It’s the Solemnity of St. Joseph!
Now, this is a biggie, St. Joseph is one awesome saint. Only the best would be selected to be the earthly father of Jesus, right? Right! You all know him, I hope, a holy righteous man, given the highest honor imaginable (short of mom….): being dad to Christ.
I love him for that. And I love him for the example he gives us of steadfast love and doing the right thing with compassion and honor and love.
Now, there is one little thing though, that makes me a bit nuts regarding St. Joseph…. It’s not really about St. Joseph, him, the man. Rather, its more about the titles slapped on St. Joseph.
Yeah, you guessed it. It’s an adoption thing.
St. Joseph should be the biggest patron for adoptive families going. It brings me to this nit picky pet peeve of mine: that everyone always has to clarify when they talk about him and his relationship to Jesus.
Holy Family by Raphael
Every single time I read it or hear it: “St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus” or some variant I think, “Sheesh!” Because, really……did they really think of it like that back in the day…those days? Do you think that when the women were standing around yakking and they saw Jesus playing with his pals and heard Mary call for him or Joseph, do you think they asked Jesus “where is your foster father?” NO. They said, “Hey, where’s your dad? Your mom wants him.” Of course they did. Now, I don’t mean to be irreverent…but c’mon.
It’s like where I live now, (maybe it’s everywhere, but I only now notice, so I’m calling it regional…don’t get in a snit, no offense intended, I already said it my personal pet peeve). Here, people commonly say, “That’s my stepsister” or “That’s my stepson” or “Stepmom” or whatever. And it doesn’t matter how long they’ve lived together, it could be forty years and they still have to clarify this, even in a casual social setting (I’m not talking about complicated genealogical papers here or anything that could remotely necessitate such fine tuning). That slays me! Why can’t ya just say, “That’s my sister”? I mean, really, why?
I know. This is a weirdness on my part. But every time I hear them qualify St. Joseph’s relationship to Jesus it kind of gets my back up. It’s the same as when media always have to delineate that the celebrity’s “adopted son” did this or that. It’s his kid. Period! Don’t say my kids are each other’s adoptive sister or brother, and don’t, really don’t, tell Coffeedoc that he is Gabey’s “foster father.”
I guess it’s that same prick I feel when someone asks about their “real mom”, um, me. Or even worse, “Which ones are yours?” um, let me count…yup, all of them! I know what they are getting at and that it is a fumbly thing, especially if they are not in the adoption world, but still. Me. No qualifiers required. This is not to diminish the kids’ first mom, or birth mom, or first family…but really, no qualifiers are necessary once they are in mine. No adoptive, foster, step, ya da yada whatever label is needed. They are our kids. Done deal.
Back in the day, St. Joseph’s day, to be exact… family was often built by promise. A special kind of promise, a “covenant” promise. A covenant cannot be broken. It is bigger and stronger than a meager promise or intention, it is stronger than a paper legal contract, it is a covenant, a vow before God. It is eternal. And it was a common manner of forming family. Sure some kids and folks might have just kind of been taken in and eventually been considered a part of the big extended clan. But there were also covenants that built families. And just as God made a covenant with his people, St. Joseph made a covnenant to this baby and to his wife. So he was not just a foster father…..he was his dad, here on earth.
Icon by Brother Claude Lane, O.S.B
Maybe this sets me off because it’s hard to shake off the flimsy postmodern standards and loose contracts that define family nowadays. And so too, too many tv shows of divorce court and meaningless family ties have disintegrated the meaning of the term ‘foster father’…..I can nod to that. And so too, our family ties in our modern era tend to be much more formalized on long legal papers and the term “foster” parent means something different in this usage. And I am no theologian so perhaps the finest points of this description of dear St. Joseph elude me. But, it still bugs me. So, yeah, this is an adoption rant.
Poor St. Joseph, I feel like he doesn’t get a fair shake. He cared for, loved, guarded, protected this little baby, had to flee into Egypt for pete’s sake. He lived a quiet unnoticed life. He didn’t get the kudos for raising this special child, nor was he supposed to, then. But, now, we know him for what he was: a strong, humble, holy man, who obeyed God’s call and made a covenant to be the father to this baby here on earth….a giant step out in faith. St. Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father – his dad. And he is an excellent example and intercessor for adoptive parents and families everywhere.
Happy Feast Day!
Go eat some pasta!
And for some beautiful
thoughts on St. Joseph and hope,go here, to Deacon
St. Joseph, pray for us!
God our Father,
Creator and Ruler of the universe,
in every age you call man
to develop and use his gifts for the good of others.
With St. Joseph as our example and guide,
help us to do the work you have asked
and come to the rewards you have promised.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
New St. Joseph Weekday Missal