My journey with Saint Joseph
LAST March 19, the Catholic Church celebrated the feast of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. He is regarded as the patron saint of husbands and fathers. And as a husband and father myself, I relate to Saint Joseph as my patron saint.
My relationship with Saint Joseph, however, started even long before I became a husband and father. Although I was not named after him, I can claim just the same that my relationship and life’s journey with Saint Joseph started at birth! You see, I was born in a town named after Saint Joseph in the province of Nueva Ecija shortly after World War II broke out.
San Jose, my birthplace and hometown, a progressive city today but only a fledgling and sleepy town at that time, became the Nazareth, as it were, of my growing-up years. It was in San Jose’s parish church of Saint Joseph where I was baptized, learned the rudiments of Catholic catechism, received my first communion, and served at the Tridentine Latin Masses of old as an altar boy.
And so I grew up with Saint Joseph at my side. He has been a constant guide and companion in my life since then.
Saint Joseph in a way accompanied me during the early years of my formal education. I went to San Jose West Elementary School and later to the parochial Saint Joseph School for high school. During those years, however, Saint Joseph stayed in the background. He became an indirect influence in my life through my own father.
I consider my father as the Saint Joseph at that stage of my life. Like Saint Joseph, my father was a righteous, quiet and unassuming man. He rarely socialized and hardly spoke a word like Saint Joseph was portrayed in the Bible. He was a silent but powerful influence on me as he went about doing his job as a father, like Saint Joseph was to the young Jesus. My father also worked hard to provide for his family and instilled values on us his children by his constant example, like what Saint Joseph did for the child Jesus.
Saint Joseph continued to be more real as a person and saint to me when, at the young age of 16, I left home and went to the seminary after I graduated from high school. My education continued at the Jesuit-run seminary in Quezon City named, believe it or not, San Jose Seminary. At San Jose where I completed my AB in philosophy and humanities, my Jesuit teachers and mentors schooled me with Saint Joseph, the ultimate teacher of the young Jesus, as their inspiration.
It was just normal therefore, that as a seminarian and even later, as a young husband and father, I would always go to Saint Joseph to pray for guidance and direction. And to this day as I live through my waning years, I still consider Saint Joseph to be my faithful companion and protector.
I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when a priest-friend gifted me with an image of a sleeping Saint Joseph just a few days before his feast day last March 19.
I understand that the image has become popular among Filipino Catholics ever since Pope Francis mentioned it in one of his talks during his visit here in Manila last January. The good and amiable Pope disclosed that Saint Joseph is one among his favorite and most beloved saints. He said that he usually writes a “note” to Saint Joseph whenever he has a question or a problem and then leaves the paper under the image of the sleeping Saint Joseph on his desk.
At present, my sleeping Saint Joseph also lies on my working table to keep me company. I interpret this to mean that he has not abandoned me in my continuing life’s journey.
And speaking of a sleeping Saint Joseph. At present, I do volunteer work in our parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation here in Quezon City. Inside the parish church at the right side-altar is a huge, beautiful painting of Saint Joseph. And being a devotee of Saint Joseph, my interest has been stirred for sometime now due to the artist’s seemingly unusual presentation of the saint. Then, it suddenly dawned on me just recently that it is actually also a sleeping Saint Joseph similar to the one given to me! Except that this sleeping Saint Joseph is depicted with an angel telling him in his dream not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife—a scene described by Matthew in his gospel (Mt. 1:18-25).
This icon of the sleeping Saint Joseph in our parish church is also known as the patron saint of husbands and fathers. But, lately, a group of elderly parishioners have started claiming him to be the patron saint also of grandparents and senior citizens. They are the ones praying for a happy death, as Saint Joseph is traditionally known to have died in the company of Jesus and Mary.
I wholeheartedly agree as I am also a grandparent and a senior citizen now. And come to think of it, my journey with Saint Joseph has come full circle and may be about to end. I hope and pray that when death comes knocking at my door, it will also be a peaceful one, like Saint Joseph’s own death, with Jesus and Mary beside me. Thus, happily will my journey with Saint Joseph end.
Danilo G. Mendiola, a retired HR and admin practitioner, does volunteer work in his Quezon City parish as a pastoral counselor. He has four children and four grandchildren.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.