Little is known about St Joseph, yet he embodies the whole attitude we should have to the trials and tribulations of life.
I’ve always loved St Joseph, foster-father of Jesus and protector of the Holy Family. Not only is he the patron of husbands, fathers and workers, but he is also the namesake-patron of my husband (Daniel Joseph) as well as my country’s (Canada’s) patron saint. As his feast was approaching this month, I remembered a time of particular need when our family felt the intercession and holy example of St Joseph sustaining us.
For the first 12 years of my husband’s agricultural research career, he worked a series of short-term private contracts. Being self-employed had some advantages, but it also made life stressful at times. Whenever his contract expiration dates drew near, the tension in our household increased. We were unable to buy a home; without the security of long-term employment, no bank would approve a mortgage.
Nevertheless, we were grateful for many blessings: Dan’s contracts always overlapped, so he never suffered a single day of unemployment. We had four healthy children, good friends, a comfortable rental home, a kind and generous landlord. We had also managed to purchase a small amount of land near Dan’s childhood home, a century-old homestead, where his brother now lived and farmed.
Dan also farmed part-time, not only to supplement his income, but also to ‘get back to the land.’ That his research job was 300km from the family farm complicated matters. During the busy farming seasons, he would be away for up to a week at a time. I could never decide which I liked less: being left alone with four small children, or packing up, travelling, and imposing on relatives. We prayed for a job and a home near the farm.
Near the end of yet another contract, a permanent position opened up at a research facility close to our farmland. Dan applied for the job, and we prayed a novena to St Joseph, requesting his help. No sooner had we completed the nine days of prayer, than Dan came home from work with good news. His boss had secured further research grants, and could guarantee Dan several more years of work. The question of the farm-commute remained unresolved but, at the very least, we now had enough security to buy a house. We felt God had answered our prayers.
The following weeks brought more news: Dan was offered the permanent job, but this thrill was soon doused by the cold reality that we now had just weeks to pack up our possessions, bid farewell to all we’d known for 12 years, and find a house in our new town. We continued to pray to St Joseph. Our faith was tested as we fruitlessly searched in a small and limited housing market. We found a home we liked, only to have our hopes crushed when the couple phoned back four days later to say they had changed their minds about selling.
I reminded myself: God is in charge. Don’t panic, just trust. There was the example of St Joseph to consider. How bewildered he was to discover Mary was with child, but he believed and trusted when God sent the dream-messenger. God saw Mary and Joseph safely to Bethlehem; God provided shelter for the birth of Jesus; He ensured his Son’s safety when Herod went on the rampage. It meant a detour to Egypt, but Joseph had learned that God’s ways are not our ways.
The next day, the couple called to say they had changed their minds yet again: we held our breath until the deal was finalised. Almost miraculously, they gave us possession two weeks later, which allowed us to be relatively settled before Dan started his new job. From the day we began our novena until the day we had a new job and a new home, less than two months had elapsed.
St Joseph continues to watch over us. Exploring the history of our area, I learned that our town was one of a cluster of communities comprising a German Catholic pioneer settlement called St Joseph’s Colony. There was once a Catholic parish in our village, but declining population caused the church to be closed in the mid 1980s. We now attend Mass in a neighbouring town. The old church sits across the street from our home, and I had often wondered who its patron saint had been. I was delighted, but somehow not surprised, to find that it was — who else — St Joseph.