Monday, March 19, 2007

Great St. Joseph!

There's a hymn called "Great St. Joseph" and it has become, for me, "the" St. Joseph hymn, simply because its melody is so histrionic you can't forget it! St. Joseph himself, of course, was anything but histrionic. And yet we remember him and honor him extravagently. As is only appropriate. (Didn't the Lord say, "If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him"?)
Today waiting for an appointment, I had a chance to read a few more pages of the massive biography of Dorothy Day by William Miller. Providentially, the pages I read specifically mentioned the role of St. Joseph in the Catholic Worker house in the early 1930's. I don't tend to associate Catholic piety with the movement; I suppose Ms. Day's political approach seems so characteristic that her life of faith and genuine devotion gets left in the shadows. (I was surprised to read, for instance, that at the farm commune, they used to gather before bedtime to pray the Rosary and the Litany.) Anyway, about St. Joseph, Miller writes, "When [financial] matters appraoched the point that the entire enterprise...would founder within days, someone would write out a petition and place it under the statue of St. Joseph. 'We need money, St. Joseph! Make haste!' Once this lowly sweat-begrimed carpenter, the foster father of God, seemed to be taking the petitions too matter-of-factly. So, according to Julia Procelli...she, Dorothy and some of the otehrs took turns going over to the church to 'picket' St. Joseph. Each one spent 'perhaps an hour praying and begging for money. We were so behind with the butcher, the banker and eerone that we just didn't have a cent in the house.'
" 'It was a peaceful and lovig picketing,' wrote Dorothy, 'the crowd of us taking turns to go to the church and there in the presence of Christ our Leader, contemplate St. Joseph...' Dorothy observed that the picketing was announced at the breakfast table, after which one of the young women sitting there looked startled and asked if she would be required to carry a sign."
And that very day, someone walked into the Catholic Worker office and left $100 in an envelope.
Reminds me of the Little Sisters of the Poor, when they needed a gardener. One of the sisters found a picture in a magazine of a man with a hoe. She cut the picture out to put by the statue of St. Joseph, but in her hurry, she trimmed the man's arm right out of the image. And shortly after, a one-armed gardener came to the door, volunteering his services.
Well, I've entrusted a few things to St. Joseph, but he's taking his time about it, to be sure! Maybe we need to take a page from the Catholic Workers and start a picket line...


Anonymous said...

Horror of Horrors, Picket St. Joseph...where does the line form?
sign me "Camper for Sale"

Anonymous said...

In New Orleans, the Italian community builds "St. Joseph Altars" usually open to the public on and around March 19th to give thanks for favors received. Are these found elsewhere? I owe St. Joseph an altar (Thank you!) and because I am not familiar with the traditional Italian offerings, mine will have a decidedly French-Creole flair(pralines instead of fig cookies--I hope it is not too much of a faux pas).

Bill White said...

St Joseph won't let us finish novenas to him. He obtains whatever's needed the first or second day and we have to pray the rest of it in thanksgiving.

Bailey Walker said...

Another Little Sisters of the Poor story. I first heard this one from a Little Sister when I was working for them back in the 60's. Their old gentlemen residents enjoyed the occasional bottle of beer. Having run out of beer for the old men, the Little Sister put a bottle by the statue of St. Joseph in the kitchen, along with all the other items they needed and for which they asked their patron. A priest happened to see the statue with the bottle of beer and asked what it was all about. The Little Sister confidently said that they were asking St. Joseph to get them some beer for their residents to enjoy. The priest, a learned man, thought the Little Sisters were a bit naive and unsophisticated in their approach to say the least. A little while after his visit, while on the train home, he chuckled to himself while remembering the bottle of beer and the superstitious Little Sisters. The man sitting next to him asked to be let in on the joke. The priest told the story and the man asked how to get in touch with the sisters. You see, he owned a brewery and wanted to ensure that the Little Sisters had a secure supply of beer for their residents. Not only did St. Joseph answer their prayer for the beer but he used the skeptical priest as his instrument to teach him a little lesson as well. I've kept this lesson I learned from the Little Sister in the kitchen of that home for the aged close to my heart all the years. Ite ad joseph!

Anonymous said...

A charming story. I would like to retell one which I heard about the begging sisters.
On one of their house calls, the little sister held out her hand to the man of the house.."Please give me something for our poor." the man responded by spitting into her hand. She responded to his grave insult with the words "That is for me, now give me something for our poor." Her humility so shocked and shamed the man that he became a generous benefactor to their cause.