It is six in the morning, and as I lay in bed waiting for my wife’s alarm to go off, I wonder why she set the alarm in the first place knowing that we always awake five minutes before it clangs. My wife usually arises first, and I linger thinking of a hundred specious reasons why I should not get up. I finally do, the bed creaks, and as I begin to dress, I realize that it was my old bones doing the creaking as they tried to adjust to their proper alignment. At my age, snap, crackle and pop has little to do with cereal. I finish dressing, usually with my shirt either inside out or backwards. It is always this way with me; in the morning I am in a fog, so rather than focusing on the front or back of the shirt, I simply put it on, then make the proper adjustments once the mistakes are realized. Putting on my pants is always an adventure: the first leg goes in smoothly, but that second leg usually involves a hop-scotch into the nearest wall, which serves as a prop in completing the task. Finally dressed, and nursing my aches, I trudge downstairs for my morning cup of Joe. Now, I live in an old Cape that we restored, and the stairs are steep with low headroom, which literally has made quite an impression on my mind, especially in the morning.
At the bottom of the stairs, if you take a right, there is a mantle where the calendar of Saints lays. If you take a left, you enter the dining room which leads to the kitchen where the coffee machine is located. I usually take the right first to read the Saint of the day, but most days there are more than one, some unpronounceable, and I know that by the time I get to the coffee machine I will forget most of what I just read. As said previously, in the morning I am in a fog, and though I may not recall the Saint of the day, I always remember St. Keurig. After waiting an insufferable two minutes, my cup of coffee is prepared, and I settle down in my morning chair waiting for my mind to catch up with my body.
My wife amazes me. From the first moment of rising, she is a whirlwind of activity. By the time I settle in that chair, she has drunk her coffee, emptied the washer, filled the drier, planned supper, went out side to feed the horses, cleaned the paddock, then come back in to see me lumped in an easy chair as she commences to clean the house. My brain has not caught up with my body yet, so I really don’t see her; sort of like a hummingbird — you hear the whirr, and sense movement, but the true picture doesn’t evolve unless it stops. Eventually, I proceed from the past into the present, only to find that my wife has gone into the future. Daunting it is keeping up with that woman. I have stopped trying and go about my own pace knowing that eventually she’ll bump into me and we can say hello.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, I was going to tell you about my second cup of Joe; that is, St. Joseph. On my way to work where Mass is celebrated daily (I work at St. Benedict Center), I say my morning prayers; you know, the ones we all say — morning offering, angel protection, acts of faith, hope and charity, travel prayers, etc., and then I feel free to spend the rest of the day with St. Joseph. Excluding Our Lord and Our Lady of course, there is no better friend to befriend, especially for men. Whether it be sexual temptations, money woes, work related problems, difficult children or just plain sloth in fulfilling your Catholic duty, go to Joseph, he will not fail.
And now I would like to share some of the ways I spend my day with the great St. Joseph.
Aided by Venerable Mary of Agreda and other mystics, and especially that most noble work by Edward Healy Thompson, The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph, I have composed my own private Rosary honoring five events in his life. The first decade I call “Joseph contemplates his hereditary right to the throne of David.” Being proficient in Mosaic law, and knowing his genealogical ancestral line, he knew he was the rightful king to that usurped throne. I picture him in his work hut, shaving wood for a chair, knowing that the Redeemer of the world necessarily would arrive through his bloodline. But he is Joseph the Silent, and he will remain a simple carpenter, unless God wills him to lay claim to that kingship. I see the anguish in his heart, for from a very early age he has taken a vow of perpetual virginity, and now, being the last of his line, how could this be accomplished? He continues working the wood, and prays that he is doing God’s will. I go back in time and reflect on his being sanctified in the womb. It is said with certainty by many saints that this was so, and surely if St. John the Baptist received this great grace, so much moreso would the spouse of Our Lady and the father of Our Lord merit this favor. I come back in time and see that he is absorbed in prayer in ascertaining God’s will concerning his vow. I feel a great desire to comfort him, but know I am lacking in giving him spiritual relief. Sensing my discomfort, he turns with smiling eyes and says, “Let’s go fishing”.
You may think this odd, but I need to relate to St. Joseph with activities that I am familiar with; so, we always go fishing. He walks to the back wall of his work hut and produces two exquisitely crafted fishing poles equipped with finely made reels and delicate but strong hooks. I marvel at the craftsmanship as I am reminded that he was not only a master carpenter, but also proficient in metal working. We amble from the village on a well worn path and I notice that he pays attention to all before him — the rocks, flowers, trees, birds and insects. He is studying God’s creation and occasionally he glances upward to give thanks for all the good Lord has provided in relieving us from our mundane tasks in order to provide us with material for our meditations. We arrive at the Jordan and begin fishing. In my meditation, I cannot bring myself to provide worms because I feel that attaching them to the hook will bring him pain; so, we just stand there tossing bait-less hooks into the water just listening to the sounds of the river. I feel he is relaxed and enjoying this unexpected excursion. We never catch any fish, but I never have experienced better fishing on this side of the meditation.
Our attention is diverted to human voices further along the river. There is a stone path crossing from shore to shore and the stones are placed just below the level of the water creating a means for villagers to transport their carts to the opposite bank. There are two women hauling a cart and as they reach the half way point, they do not notice that a section of the bridge has been damaged, and the cart suddenly dips precariously. They succeed after several minutes in righting the wagon, successfully reaching the opposite bank. I turn to St. Joseph, and knowing he is also a master stonemason, I suggest that we go into the river to repair the damaged part of the bridge. He readily agrees. I also am an accomplished stonemason so I feel comfortable in this task, and it is the first time I feel that I can offer him advice, maybe. We set about the work smoothly, quietly, efficiently and I am astonished to find that every rock he uses is the perfect fit — they seem to appear in his hands out of thin air; I don’t begrudge him the fact, for he is sinless, and my sins weigh me down much more than the rocks. We finish and step back to admire our handiwork and although we worked just on that damaged section, as I look along the entirety of the bridge, it now seems that all the rocks have become more aligned and smoother. I sense something else at play here and, as I look at St. Joseph, I notice a subtilely mischievous smile forming (yes mischievous; this is my meditation, and I like it that way), but I am pleased that these rocks sense the greatness of the man and likewise wish to please him.
It is time to return to the village. Evening is approaching and as we approach his humble home, I stop to bid him farewell. I thank him for a lovely day, and as always I say, “Thank you Joseph for allowing me to spend the day by your side”. And always he replies, “Just the day Russ, will you not spend the night?” I shake my head ashamedly, knowing that to spend the night with Joseph will require much praying, watching, fasting, and other penances he will use to subject his body and mind to the will of our God, and I am not man enough, yet, to pursue his example.
Perhaps one night I will spend with St. Joseph, and perhaps it will be so refreshing that my morning fog will disappear, but for now I will content myself to be with him during the day reflecting on my daily St. Joseph Rosary — the second mystery beckons.
(to be continued…)