Thursday, March 19, 2009
Feast of St. Joseph
So, right in the middle of Lent is the feast of St. Joseph. In years past, even after becoming Eastern Orthodox, I never much got into him. He's a quiet sort. Unobtrusive, but some of the saints I love were very devoted to him, such as St. Teresa of Avila.
I had this experience last year during Lent. I'll admit, I watched a LOT of EWTN at that time. It was half my catechism, for heaven's sake. So, at a certain point they're all talking about St. Joseph, and showing programs about him, and I think, "Wow." He really was pretty cool. But it was more of an afterthought than anything. I still didn't get it until the enemy of my soul began to buffet me with a sin he finds particular effective: obsessing with Joe.
Isn't that ironic? Joe's name is Joseph.
So, I get discouraged, and here comes the enemy dangling bright shiny Joe before me. I'll just say, for my fascination slash obsession with that man, he really did suck, and most of my experiences with him, from losing my virginity and more, well, they pretty much sucked, too. And still, the enemy returns with the same old lie, that if someone that beautiful and fabulous ever showed any interest in me, then I must be okay. And I need to keep him in my life to keep assuring me I'm okay. I do know how flawed this logic is, but I can't even tell you how often it returns, which just goes to show you. The enemy really doesn't haven't many new tricks. Frankly, he doesn't need many. We fall for the same dumb sins, again, and again.
Last year, the same old stinking thinking cropped up, and once again, Joe dazzled in my thoughts. I got pretty sick of Joe. Thinking of Joe. Wanting Joe's approval, and worse! Suddenly there appeared on my television Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I love him. I mean love him like I love Brennan Manning. Seriously. So, there's Fr. Benedict, and he's talking about Saint Joseph, and he says he's the patron saint of unrequited love. It was as if a light came on in my soul. I'm not ashamed to admit I asked for St. Joseph's intercession. I wanted to stop thinking about Joe. I was embarassed and discouraged that he plagued me so often.
Today's reading said, "When Jesus' mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her shame, decided to divorce her quietly... an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is throught the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her."
I needed someone to pray for me that was familiar with my kind of pain: unrequited love. Imagine what it was like to be in love with God Made Flesh's mom. It's like being in love with the Ark of the Covenant! Seriously. What better choice for me to ask for help than St. Joseph, the patron saint of unrequited love? Who happened to share Joe's name. Righteous Joseph wanted to hide Mary's shame. But lovies, Mary, in truth, had nothing to be ashamed of. I did. I'd given the gift meant for a man who loved an honored me, uniquely, as his wife, to Joe. I had a raging, deeply painful, emotional affair with him years later, and long after that was over he still haunted me.
Thank God for saints. The communion of saints are a gift for a reason. God knew we'd struggle, so he gave us a whole community of overcomers, both alive in the natural and alive in Christ, to help us. It's an act of extraordinary generosity. The Holy Spirit connects us all, and the saints still pray. They pray with all their experiences behind them.
You know what? I stopped thinking about Joe after that prayer. It was as if I inexplicably received a grace-drenched respite in my mind. It was no doing of my own, I assure you, and I thanked my heavenly friend, St. Joseph, and the Great and Good God who connects us, for the gift. I think of that experience when St. Joseph comes to mind. To me, it was a miracle.
Maybe you're stuck on somebody who is impossible. Or maybe your situation is dire. Imagine having to be the guy who is Jesus' other father. Imagine having to protect Him, love and guide Him, and keep His mom happy. Imagine the flight to Egypt, and Rachel's children's blood flowing while you hide your little one with the big destiny, with fear and trembling, daring not fail. Joseph had bad things happen. He can be trusted to pray for your bad thing.
If you having a time of it, it's okay to say to your friend in heaven, "Say a prayer for me." God really did give us each other. It's right there in the creed, "I believe in the communion of saints." You don't have to worry about God being mad at you. You are no more "praying to the saints" as you are praying to me when you ask for my prayers. I guarantee you'll find a friend in St. Joseph. And I think Jesus is kinda soft when it comes to His dad.
I really do.