One of my four brothers was named Joseph, whom we commonly called Joe. He is the one among us five boys who likes to stay on the farm and work rather than do public sorts of things. I learned many things from my brother Joe as we grew up: how to raise rabbits, pigeons, trap, hunt and so many things about nature, cows, pigs and other farm animals. He is a farmer and nature enthusiast who loves to live a very hidden, simple, faith-filled wholesome life as a farmer and hunter. And he is generous when it comes to helping the Church and others, along with his wife, Connie.
Joe was really a “chip off the old block” like my dad who is known for saying, “I will usher at church but never ask me to speak in front of people” and “I am much more comfortable with a pitchfork in my hands than a microphone.” My dad was very humble, had high morals, was gentle, kind, a hard worker, generous, had a wonderful sense of humor and was very serious about our Catholic faith. He reminds me so much of the wonderful qualities I would come to know of St. Joseph, the patron of the Universal Church, our diocese and our cathedral.
In the front pocket my dad’s bib overalls, he carried his “army rosary” which he would pull out once we got in the truck to transport cows or pigs to market, and we would pray the rosary going to and sometimes when returning from transporting the animals to the marketplace. Just as St. Joseph kept his wife, Mary, close, so too did my dad keep Mary close to his own heart and taught us boys to do the same.
In the Gospels we read that St. Joseph was a righteous believer and a humble carpenter. In many ways like him, my dad was a faith-filled farmer at heart who only went through eighth grade because he was needed on the farm, and he farmed all his life after taking the farm over from my grandpa. He lived and died on the farm.
One of my many profound memories of my dad was after he died at home and the mortician asked us five boys if we wanted to carry our father out to the entrance of the house. I was struck by how dad would have gently carried us many times into the house as little kids and how privileged we were to carry him out of the house for the last time to prepare him for his funeral Mass and burial. Oh how I look forward to seeing him again in heaven!
I wished I would have learned more about St. Joseph before I became bishop. It was really since being called to be bishop and learning that St. Joseph the Worker is the patron of our awesome diocese that my knowledge, love and reliance upon him grew. With St. Joseph’s accessibility as patron of the Catholic Church throughout the world, of our diocese and of St Joseph’s Cathedral, and since Pope Francis dedicated this year to St. Joseph, my relationship with him has skyrocketed. Thanks be to God.
He really is one of the great gifts of our awesome Catholic faith. So many saints throughout the centuries have themselves drawn close to “good St. Joseph” and in turn have been led by him closer to our Lord. The great 20th century martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe, said, “With the exception of our loving Mother, St. Joseph stands above all the saints.” In his apostolic letter declaring this Year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis wrote this about Jesus’ foster father: “Each of us can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
I hope in this month’s Bishop’s Bulletin you will enjoy our highlighting of St. Joseph, and he will become for all of us a great help in our spiritual growth. May the hidden life of St. Joseph become a profound witness to us of the power of prayer and all the Godly virtues: humility, charity, obedience to God, etc. May all boys and men resemble the Godly qualities of St. Joseph to love and serve God, serve all girls and women, and mentor other boys to be real men like St. Joseph—to lead, guide and protect others, leading us to the will of our heavenly Father, here on earth and toward heaven.