Thursday, March 19, 2015

Seven Years with Joseph

I have spent seven years with St. Joseph, who first spoke to me seven years ago today at morning mass in my hometown. Easter Vigil was three days away, and as a convert-in-waiting I was planning to take Thomas as my confirmation name. As in Thomas More, father, writer, statesman, martyr, and hero of my all-time favorite film, “A Man for All Seasons.”

But on Wednesday morning, March 19, 2008, I went to mass and found—I didn’t anticipate this—that the Church was celebrating the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Before that mass was over I had decided that I would take the name Joseph, instead of Thomas.

The celebrant, whose name was David, may have influenced this decision. Or maybe the Holy Spirit did. In any case, I realized that Joseph was right-sized for me, that Thomas might be aiming a wee bit high.

Instead of great man, I went for good father.

Like my conversion to the Catholic Church, I have not regretted this decision a single moment. I was reminded of my decision, if it was mine, at morning mass today. Here again, in another church in another town, the celebrant’s name was David. I thought: how appropriate. That was my father’s name too.

I kneel before a statue of St. Joseph in every church where I can find one, usually after receiving communion. I do not pray to Joseph as I do to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I talk with him. I commune with the saint. I thank Joseph for modeling good Christian behavior for me (God knows I need it), and I ask him to pray for me, as you might ask a friend. Now that my Dad is gone, Joseph has kind of taken his place.

Unlike the Old Testament Joseph, who interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of cows and grain, the New Testament Joseph has brought me neither feast nor famine. The past seven years have been marked by death (Dad’s), digging into the past, turmoil and recovery (private), pilgrimage (Camino de Santiago), and reassembling the past (in my memoir).

Today, on the threshold of several new beginnings (including another pilgrimage), I am happier than I have ever been. My marriage has never been stronger. My children are well. My house is paid for. My faith is firm.

In seven more years, if I live that long, I will have reached the Biblical three score years and ten, or ten sevens. Today, I honor St. Joseph on the threshold of seven more years—fat or lean, come what may—in his company.

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