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Saint Joseph the Worker and Dad

Saint Joseph and Jesus

 

 

 

Every Labor Day weekend two men always pop up in my mind:  Saint Joseph the Worker and my Dad.  When I was growing up I always associated Saint Joseph and my father.  I thought of Saint Joseph as the strong, silent type.  The Gospels recall no speeches or quotes of Saint Joseph, but it does remember his actions:  the refusal to expose Mary publicly when he initially assumed that she had betrayed him, his leading his family into Egypt on the warning of the Angel, the years of Christ’s growth to manhood when Saint Joseph labored to support his family.  That was my father, a man of actions and not words.  My father was not a talkative man, he simply was always there when anything needed to be done.  From going off each day to cut steel in the truck body plant where he worked, to repairing broken items around the house, to fixing a furnace for an old widow who couldn’t pay a professional to come to fix it and then asking my mom to buy the widow a sack of groceries because he saw she had no food in her house, to defending me from a child hood bully, I grew up under the protection and inspiration of my silent father.

I always assumed that Christ watched Saint Joseph as he went about his duties as a carpenter and helped him.  One of my fondest memories of my father is him coming home dead tired from a long day in the factory, and then working late into the evening on a model car that I was racing in my cub scout troop that year.  Dad was a first rate shade tree carpenter and mechanic.  Dad attempted to pass these skills on to me, alas without much success, but watching him use tools skillfully has caused me to always appreciate the craftsmanship and patience behind someone who can use his hands to create and make things work.

Dad was no plaster saint.  He enjoyed a beer now and then, and a joke and woe betide anyone who came between him and his paper each evening.  For a man who never graduated from high school he had a keen intelligence as indicated by the crossword puzzles he effortlessly completed along with cryptograms in the local newspaper.  Dad also enjoyed sketching and probably would have made a pretty fair artist.  He would often play on the guitar, with mixed results, or so my brother and I would tell him!  Dad would simply smile and continue on playing.  After his death I was startled to learn that as a young man my father had written a song.  I have always suspected that there were interesting facets of Saint Joseph that the Gospels failed to relate, just like the aspects of my quiet father that the world at large remained oblivious of.

Saint Joseph died before Christ embarked on His three years of effort to save us.  I assume that Christ and Mary cared for him with love as he went through that grim passage that all of us must endure.  My mother died at 48 of breast cancer and my father tended her with the greatest compassion imaginable during her long and valiant fight with the Grim Reaper.  Dad was never eloquent on the subject of love, but his actions during that awful time taught me more about love than anything I have ever read in a book.

My father died peacefully of a heart attack in his favorite chair at age 57.  Like Saint Joseph’s death my Dad’s death went unnoticed by the world, since my father had accomplished nothing that the world would consider great:  he never held elective office, he did not become rich, never invented anything, no events of note at all.  He simply was a quiet man who went about his work uncomplainingly, raised his family with my Mom the best way he knew how, was kind and charitable, a man to be relied upon.  He was remembered fondly by all who had the privilege of knowing him, just like Saint Joseph I assume.  On such humble good men and women are societies based, and societies, like their families, tend not to truly appreciate them until they are no longer there.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

8 Comments

  1. Much Thanks Donald. Your a loving son and always will be.

    I have been “using” St. Joseph at many death beds of our residents for the past twelve years. He has brought so much peace to the families as their loved one prepares to sail on to another shore.
    To ponder the great possibility of Jesus and Mary at St. Josephs own death bed.
    Then, humbly imploring Joesph to call on Mary & Jesus to be present for our loved one.
    The Carmelite order has Beautiful respect and Honor for St. Joseph…and rightfully so. St. Joseph pray for us.

  2. There is much to learn today from St. Joseph’s actions. He, first of all, saw the goodness of the Mother of our Lord and obeyed to His messengers to be able to protect and provide.

    Our culture of many absent fathers, some of whom ironically revere Mary, have ignored the example of the Holy Family and rejected the idea of the work of their hands. Reliance on running water, electricity, sound dwellings, and food hasn’t produced a supply of competent tradesmen. It’s as though ignorance of St. Joseph’s life brought, is bringing, indolence into the role of men who leave their fatherhood for a means of income from the state. Pieces of shattered souls around who could never imagine the richness of your reminiscence.

    Had my father read your post, he might have said it was ‘writ by hand’ if he were pressed to comment.

  3. You are so lucky you had a dad like him. I also envision my dad as industrious as Saint Joseph. And you are right, I haven’t really read a lot of Saint Joseph in the bible. I wish there was really some details on what kind of a dad he really was. But I think Jesus had a good man as an example as he grew up to be one fine young man himself. I should let my husband read this.

  4. You had a good and earnest dad; so does your daughter she will probably grow up to marry a man who reminds her in some ways of her dad- even if she doesn’t recognize it at first
    The family is how God forwards love in the world.

  5. Thank you all for your kind comments. I have always considered myself lucky in my parents. My sainted Mother would often invoke the Holy Family, Mary, Jesus and Joseph, especially in time of crisis, or after my brother or I roused her ire after doing something foolish/bad! I think that helped and I have always remembered the Holy Family as a result.

  6. So beautiful! My dad never even got to the 8th grade but he worked and worked and worked. There was nothing he couldn’t do. He was a jack of all trades and he mastered them all. He died so young, only 52 but his efforts left my mother and the boys complete financial security. If he didn’t know how to do it he educated himself until he did it “and did it well”. He was a lifelong Republican and the night before the Kennedy win, he alerted us kids, “If I wake up tomorrow morning and John Kennedy is president of the United States, you are going to see a grown man cry!” When John Kennedy was assassinated he bawled like a baby. He was devastated. When we asked him about it he said, “That man was the president of all of us, not just me. The president no matter what party deserves our respect and prayers even if we don’t agree with him. This is a terrible thing for our country.” I am trying to hang onto that thought now as I truly do not have good feelings about this administration. Maybe St. Joseph could help me with that.

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