. The Annunciation to Our Lady was, indeed, joyful because the Saviour -who would redeem the whole world- had been conceived. I've always thought of this from Saint Joseph’s perspective, who would have at first felt betrayed by his betrothed. In spite of this, he chose to protect Mary and her unborn child by deciding to “dismiss her quietly” before the angel in his dream told him of the parentage of the child in Mary’s womb. He most assuredly would have been with his beloved when she made the long journey of over 160km to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, to help during the last weeks of her pregnancy. Imagine knowing you are responsible for protecting God incarnate and His Mother!
I felt especially for Saint Joseph when I contemplated the third Joyful Mystery, the Nativity of Our Lord. Of course he would do the right and lawful thing in responding to the demands of Caesar Augustus to be counted in the census because, we are told, “he was a just man.” This was another grueling trip of almost 150km, but this time, Mary was in the ninth month of pregnancy. Sean and I made a once in a lifetime trip to the Holy Land with Jeff Cavins in 2015. As part of our tour, we were taken to a working Kabbutz, a Jewish cooperative farm, near Galilee. One of the experiences they offered was to sit on the back of a donkey with a ‘saddle’ as they would have used in those days . . . Let me just say that it was not at all something I would choose to do again. When I thought of Our Lady sitting like that for days while very pregnant, I had a new appreciation of her and her obedience to God and to Saint Joseph. Now, if we look at how all of this would have felt for Saint Joseph . . . Again, this is called a joyful mystery because the God of Salvation was born to set us free from sin and death, but I just can’t imagine what poor St. Joseph would have felt in knowing how uncomfortable and difficult the journey must have been for Mary. If that wasn’t bad enough, when they got to Bethlehem, they couldn’t find a place to stay. What courageous trust Joseph must have had in The Lord! When Jesus was born, it was in a barn. Having visited Bethlehem, my preconceptions about what this barn looked like were shattered. There is very little wood in this part of Israel. People made (and still do) abodes out of hewn rock. The Inn where they were offered a place with the animals was several cave-like rooms off of a main corridor, with the stable at the very back so that the smell wouldn’t contaminate the air in the rooms. The best rooms were at the front. The stable was a dark, damp, smelly, cold place. Imagine Saint Joseph’s dismay. He must have felt very inadequate.
When it came time to present Jesus at the temple, 40 days would have passed since His virginal birth. Saint Joseph was not a rich man, so his offering would have consisted only of the least sacrifice that was lawful: two pigeons or turtle doves. Again, I’m sure Joseph must have felt his inadequacy in bringing the Son of God to be presented with such a simple offering. This was all preordained by God though because, as we know, God chose good Saint Joseph to be the foster father of His beloved Son.
This brings us to the fifth Joyful Mystery, the finding of Jesus in the temple when He was 12 years old. I have often put myself in the place of both Joseph and Mary and how they must have felt when they realized they had lost the Son of God! How could this happen? How desperate they must have been. We can contemplate this when we sometimes leave God in the dust of our busy lives.
It gives me great comfort to think of the life of Saint Joseph because he had to overcome so many obstacles to do what was right for the Holy Family. I can turn to him in any situation and look to him to help me get through whatever life throws at me and know with confidence and assurance that he has been in exactly the same situation. He has been a patron for our family for 25 years. In 2000 we decided we would make a pilgrimage to the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, Quebec, in celebration of the Jubilee year. I had just given birth to our 6th child in February of that year, and in June we packed up our travel trailer, 6 children, my Mom, and got into our 15 passenger van to drive across Canada. We had many, many adventures along the way. We entrusted the whole thing to the patronage of Saint Joseph. Without fail, he helped guide and protect us along the way. When we were in a strange city and needed to find our way, we would ask St. Joseph, and then we would see a Catholic Church named for St. Joseph, or a street, or a medical center, or a childcare facility named for him and would find our way. If we couldn’t find a place to park our 51 foot long caravan, we would ask him, and right away he would provide us with one. When one of our children needed medical attention, the name of the hospital was, you guessed it, Saint Joseph.
To this day, I still have a deep devotion to the Holy Family and have consecrated myself to The Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to Saint Joseph using the new book published for this purpose by Fr. Donald Calloway. Of course, I have an intimate relationship with Our Lord, Jesus, and spend as much time as I can in His Real Presence at Mass and in Adoration. Sean now has a basement pub at home, which was possible because of the Covid pandemic when we had most of our adult children at home to help build it. The pub is dedicated to Saint Joseph with posters, statues, and images of him everywhere. Sean was inspired last fall to put the litany of Saint Joseph into song as a hymn. He has been busy raising awareness and funding to make this happen. Lo and behold, Pope Francis then named this the year of St. Joseph! I love Joseph’s many titles in the litany, one of my favourites being: Terror of demons. Saint Joseph must have been a young and strong man when he was with the Holy Family. As Fr. Calloway says, “Old men don’t walk to Egypt and back.” He is a strong example for us to follow. We don’t have a single word that was recorded as spoken by Saint Joseph. His lived a humble, simple, and hidden life. The theme for this year’s God Squad Men’s Conference is, “Joseph, Sanctifier of the Hidden Life.”
May you be blessed in your vocation, whatever that might be, by following the humble example of a strong man who trusted in Our Lord without reservation, Good Saint Joseph. Ask him to walk with you and to protect and provide for your spiritual growth, as he provided and protected Our Blessed Mother, Mary, and Our Lord, Jesus Christ.