Lent 2024, Day 30: Happy St. Joseph’s Day.

Over dinner, my mum-in-law mentioned it’s St. Joseph’s Day, and in Trinidad, it’s a big enough day that Lent takes a little fast. I was surprised. Here in the States, and especially here in the NYC metro area, it’s all about St. Patrick around this time of year. I found an old article from the Trinidad Express that talks about the historical and cultural significance:

Early French Creole planters were known to have pictures and statues of Joseph mounted in strategic locations on their estates. Statues were mounted on hilltops overlooking the estate and pictures placed on the walls of estate factories.

Many churches in Trinidad and Tobago are dedicated to Joseph. Among them are Trinidad’s first Catholic Church at St Joseph, as well as Mon Repos, San Fernando; Cedros, Scarborough, Tobago; and Vance River, La Brea.

In addition, there are several secondary schools and convents dedicated to him and named after him.

Statues of Joseph played a key role during the era when large cacao and coffee estates were owned and managed by French Creole planters. The belief, according to a former estate overseer at Gran Couva, was “as patron saint of workers he protected them from harm, and his presence encouraged them to be productive”.

In Christian liturgy, St Joseph’s Day was set aside during the Lenten period for secular activities.

Parties, weddings and other social functions were allowed on that day. It was treated as a special church holiday.

On that day, the faithful took a break from fasting and abstinence as decreed by the Church. Over time, the observances relating to St Joseph’s Day changed as festivities of any kind were carried out throughout the Lenten period.

My devotion for today from Episcopal Relief was on St. Joseph:

Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety. Luke 2:48b

I’ve always felt a bit protective of St. Joseph. Carefully referred to as the guardian of Jesus— categorically not his father—Joseph strikes me as the quintessential third wheel.The Gospel of Luke describes this curious episode in Jesus’ early life when he goes missing for three days. When found in the temple, Mary tells her son, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” The Gospel writer uses this exchange to clarify who Jesus’ actual father is. Referring to the temple, Jesus tells his mother, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus makes an important point, yet I imagine Joseph standing awkwardly by, feeling both relief and perhaps somewhat slighted by the exchange.

Here’s what we know about Joseph’s relationship to Jesus: We know Joseph wasn’t absent. He was a loving and present guardian to Jesus. Further, we know Joseph didn’t shrug off the fact that his son went missing for three days. He didn’t return to work or go golfing with his buddies. Along with Mary, he was consumed with anxiety for the well-being of this child. In other words, he loved Jesus deeply. We also know Joseph helped to raise a moral and spiritual genius.

Something about the space that Joseph and Mary created together helped Jesus grow, flourish and live into his true identity.

Today’s readings
Psalm 89:1–29 or 89:1–4,26–29 2 Samuel 7:4,8–16 | Romans 4:13–18 | Luke 2:41–52

Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ father, but he was Jesus’ fatherly guardian. Give thanks for the parental guardians in your life who have helped you on your way.

On Thursday, it’ll be 9 years since Daddy’s death. And so, I give thanks for him, Joseph A. Flemming II.

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