One of my favorite comments Joe received on a course evaluation was: “Dr. Pagano’s tests are hard. But if you study for them, they are really quite easy.” I have smiled about that observation many times and hoped that the student applied that discovery to other professors’ examinations as well.
But I realize I have my own version: “Sometimes you wonder where you will find comfort. But if you open your eyes, there it is.”
The Global Missions Office of The Episcopal Church is bringing us back to the United States because of the pandemic. We are confident that this is a good decision, and we are very grateful to all the staff there who are working so hard to talk with missionaries about whether to remain where they are or go home, and to care for those who can no longer go home because borders have closed.
There is a lot to grieve in this situation, our own personal sense of loss just one tiny drop in a vast sea of sadness and uncertainty. We are so grateful to all the friends and family near and far who are praying for us as we travel soon, for those people we leave, and for all the vulnerable people for whom this is home. Those prayers are so comforting and such a gift. Thank you.
Sometimes you wonder where you will find comfort. But if you open your eyes, there is is. On FaceBook, WhatsApp, email. The Church Calendar.
Here it is. Today is St. Joseph’s Day. This saint holds a special place in my heart since my beloved is named for him and shares many of his attributes, not least of which are humility, deep compassion, obedience to God’s call wherever that leads.
Today, I am finding great comfort in thinking of the witness of this saint, and the ways he reflects extraordinary acts of mercy by carrying out the responsibilities of every day life. Even when every day life becomes something unfamiliar.
St. Joseph found himself caught up in something quite extraordinary when he was betrothed to Mary. “Not what I had expected,” might be the most understated expression of his thoughts. He received word to go ahead with their plans and he and Mary would make a new family.
Their life together involved unplanned travel. Lots of it. And all of it because of circumstances beyond their control, things they didn’t choose, forces affecting lots of people besides themselves.
In scenes of the nativity, Joseph’s usually shown in the background, keeping watch, keeping quiet company.
I used to think that Joseph usually looks so tired. I attributed that to the tradition that he was much older than Mary.
Now I chalk it up to travel. (I’m mostly serious.) I also think that since Joseph paid attention to dreams and the messengers who met him there, getting good sleep made him more attentive. I now think of him as surrendering into much needed sleep and being open to the gifts he received there.
And when he was awake, wouldn’t he want to carry and care for the baby?
Once Herod finds out about the birth of Jesus, the family is on the move again, this time to Egypt, once more prompted by a holy messenger, and once more responding to forces beyond their control.
When the family moves to Nazareth and settles there, tradition has it that Joseph taught Jesus his trade, carpentry. In the gospels people said of Jesus, “Aren’t you the carpenter’s son?” In the Roman Catholic Church, May 1 is also a day to remember the witness of St. Joseph, patron of workers.
I’m thinking now of all the people whose labor is changed because of this pandemic: people without work, people who will soon be without work, people whose work has become dangerous, those working hard at new tasks or to envision new ways to provide, cope, cure, treat. The light of Christ shines for them too.
A search for hymns for St. Joseph yielded this, written by Frederick William Faber (1814-1863), published in 1850, that can be sung to Paderborn:
Dear husband of Mary, dear nurse of her Child!
Life’s ways are full weary, the desert is wild;
Bleak sands are all ’round us, no home can we see;
Sweet spouse of our Lady, we lean upon thee.
For you to the pilgrim are father and guide,
And Jesus and Mary felt safe by your side;
Ah, blessed Saint Joseph, how safe I should be,
Sweet spouse of our Lady, If you were with me!
Your have not forgotten the long, dreary road,
When Mary took turns with you, bearing your God;
Yet light was that burden, none lighter could be;
Sweet spouse of our Lady, oh, can you bear me?
With thanks to https://www.godsongs.net/2019/03/dear-guardian-husband-of-mary-sweet-spouse-of-our-lady.html
Signs of comfort all around. Here’s my new favorite image of Joseph, an example of holy care for people who travel, a worker, leading not just Mary and Jesus, but a long line of travelers. I imagine some are pilgrims, some refugees. All are cared for, watched over, loved.
I’m sorry I can’t find the artist’s name, but the image and a lovely reflection by Tom McGrath on lessons from Joseph can be found at https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2013/06/05/fathers-faith-wisdom-borrowed-st-joseph
Where are you finding comfort today? Thank you to all who are giving it.