On Saturday, I wrote about Joseph of Arimathea – it was his day of commemoration or memorial. Today is the feast day of St. Joseph of Nazareth. We revere Joseph as the father of Jesus. Among many other places, and things St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of Real Estate Agents, Cabinet Makers, Canada, The Canadian Armed Forces and the universal church. We know very little about him outside of his devoutness and his care for Mary and for Jesus. Joseph was carpenter and a very common man. He had to choose, had did Mary to accept the extraordinary role of being Dad to Jesus. We do not hear anything of Joseph after the story of his worry and concern for Jesus when he was lost in the Temple. It is assumed by most scholars that he died before Jesus public ministry.   

One of the most profound places that I have ever visited is St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. It is one of those places in which you become very aware of the presence of the Sacred, The Divine. Named for St. Joseph, it is a Holy Shrine because of the miraculous work of Brother Andre who worked to build this the greatest of churches dedicated to St. Joseph. Many people were brought to him and he was said to have prayed for and received many healings.   His Cell is still intact above his chapel on the Mount and it too is a great place of pilgrimage. There is really so much to do there and so much to see that it is a place that I think I would visit again. In the lower level (a couple of escalators down), the Oratory has a museum. In there is found Nativity Scenes from around the word, over 2500 in all from over 110 countries. I saw Joseph depicted in every culture and race of the world and It was brilliant to see the Holy Family transcend all human boundaries.  If you visit Montreal, go to the Mount. Visit St. Joseph’s Oratory. In that museum you will find life size depictions of episodes of the life of Jesus. I read today that www.catholic.org says that “Joseph is the patron of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus’ public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.”  I mention this because the scene that moved me the most was a representation of Jesus at the feet of his dying Dad – Joseph. It is a very stirring portrayal of a young man mourning what is obviously a very painful loss in his life and on his journey. It was for me, a powerful reminder of how very much God identifies with our own grief and our own suffering. We often forget the humanity of Jesus and this scene at St. Joseph’s Oratory   brings a follower to that realization. 

I often recall that image and that moment. It has become an important part of my faith perspective.  It points out how very powerful images are in faith and practice. I see suffering and I see pain. For me the sight of Jesus on his knees over his Dad weeping in the midst of his human suffering is a great leveler. It is a great consolation to me.  If the Divine could choose to take on humanity and all of the pain that may come with it, we should take heart that we do not suffer pain alone.

St. Joseph was no doubt a person of great faith and obedience to take on the challenge and responsibility of being there of Mary and for Jesus – even when it was unconventional. We look to him today for direction in our own lives and we seek to have faith that we do not always need to know the answers. We do not always need to know how things will turn out. We do not always need to have control.  I am certain that Joseph did not have all the answers, was often uncertain about how things would turn out, and must have felt very out of control.

Let us look to Joseph for direction and confidently pray the words below –

In Joseph’s Arms

At life’s twilight,
When it is time to say ‘thank you’
When words can no longer express feelings
When cries are sometimes suppressed
Joseph, take me in your arms
Comfort me
Soothe me
Joseph, take me in your arms
Like a father to whom one can say everything
Like a husband to whom one cannot lie
Like a brother with whom one has laughed
Like a friend with whom even silence is blessed
Joseph, take me in your arms
Comfort me
Protect me
Joseph, take me in your arms
Take me along with you to meet God
May my steps be light
May my heart be forgiven
May my life be illuminated

Michel Michaud

This little 5 minute Video is a lovely display of the oratory. You just need to shut off the music on the top left of this page and then double click on Play in the middle of the Video Screen.