Building Family and Faith

Many years ago, my children and I were spending the day at my parents’ home, (Maw-maw and Paw-paw), while my husband was busy at work. Paw-paw was busy building a folding camping table that day. My four-year-old, Brennan, stood nearby closely watching his grandfather measuring, sawing and nailing. My dad proudly showed off his carpentry skills for his grandson, who was thoroughly engrossed with the transformation of wood and nails into a fine piece of furniture. When the table was completed, my son ran over to me and Maw-maw and brought us over to see what his grandfather had accomplished. He boldly told his Paw-paw, “When my daddy grows up, he will be able to build too!” My husband drove up right at that moment as we were all chuckling over my son’s comment. He also got a big kick out of it!

This memory reminds me of St. Joseph. I can imagine Jesus as a little four-year-old boy watching his father work with wood; measuring, carving, and creating. As a young child, Jesus would have had that same wonderment as Brennan in seeing the transformation of wood into objects and furniture. He would have looked up to His father, St. Joseph, and would grow up learning the craft, assisting His father.

Not all men are skilled in carpentry, but all fathers are builders. It takes a loving and strong man to build his family, to protect them and guide them as spiritual leaders. St. Joseph is our model of a self-sacrificing husband and father. He did whatever was needed to keep his wife and Son safe, whether it meant finding shelter in a cave or fleeing for a strange land in the middle of the night. He was a man with tremendous faith and he built a Holy Family.

I grew up with a father who was a “jack-of-all-trades”. He could build and fix anything. I was the oldest of four girls and did not appreciate the many skills of my father when I was a girl. I thought at the time it was something all fathers could do. Seeing my father through my children’s eyes, I had a newfound appreciation of his creativity and craftsmanship. Today I look back at the times my father took on huge construction projects such as adding a third bedroom and utility room to our home and I realize he was not just building a home, he was showing his love for his wife and children. Taking time every Sunday to take our family to Mass and visit our grandparents, was my dad’s way of building faith in his family.

My wonderful husband is not a carpenter, but he is a builder. From the moment we left the church as man and wife, he has devoted his whole self and life to our marriage and family. My children, grandkids and I have always felt his love, devotion and protection. Years ago, he was involved with his boys as a football coach; today he leads his children and grandchildren in the rosary on first Fridays.

Looking back on that memory of Brennan, I do see now that his father did grow. We both grew as parents and now as grandparents. His father is a builder of family and of faith. I hope our grandkids look at us just as I saw Brennan look at my dad those years ago, with wonderment and with love.

Brennan with Paw-paw and Maw-maw

A man who always did what was right

St Joseph with the Infant Jesus (c. 1635), at ...

St Joseph with the Infant Jesus (c. 1635), at the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg. Oil on canvas, 126 x 101 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew 1:19 describes St. Joseph as “Joseph was a man who always did what was right..”

What a beautiful description of the man chosen by God to be the head of the household of His family, the guardian of God’s own Son.

Although St. Joseph speaks no words in the Bible, we are given much information about this holy and blessed man.  We know he came from the tribe of David. We know it was the father’s duty to name the child. Joseph was instructed by an angel to take Mary as his wife and name the child Jesus, (God Saves).   We know that upon awaking from his dream with the angel, Joseph immediately surrendered his life over to God’s will and took Mary into his home.  Joseph was the first man to lay down his life for the mission of bringing Jesus to the whole world.  The marriage of Mary and Joseph was a holy union of hearts.  Their pure love for each other created the marriage sacrament whereby today marriages in Church are sanctified by the Spirit.

I can only imagine the astonishment this man must have felt.  He knew first hand the awesome mystery of Mary’s motherhood.  As he witnessed the child growing in her womb, he must have felt great pride and love, but also fear of the challenges they must face.  His mission was to serve and protect this mother and son.  Even for the holy family, the path was not an easy one.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  The King came into this world in a small stable and was laid in a manger.  St. Joseph kneeling at Mary’s side during the birth was the first man to kneel before Christ the Lord.  Assisting with the delivery, he would have been the first the hold the Child Jesus.  I imagine he looked up to heaven thanking God for the precious Child.  Looking up he would have witnessed the star and wondered at the light that shone down on his family.  Later he also marveled at the shepherds who gathered to pay homage as they explained to Joseph they were led by angels and then the wise men who were led by that guiding star.

The next time an angel appeared to Joseph, the message was one of a warning.  Joseph was warned that Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus and was told to escape with his family to Egypt.  That must have been a terrifying experience!  The Lord God must have trusted Joseph tremendously to entrust His only Son to Joseph’s care.  Joseph must have trusted the Lord tremendously to have listened and obeyed.

Joseph fulfilled his mission.  He kept the family safe, returning to reside in Nazareth when the angel informed him it was now safe to return.  We know that Jesus was obedient to his parents.  Jesus loved, obeyed and honored Joseph and Mary, his parents.  When Jesus was a man, St. Joseph passed away.  I believe Jesus was there at St. Joseph’s side as he left this world.  One man’s mission was complete; another Man’s mission was just beginning.  Jesus in a way owed His very existence and ability to complete His mission to that wonderful man, Joseph, who “always did what was right.”

St. Joseph is a great model for how we should love our Lord.  St. Joseph’s gift of self allowed the fulfillment of God’s greatest gift to us!

This Christmas Eve, walk out into the night with your family and look for the Christmas star.  Remember the holy family and the sacrifice of St. Joseph; thank him for serving and caring for Our Lord, Jesus.

C’est Bon,