Saint Joseph: Hard Worker; Faithful Father; Loving Spouse

Saint Joseph in the Bible

Saint Joseph is not mentioned very often in the Bible.  He is remembered as the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus.

Saint Joseph is the foster-father of Jesus because God is Jesus’ real father.  Joseph was a poor, humble carpenter who lived in Nazareth.  He was a decedent of King David.  Mary and Joseph were engaged but when Joseph found out that Mary was going to have a baby, he decided to divorce her without making a big deal so Mary would not get in trouble.  That night, Joseph had a dream and the angel told him that Mary’s child was the Son of God and that he should not be afraid.

From the Bible we know that Saint Joseph was a carpenter and that he was very compassionate, caring, gentle, and obedient.  He had another dream after Jesus was born telling him to escape to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill Jesus.  Whatever God commanded – Joseph obeyed.  He took good care of Mary and Jesus and he was a hard worker.

Many historians believe that Joseph died before Jesus entered his public ministry.  He is remembered as a simple man and in the Bible he does not say a word.

Saint Joseph’s Altar

At one time there was a famine in Sicily and the people prayed to Saint Joseph to end the famine.  After the end of the famine, the people thanked Saint Joseph for his intercession.  They filled a table with food and after praying to Saint Joseph, the food is then given to the poor.  The table is arranged in three tiers, representing the Holy Trinity and a statue of Saint Joseph is placed in the center of what is known as Saint Joseph’s Altar.  This tradition is still popular today every year around March 19, Saint Joseph’s feast day.

A Father to Us All

March 19 is the feast of Joseph Husband of Mary.  In addition, May 1 is the feast of Joseph the Worker.  Pope Pius XII instituted the feast on May 1 in 1955.  May 1 is also May Day or International Workers’ Day.

Saint Joseph is the patron of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, workers, carpenters, expectant mothers, families, house sellers, and craftsmen.  He is also the patron saint of a happy death and of the dying because he supposedly died with Jesus and Mary beside him which is something we all wish for.

Prayer to Saint Joseph

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, do 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 us.

“Saint Joseph, pray for me – that I may live my life with Jesus as you did.  Saint Joseph pray for me – that at the hour of my death He may hold me.”

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

Adam and Eve: Our First Parents

In the Beginning

The six days of creation and the one day of rest are no secret.  The first pages of the Bible contain the creation story and the origin of all that exists.  On the sixth day of creation, God created Adam and Eve – our first parents – the first people ever to exist.  Genesis 1: 26-27  recounts:

Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….”  God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.”

Two Commands

Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, free from sin but still possessing free will.  God gave them two commands.  The first is mentioned in Genesis 1: 28: “Be fertile and multiple; fill the earth and subdue it.”  The second can be found in Genesis 2: 17: “From [the tree of knowledge of good and evil] you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”  Those two requests sound simple and easy to follow.  There were many other trees in the garden and Adam and Eve were so close to God!

One Temptation

One day, Satan disguised himself as a snake and hid in the Tree of Knowledge.  He tempted Eve and told her that if she and Adam ate the fruit in the tree they would become equal to God.  He lied and told her that God had forbidden them from eating the fruit only because He knew they would become like Him.  Eve decided that the fruit looked good and would give her wisdom.  She ate the fruit and Adam did also.  After their disobedience, sin entered the world and Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden.

Everlasting Consequences

Ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, mankind has suffered the consequences of sin, suffering, and death.  Sin has been passed down generation to generation and the gates of Heaven were closed until God sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem the whole human race.

Adam and Eve are the father and mother of all the living.  We may be tempted to be angry with our first parents for sinning.  However, it is helpful to call to mind that it was their sin that gave us Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer!

In the words of the Exsultet, proclaimed at Easter:

O happy fault, that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!


Rahab: A Courageous Woman of Faith

Two Spies Set Out

After Moses died, Joshua led the people of Israel in their journey to the Promised Land.  Joshua sent two spies to explore the city of Jericho and learn what they could.  The two spies entered the city and stayed at a public inn.  This inn was run by a woman named Rahab,  who was not a very good woman.  The the spies’ visit, however, changed her life.

The king of Jericho found out about the spies.  However, when he ordered Rahab not to house them she hid the two men on the roof and told the king that they had already left.

Rahab’s Faith

Rahab told the men that she knew God had given the Israelites the land of Jericho.  She talked about the great deeds God had worked for the Israelites and asked that her family be spared when the Israelites conquered the city.  The two men agreed to her request because of the assistance she gave them.

