Chef: “I bet you don’t even know who St. Joseph is!” Me: “Oh yes, I do! He’s Jesus’ Stepdaddy!!!”
An excerpt from an actual conversation that took place between my husband and me around St. Joseph Day about 5 years ago. Ummm… yeah. That was before we were, ya know, liking each other and stuff.
Today was St. Joseph Day and our annual St. Joseph altar was held at St. Francis Villa. If you’ve never experienced a St. Joseph Altar, then mark your calendar for next year and live a little, would ya? But take my advice, don’t just go and be a visitor to an altar. You gotta get BEHIND THE SCENES, stay all day, and really see what it’s all about. Italian food, Italian mothers, Italian traditions, and regular old garden variety love and laughter. Oh, and cookies. It’s very much about cookies.
I have to tell you that first altar we did together was rough. I wasn’t too sure about anything Catholic or Italian and he wasn’t too sure about a Baptist girl running a time honored Catholic Italian tradition. We laugh about this now, and looking back, we know that our work together on that project was the beginning of our friendship, however rocky it may have been. Our friendship blossomed, needless to say. There may or may not have been a stolen lemon involved, as St. Joseph altar legend advises.
Anyway, the altar has become a treasured tradition for me, not just for the joy it brings to our residents and the fun and friendship that happens on that day, but for me it’s a reminder. Another reason to celebrate Jesus. A reason to think about how He was a real kid, and went through real stuff…like having a step dad. You know, the scripture gives us a major clue about Joseph when it tells us he planned to divorce Mary quietly once he discovered she was with child. He had other, much more vicious and vindictive options. He could have made her pay for the humiliation she brought to him. With her life. But nah… he planned to go quietly on, refusing himself the satisfaction of vengeance. It takes a pretty awesome guy, ego TOTALLY in check, to make that kind of decision and let something like that go. Of course when the angel appeared to Joseph and clued him in on the plan, he was on board with God. He then allowed his life to be overtaken by that Boy, moving himself and Mary to Egypt to protect Jesus. How many guys would do something like that for a child they didn’t father?
It always strikes me when I hear the altar blessings on St. Joseph day, how they refer to Joseph as a protector of children. I’ve known the story of Jesus’ birth for as long as I can remember, but I haven’t often stopped to consider the way Joseph protected the child Jesus. What an example to dads everywhere, stepdads especially.
I still don’t claim to be any kind of expert on Catholic or Italian things. I’m just glad to be part of a day of such fun, such love, such generosity… and glad to be reminded of the man who was Jesus’ Stepdaddy.
And one last little shot of a resident lovin’ on my baby. Too cute to resist!!by