Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
In the year 1906, in St. Joseph, Missouri, a railroad bridge was constructed to cross the Missouri River. This bridge is unique. This bridge is able to provide unlimited height to river traffic in both directions because a large section of it can pivot parallel with the river. This is accomplished by balancing the superstructure of the bridge on a single supportive pillar in the middle of the shipping lane.
I suggest that the role of St. Joseph, whom we celebrate today, can be symbolized by that supportive pillar of this historic bridge. Sometimes the traditional title of St. Joseph, the Foster Father of Jesus, reminds us of who Joseph is, but downplays what he was called to do. Like that supportive pillar, he was able to pivot in a quiet and unobtrusive way. Can you imagine the weight of disappointment, confusion, and sorrow he must have felt with the shock of Mary’s unexpected pregnancy? He bore the weight and moved with a steady pivot when assured by the message of the angel. Each time he had to change directions for the sake of Mary and the Christ Child, his strength of character came through. Think of the difficult trip to Bethlehem, the fearful trip to Egypt, the homecoming trip to Nazareth, the obligatory ritual trip to Jerusalem, and then the agonizing trip back to Jerusalem in search of their lost child.
Joseph, like the bridge pivot, anchors and provides rock-solid silent support from below. As in the Abbey Basilica icon, he stands in quiet dignity and absolute commitment as he holds the child Jesus on his arm close to his heart. How fortunate that the man who spoke no words of record can still stand in the midst of any and all human traffic today and proclaim the power of gentle goodness and faith.
1) What characteristic of St. Joseph speaks most strongly to you?
2) What characteristic of St. Joseph could change our social fabric today?
Reflection by Fr. Daniel Petsche, OSB