At night, the two spies escaped from Jericho.  Rahab told them to go into the hills and hide for three days and then to go back to the Israelite camp.  They told her to tie a red cord in her window so that when they conquered the city, they would see the red cord and spare her family.

Promises Fulfilled

After the Israelites conquered Jericho, the two spies brought Rahab and her family outside of the city before it was destroyed because she kept her promise to the spies and helped them escape.  Because of this the two men also kept their promise and spared her family.

The red cord in the window saved Rahab’s family from destruction.  This can represent the Blood of Christ that saves us from our sins.

Everlasting Mercy

Rahab is remembered for her faith, courage, and kindness to the two spies.  In Hebrews 11:31 it is written,

“By faith Rahab…did not perish with the disobedient, for she received the spies in peace.”

And again, in James 2: 25,

“…was not Rahab…also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route?”

James emphasizes that “faith without works is dead.”  We must put our faith into action no matter what the price may be.  The story of Rahab should teach us that no person is ever too bad for God’s Mercy.  When we think of this story, let us remember the shepherd of all souls – Jesus – who searches for the lost in order to make known to them the gift of His Everlasting Mercy.

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”   J.R.R. Tolkien

Ruth: A Beautiful Love Story

A Story Begins in Moab

Once, there was a great famine that caused Naomi and her family to move from Bethlehem to Moab.  Over time, Naomi’s two sons married Moabite women.  After about ten years, Naomi’s husband and two sons died.  Eventually, Naomi decided to move back to Bethlehem since the famine had ended.  She told her son’s widows, Orpah and Ruth, to go back to their own people.  Orpah eventually listened to Naomi, but Ruth would not leave.

“…wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Wherever you die I will die, and there be buried.”

Ruth Meets Boaz

When they arrived in Bethlehem at harvest time, Ruth went to gather left-over barley from a nearby field.  This field, providentially, belonged to Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s husband.  Boaz heard about Ruth and her dedication to Naomi.  Moved by her kindness and dedication, he told her to gather barley only from his field and offered her his protection.  Boaz was a generous man and the two women did not go hungry.

“Matchmaker Make Me a Match!”

Naomi told Ruth that Boaz was one of their closest relatives.  Traditionally, if a man died childless, his closest relative would marry the widow to hopefully produce an heir.  At the end of the harvest, Ruth, at Naomi’s request, told Boaz that he was her next of kin and asked for his protection.  Boaz promised to marry her if a man who was an even closer relative of Naomi’s refused.

What Happened After

Boaz did marry Ruth and they had a son named Obed.  In the gospel of Matthew it is written,

“…Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab.  Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother Ruth.  Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king.”

Every story in the Bible is connected somehow to the great plan of salvation.  Two simple women – Rahab of Jericho (the mother of Boaz), and Ruth the Moabite (King David’s great-grandmother), both became important parts of Jesus’ family tree.

This story should remind us that God uses every little event and every person to work things towards the good.

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, nor for woe!  Plans to give you a future full of hope.” 

Jeremiah 29: 11

Saint John the Baptist: A Voice in the Wilderness

The Birth of John the Baptist

The story of Saint John the Baptist is dispersed throughout the Bible and is intimately connected with the story of Jesus.

There was a priest named Zechariah who married Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary.  Zechariah and Elizabeth were very old and wanted children but could not have any.  One day, Zechariah was in the temple when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him saying:

Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John….  He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will go before him…to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”  (Luke 1: 13-17)

Zechariah doubted and so Gabriel declared that he would not be able to speak until the baby was born.  When Gabriel visited Mary, after he told her she was going to be Jesus’ mother, he told her Elizabeth was also going to have a baby.  Mary went to visit her and when she first arrived, John was so excited he leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb.  Mary was there when Elizabeth had the baby and all of the relatives wanted to name the baby Zechariah.  Eventually, Zechariah was asked to write down what the child’s name should be.  He wrote, “John is his name.”  And then he could speak again!

