The yellows, greens and browns are the lightest of hues, worn thin over long years. A tad chipped it is, and small—little more than a foot tall—but great the man it represents. A greater man history has not known, save the man’s son. Foster-son is more accurate, yet when Joseph tousled Jesus’ brown curls, it is easy to imagine him leaving the “foster” off. Saint Joseph: husband of Mary, foster-father of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world.
Saint Joseph, as the provider and protector of the two most important people in human history, has secured an immovable place in the hearts of Christians. It is the logic of the heart to love those your beloved loves. To love Jesus naturally leads to an interest in everything connected to His earthly life, not least of all His family members—and interest leads to knowledge, and knowledge leads to love. In a particular way, religious women, like me, are keen to develop a friendship with Saint Joseph. You may know that there is a long-held belief that St. Joseph has taken special interest in us consecrated women, and you may wonder why that would be so. Now don’t go thinking it is because we remind him of his wife; that’s not it at all. It’s true that as women, and as “handmaids of the Lord,” it is possible to strike a few similarities between the religious woman and Our Lady, but I think St. Joseph is attracted to us because of how unlike we are to Our Lady rather than how like we are. It is, I think, because we are “daughters of Eve” and like her, desperately in need of protection from the Enemy and all his temptations, lies and empty promises that Joseph steps in as patron for us. Maybe too, it is because we are without a husband to do certain manly things that he likes to help out from his Heavenly vantage point. His reasons are his own (and God’s own). Maybe we’ll find out why in Heaven…or, maybe in Heaven the “whys” will dissolve with insignificance. Whatever his reasons, his help is indisputable. Before I go on, you should know that in our community we pray to him specifically before we go begging. (To beg, or to quest, as the disciples of Jesus did and as Francis and his disciples did, is part of our life of loving trust in the Providence of God manifested through His people.) In other words, we look to St. Joseph in the area of securing food and other supplies.
In the first weeks of the pandemic, when we were beginning to hear serious murmurings of nationwide shortages of critical household supplies (i.e. toilet paper), a Local Servant (a sister who is superior of a house) contacted me to find out “what our plan was for securing toilet paper.” According to her estimations, they would be OK for about a week. “Our plan?” I said. “Our plan is what our plan was before the pandemic and what it will be after: go to Saint Joseph. Don’t worry, he will provide.”
It was then that I found our little, worn replica of the saint and placed it where the holy water once stood—right outside the chapel—with a tall candle burning before it, a reminder of our devotion to him and his devotion to us. And, four months later, the toilet paper supply is holding steady, as are paper-towels, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and masks. And what of edible supplies? We had (and have) food aplenty…for ourselves and for the poor—in great numbers. St. Joseph, the heavenly arm of God the Father’s Providence, has never failed us, and I trust that he never will. Whether or not you are a consecrated religious, married or single, man, woman or child, St. Joseph has been chosen by the Father for fatherhood, and a father to you he shall be…if you ask him. See for yourself.
Mother Clare, CFR