St. Matthew had a wonderful way of describing St. Joseph. He said he was a just man. When Joseph discovered that his intended was already pregnant, his justice came into play in two ways. First, his justice would not allow him to take for himself the child who seemed to belong to another man. Secondly, his justice would not let him inflict pain on the finest person he had ever known. His only just way out of the predicament seemed to be divorcing her quietly.
A way for us to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph would be for us to call to mind the fine men we have known who are called Joe.
I have a nephew Joe who leads his brothers and sisters in pitching in for anyone in trouble. He visits a friend in detox. He is the strong friend to one in the family who is shunned for being homosexual.
At tax time I think of Joe Kelly who out of gratitude to his country would not cash tax returns. I think of Father Joseph English our pastor from the nineteen twenties through the forties. On his day off Joe English drove to a classmate’s porch where all day he read, rocked, and chewed apples.
Our given names once gave us patron saints. We found comfort in a connection with our own patron saint. I just checked names from K through 8 in a Catholic school’s yearbook without finding a Joseph. Kids are maybe hoping for help from St. Scott, or maybe St. April or St. Spring.
Two Burmese nuns sat with me last night at a St. Patrick’s Day dinner. One of them, Sister Rose Susie was just back from Burma, and she brought Sister Leonie Marie a letter from Sister Leonie Marie’s father. The homesick girl read it over and over. She said her father’s name is Joseph, and he is just like St. Joseph himself.
On Joseph’s feast day each of us men should pray, “Dear St. Joseph, give me some of that backbone of yours to help me be a real man when it is called for.”