While St Joseph might be seen as a quietly achieving saint, he is the perfect saint to turn to during our struggles in lockdown.
That was the message that Sr Sophie Boffa csfn told participants in the Diocese of Parramatta’s ‘BE MET’ Night last night.
Sr Sophie, a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth, who has a PhD in Art History, explored how some of the feelings we are experiencing during lockdown are reflected in the life of St Joseph.
The fears, doubts and isolation we feel in lockdown, Sr Sophie said, were also felt by St Joseph around the time of the Annunciation.
“Joseph was faced with a very difficult decision of trying to reconcile his faithfulness to the law with his love for this other person [in Mary]. He chooses to separate from Mary quietly, and this shows that he is clearly afraid and unsure of what to do, but he is also facing a reality that is beyond his control,” Sr Sophie explained.
“There are so many things that are beyond our control [at the moment], and we might seem like we don’t know what’s next, and we’re very anxious or fearful, we’re experiencing that isolation. But, like Joseph, we still have that chance to be loving and to be kind, to make choices out of love and goodness, even in the midst of our uncertainties, and I think he can really help us to see that that’s actually the best way forward.”
Exploring the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, Sr Sophie explained that in lockdown, we are also entering the unknown, not knowing where things will lead us.
“Like Joseph, we are also journeying in some ways in the darkness, and it’s scary. But Joseph gives us this great example of being able to follow God’s guidance, God’s messages, God’s inspiration, God’s assurance that everything will be ok, into the darkness and into the unknown spaces of our lives,” she said.
Finding Jesus in the Temple after being separated from his family shows how, like St Joseph, we can be creative and proactive in a crisis, according to Sr Sophie.
“We might be feeling a sense of crisis…and like Joseph, we might feel that things are sort of lost or in crisis, but he shows us how we can be creative and proactive in a crisis, and to persevere with courage, even when things seem really overwhelming.”
Sr Sophie ended her talk by focussing on hope, making reference to Gari Melchers’ artwork, The Nativity.
The artwork depicts an exhausted Mother Mary resting after giving birth, with Joseph looking over Baby Jesus and contemplating what has happened.
“It’s really tempting for us to be weighed down right now by what’s happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow, but all we have, really, is this one day, this one moment that we are in right now, to respond with as much love and trust as possible.
“What Joseph did, and what he really learnt to do from the moment that he saw this little baby, he learnt to live with that hope and that trust. He teaches us to do that too.
“I hope that even in this time of fear and doubt and isolation and unknowns and crises, you can feel that hope rising above all that, and you can find those little moments of hope in your every day.”
Members of the audience were then encouraged to share their own connections with St Joseph.
Karin Abrams, Coordinator Marriage Education Support and Enrichment, told the group that she took to heart something that St Theresa said, which was, “I would go to St Joseph with my prayers, and he never failed me.”
Participant Michael explained how his grandparents also turned to St Joseph in prayer when they were having difficulties with childbearing. They spoke to their parish priest, who encouraged them to pray to St Joseph as the patron saint of the family, and following their devotional prayers, they were able to welcome seven healthy children.
Participant Adrian explained that he sees St Joseph as a quiet achiever, and in describing the variety of areas he is a patron to, said, “St Joseph is a patron saint of us all.”
The ‘BE MET’ Night was hosted as part of the Diocese of Parramatta’s HOME Ground initiative.
We are happy to announce that our HOME Ground program, which brings people together online during lockdown, has been extended until 17 September.
Next week’s programming includes a scripture evening hosted by friend of the Diocese, Dr Laurie Woods, a family-friendly edition of Worship Wednesday and a youth-led Trivia evening.
Visit parracatholic.org/homeground for our updated schedule and how you can get involved.