The following was published in the March 2013 issue of Shalom Tidings. In celebration of the Feast Day of St. Joseph, here it is ...
I Never Knew
A Reflection of Saint Joseph
by Maria A. Novajosky
by Maria A. Novajosky
Having spent part of my childhood in Italy, I grew up surrounded by saints. I saw them painted in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, nestled in grottos scattered in the mountains, and sculpted in tiny alcoves and chapels of churches found in every piazza in every town. With every saint came a story, one which was meant to help us on our own spiritual journey. And yet, as a little girl kneeling in church next to her Nonna and surrounded by centuries of saints, it was Saint Joseph who had a special place in my heart. I never knew why, but there it was.
Perhaps one reason for my devotion was that I was intrigued with the fact that of all the saints, it seems we know the least about Saint Joseph. The last time he is mentioned in Sacred Scripture is when he and Mary returned to the Temple in Jerusalem looking for Jesus. After that, nothing. When did he die? Why was he no longer mentioned? Why don’t we know more? Too many unanswered questions, but dwelling on what is unknown can distract us from what is fundamentally true … that the silence of Saint Joseph is there for a reason, and it speaks volumes.
When my husband and I had our three sons, I turned to Saint Joseph more and more often. Parenthood is not easy; while I prayed to Mary when I needed guidance in my roles as wife and mother, during the moments in which I felt the most inadequate I looked to Saint Joseph. I took comfort in the fact that he was a man – fully human – and yet he lived in the presence of the Son of God. Doesn’t God ask the same of all of us? That we work, live our lives, raise our children, and do the best we can all while living in His presence? Time and time again Saint Joseph showed me how to find blessings in the ordinariness of daily life.
Obedience, forgiveness, trust, faith … there are so many lessons to be learned from the saints. They, who have already walked this earth before us, want to help us on our own journey. Saints are a gift from our Heavenly Father so that we don’t have to make that journey alone, and it’s a gift I encourage our sons to appreciate. We pray the rosary as a family, we talk about the saints, and every March we combine our Catholic faith and my Italian heritage to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Joseph, much like it’s celebrated in southern Italy. It’s a wonderful tradition of combining faith, food and family, and it affirms the role the saints have in our lives.
And Saint Joseph has definitely had a role in our family. Perhaps the biggest lesson he has taught me was that not only should we turn to the saints for their intercession and guidance, but that they want us to come to them. One year I decided not to host our annual Saint Joseph celebration; a few days later a woman in my Bible Study encouraged each of us to pull a saint's name out of a basket and allow that saint to work in our life for a period of twelve months. The underlying concept was this: although you physically drew the saint's name, the saint actually chose you. There were fifty women in that Bible study that day who took turns drawing a saint. St. Catherine, St. Anne, St. Paul, St. Benedict, St. Mark – there were hundredsof saints in that basket – and Saint Joseph chose me. That year we had our biggest Saint Joseph celebration ever.
Pope Benedict XVI once wrote about the silence of Saint Joseph and how that silence is steeped in the contemplation of the mystery of God. In a world which is noisy and distracts us all too easily from God’s word, it is the steadfastness and quiet strength of Saint Joseph who exemplifies prayer, devotion, and adoration of God’s will. We may not know everything about Saint Joseph, but we know everything that is important. And just when I am getting comfortable with his silence, he offers more.
A few months ago I was going through my Nonna's letters –a transatlantic exchange of news spanning over 30 years – and came across something she wrote shortly after I was born: Ho sentito che avete battezzato Maria proprio il giorno 19, il giorno di S. Giuseppe (I heard that you baptized Maria on March 19,the Feast Day of St. Joseph). Amazingly, I never knew this. These words from my Nonna were a heavenly gift, a revelation from Saint Joseph assuring he is always there (even when I didn’t realize it) wanting to show me how to live a holy life, one that is lived in God’s presence. In his silence he speaks, and I am learning to listen.
Maria A. Novajosky is a writer for Catholic Stewardship Consultants and blogs about her Catholic faith, her Italian heritage, and the joys of being a wife and mother to three sons at www.ladolcevitathesweetlifewiththreesons.blogspot.com.