Being that I am not only a citizen of the United States but Ireland as well, those who know me best may expect a column about good Saint Patrick during this week of the “wearing of the green.” I have been playing music around the tri-state area for the month of March with my band, The Irish Mist (www.theirishmist.net), so I have certainly had my fill of corned beef, cabbage and Irish tunes. So as I sat down to write this article, I thought I would take this column in a different direction.
Lately, I have been renovating my attic. My dad is always a steady presence during my home-improvement projects. He offers not only his expertise but his spiritual advice as well. I seem to approach each project with the same attitude. I think to myself, “How soon can I finish this project?” My father quickly pulls me back to reality. He speaks with the patience of the true carpenter who knows the importance of planning and contemplating your next move.
I slapped on my goggles, facemask and gloves as I prepared to insulate the rafters of the attic. In the best of circumstances you can imagine how difficult it is to work with gear that obstructs your view. As I muttered under and over my breath, my father calmly reminded me that I should not allow my frustration to get the best of me. Even though the sagging insulation tried to prove the contrary, his voice became a prayer to this weary worker.
As my back ached and the years of dust in my attic consumed me, I couldn’t help but ponder the relationship of a master carpenter and his young son in Nazareth. The mature Joseph must have spent many days tutoring young Jesus in the carpenter’s shop. During the most frustrating times, Joseph would guide the apprentice. Joseph knew the pain of the splinters. He felt the cuts from the lack of concentration. He lived through the hottest days, when the midday sun scorched the back of his neck.
I am sure that Joseph used these quiet moments to teach his son some of life’s most important lessons. Joseph had no idea what lay ahead for Jesus, but he knew from experience that God had a special plan for him. The carpenter’s shop would provide the opportunity for unique father-and-son time. Because God had emptied Himself and took human form, the young Jesus thirsted for wisdom as every other young person. I am sure Jesus studied the face of his foster father as he practiced his craft. The solace of the master carpenter surely could have been on the mind of Jesus in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Saint Joseph played an important role in molding his young heart and mind. But like all teachers, we may never see the results of our best lessons.
With the Feast day of Saint Joseph in sight, we should remember that a good teacher takes advantage of every moment to enlighten his or her students. Even though we possess much more knowledge than our pupils, we must approach them as the carpenter takes each raw piece of wood in his hands. We, too, can build them into something beautiful to behold.
We have experienced the same frustrations that our students experience. We can demonstrate how to survive the most trying of times. Exhibit patience and love as your students make mistakes. Demonstrate the skill of the master carpenter with passion and grace. Anything worth building takes time to complete.
As we move through the final weeks of Lent, look to Saint Joseph not only as a craftsman of wood but as a teacher of the greatest teacher of all. You will be a true success when your students go beyond your highest expectations. Pray to Saint Joseph for wisdom and strength in your moments of frustration.
Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, please assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – Pray for me.