Zechariah then praised God through The Canticle of Zechariah.  This is part of it:

 “And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins….”  (Luke 1, 76-77)

The Life of John the Baptist

The prophet Isaiah spoke of John the Baptist when he said,

“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!  Make straight a highway for out God!”  (Isaiah 40: 3)

Even the prophet Malachi mentioned:

“Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me….”  (Malachi 3:1)

John was Jesus’ second-cousin but he was also Jesus’ herald.  When he grew up, he lived in the desert and ate locusts and honey.  John told people to repent because they should prepare their hearts for Jesus’ coming.  When people thought he was the Messiah John told them,

“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.”  (Luke 3:16)

Before Jesus entered into His public ministry he came to John to be baptized and it was at His baptism that God said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

The Death of John the Baptist

Eventually, Herodias, the wife of King Herod, had John imprisoned because she was not happy with his teaching.  One day, at King Herod’s birthday party, Herodias’ daughter performed a wonderful dance and he offered her any prize she wanted.  She asked her mother who demanded the head of John the Baptist.

It was in this way, that John the Baptist, the final prophet, also became a martyr.

Jesus said of John the Baptist,

I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….  Luke 7: 28

A Man with Two Feast Days

There are three people in the Catholic Church who have feast days for both their birth and their death: Jesus (Christmas and Good Friday); Mary (September 8 is her birthday and August 15 is her Assumption); and finally, John the Baptist.  The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated on June 24.  The Passion of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated on August 29.

The Legacy of Saint John the Baptist

The life and death of Saint John the Baptist should remind us that our whole lives should be dedicated to preparing the way for Jesus in our hearts and in the world around us.

The final witness of John the Baptist is one we should all take to heart and remember often:

“He must increase; I must decrease.”  (John 3:30)

Jesse Tree: A Beautiful Advent Tradition

Jesse Tree: What’s in a Name?

The Jesse Tree is an old Advent tradition and one that has its roots (pun intended) in scripture and tradition.  The Jesse Tree is named after Jesse, the father of David, the great, Jewish king from the Old Testament.

There was an ancient, but well-known Jewish prophesy that is found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 11, verses 1-2:

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”

We are most likely all familiar with this passage, but it might be a little hard to understand why Jesse is being compared to a stump.

There is a footnote in the New American Bible that explains how after the reign of King David and after the Babylonian exile, only a remnant of the line of Jesse remained.  It was from this remnant that Jesus came, from the house of David – “a shoot…from the stump of Jesse.”

Shoots or sprouts are signs of new life and hope.  Jesus, as the descendant of David, and of Jesse, represents the new sprout – the new hope – the source of salvation.

What is a Jesse Tree?

The concept of a Jesse Tree is similar to that of a family tree.  It traces the story of salvation from creation until the Birth of Christ.  The Jesse Tree originated in the medieval period.  Originally, the focus was placed solely on the people involved.  More recent versions focus on prophecies, events, and people leading up until the time of Christ.  In a sense, it is a way for us to join the ancestors of Jesus in waiting and expectation of His coming.

The Jesse Tree and Advent

Advent is a time of expectation and preparation.  It is a time to remember not only the first coming of Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem, but also to look forward to His second coming.  The season of Advent allows us to prepare our hearts in a special way for Christmas – the Birth of Christ – the Birth of our salvation!  A man by the name of Henri Nouwen said,

“Waiting is a period of learning.  The longer we wait, the more we learn about Him for whom we are waiting for.”

There is no better way to prepare room for Jesus in our hearts than by closely praying with and focusing on the great events leading up to our salvation.  Looking at the whole Old Testament with its 46 books can be a little overwhelming to say the least.  The Jesse Tree helps to break it down into bite-size pieces perfect for children, families, and all individuals.  The Jesse Tree can also serve as a kind of Advent Calendar. This year we  are especially excited about our new magnetic Jesse Tree!

The First Jesse Trees

The first Jesse Trees appeared in art most likely during the medieval times.  They began as tapestries, carvings, and stained glass windows in churches so that people who were illiterate could still have a chance to “read” the Bible and learn about the events leading up to the Birth of Christ.

The Jesse Tree designs showed Jesus’ connection with Jesse and other important Biblical figures.  A tree grew out of Jesse and on its branches were pictures of other ancestors of Jesus.  The tree would then culminate with the figures of Jesus and Mary.  The Cathedral of Chartres, in France, dating back to 1260, has a particularly famous and beautiful Jesse Tree stained glass window.

Why Use a Jesse Tree?

Advent is a time of joyful expectation.  Using a Jesse Tree can help place the focus on the amazing faithfulness of God, our Father and Savior.  The Jesse Tree encompasses over 4,000 years of history.  The true faithfulness and love of God are seen in that rich history.  He has kept the promise He made to Abraham and to every generation since then – to be present and faithful.  God is here with us still and He always will be.

In the words of the “O Antiphon” for December 19:

“O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!”