St. Joseph, and love in steel-toe boots


One shivery November night in northern Indiana we went to my brother’s house for a family celebration. My brother worked construction and was still on the job when my sisters, parents, and I arrived. While my brother worked late we and his family enjoyed a sneak preview of the cuisine for the evening. We were all having a fun visit when we heard his truck pull up. His kids jumped up in excitement and ran to the door, ready to welcome him home.

When he opened the door, there was a moment he stood framed in the doorway, and in that moment I saw a picture of utter, bone-weary exhaustion. He was wearing dusty old Carhartts and steel-toe boots, his face was chapped from the wind and his knuckles were swollen from working outside all day in the cold, and he was dirty from head to foot. You could see fatigue in the slope of his shoulders, the crinkles around his eyes, and hear it in the husky scratch of his voice when he said, “Well, hello everyone!”

Then his kids enveloped him, joining in a chorus of “Daddy! Daddy!” as they hugged his legs and looked up at him with beaming faces, all chattering at once about their doings of the day.

That’s when I saw, shining through the weariness etched on every line of his face, one of the best smiles I have ever been blessed to experience: a smile of pure joy, deep and great and true.

I remembered that homecoming when I read the words of Our Lady to St. Bridget of Sweden describing St. Joseph:

St. Joseph was so reserved and careful in his speech that not one word ever issued from his mouth that was not good and holy, nor did he ever indulge in unnecessary or less than charitable conversation. He was most patient and diligent in bearing fatigue; he practiced extreme poverty; he was most meek in bearing injuries; he was strong and constant against my enemies; he was the faithful witness of the wonders of heaven, being dead to the flesh and the world, living only for God and for heavenly goods, which were the only things he desired. He was perfectly conformed to the Divine Will and so resigned to the dispositions of heaven that he ever repeated “May the will of God ever be done in me!” He rarely spoke with men, but continually with God, whose will he desired to perform. Wherefore, he now enjoys great glory in heaven.

Having been granted to see a glimmer of that kind of love for myself, I’m not surprised that so many saints have said go to St. Joseph with your petitions, he never fails.

St. Teresa of Ávila said that St. Joseph “gave me greater blessings than I could ask of him. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which he has freed me, both in body and in soul.”

And St. Thomas Aquinas said: “Some saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St.  Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.”

As St. Alphonsus Liguori explained, part of the reason for St. Joseph’s great intercessory power is “because Jesus Christ loved him not only as a friend, but as a father, and on this account his mediation is far more efficacious than that of any other saint.”

St. Joseph was set apart and chosen to be the husband and protector of Mary, and the protector and earthly father of Jesus. When the life of Jesus was in peril, God called Joseph, and it was Joseph who led Mary and Jesus to safety. In their life together as the Holy Family both Mary and Jesus looked to St. Joseph for protection and guidance, and we can’t help but benefit from doing the same.

St. John Paul II said that “St. Joseph was ‘a just man,’ a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect, and enlighten families” (Familiaris Consortio, 86).

St. Joseph pray for us!

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