Saint Joseph, Family Guy

In my journey of Catholic reversion – from lukewarm “but I haven’t killed anybody” kind of nice guy to aspiring devoted friend of Christ – I have spent many hours thinking about St. Joseph, what example his life has for me as a father and a man in general.

Much commented on and provoking many sly grins from long-time married Christian men is the fact that Joseph is not quoted in Scripture. We actually don’t get that much information about him, other than he was a righteous man, and when angels spoke to him in dreams he clicked heels like one of the World War II German soldiers from the movies. Our new adoration chapel at St. Monica’s has some beautiful stained glass, my favorite of which is “The Flight to Egypt”. I particularly like Joseph’s demeanor as I interpret it. He is leading a donkey on which Mary is seated cradling the infant Jesus. Jesus has a “baby got gas” expression; Mary is tenderly cradling the swaddled baby and looking vulnerable as you might expect. But Joseph is looking back towards the way they just came, like he’s asking himself “Are we being followed?” He has a grim and somewhat angry expression, like he wouldn’t be unhappy to go Jackie Chan with his staff on some bandits or Herod’s men in pursuit. You can tell Joseph is going to “do whatever it takes” to protect his family, even at the cost of his own life. He’s not the doofus dad so often portrayed in sitcoms.

Joseph wasn’t really a carpenter, at least not as we understand the profession. The chosen translation from the Greek word “tecton” to mean “carpenter” is a mistranslation. “Tecton” (in Mark) or “tekton” (in Matthew) is more aptly translated into a word describing a “contractor”; specifically, contracting as a “builder” or “handyman”. He was basically a “Mr. Fix it”. You had something that needed mended/fixed, designed, or built and he was the guy to call. And note, this isn’t just referring to small jobs such as repairing a leaky roof or the like, though this type of thing would have likely been a part of what he did when bigger business was slow; it also refers to such things as designing and building bridges, stone temples, etc. He certainly wasn’t the Ethan Allen outlet of his day, and it’s unlikely his stepson was the inventor of the dining room table, as depicted in “The Passion of the Christ”.

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/06/jesus-wasnt-really-a-carpenter/

What was it like to be the imperfect, fallen leg of the tripod in the Holy Family? What was it like to live with the two only perfect human beings in history, one of whom was also God? How did he respond when Mary asked him “Are you going to wear that shawl?” when he was trying to get them out the door to synagogue on time? Fortunately 1st-century Jews wore loose, baggy clothing, so Mary most likely never put him to the test with “Does this make me look fat?” Did he ever have one too many after work at the “Raging Pharisee” and come home slightly out of control, asking Jesus to pull his finger and telling Mary “What, leftover fava bean casserole again!?” Did he ever catch a glimpse of a comely female ankle while passing by Nazareth’s well and go “hubba hubba” in Aramaic to himself? (which in Aramaic is “hubba hubba” by the way)

I actually find it easy to believe Joseph led a chaste, sinless life as a member of the Holy Family, especially since Adoration has become an important part of my life. Consider it: every moment in Jesus’ presence for Joseph was Adoration, even if he wasn’t conscious of it. And they spent a lot of time together, as Jesus worked probably since his early adolescence beside his stepfather. If Joseph had a bad day – a check bounced on a fence repair he did, or the Nazareth PD gave him a ticket because his ass (Two Men and a Beast) was double-parked – coming home with Jesus alongside or to Jesus and Mary undoubtedly “made his day”.

Saint Joseph, in a culture that more and more minimizes – even denigrates and mocks – fatherhood, pray for us fathers that we do our best to live up to your example. Strengthen us to be exemplars of leadership, courage, protectiveness, and piety as you most surely are. Intercede on our behalf with your beloved Stepson. Amen.

God bless,
Tom

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