St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni, c. 1635. Photo from Wikipedia

Sr. Helena Burns: St. Joseph: Provider for those in need

  • May 26, 2021

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St. Joseph: Provider for those in need

Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

Seeing as this is the wonderful year of the wonderful St. Joseph, I shall diverge from my usually grim cultural commentary and instead celebrate the greatest saint in Heaven after Our Lady!

Rather than outline the life of Joseph the just, holy, righteous man of action, I’m going to recount for you some amazing events he has done in my life and the life of the Daughters of St. Paul. You see, nuns don’t have a man around the house, so we always turn to St. Joseph — the protector and provider for the Holy Family — in all our needs. In fact, we have St. Joseph statues around our convents under which we slip little pieces of paper with our requests on them. Even better, we stick the object we’re in need of at the foot of the statue. However, be it known that St. Joseph is a very, very specific and precise guy (hey, he was a carpenter!) with a great sense of humour.

Once, at the Mother House where we have our publishing house, we were running out of ink for the presses. We took an old can of ink and placed it at St. Joe’s feet. Within a week, we got a donation of a truckful of dusty cans of old ink. Another time, the variety of donated bread dried up and we only received huge quantities of pita bread and no other kind. A sister discovered that a piece of pita bread had fallen down behind the statue in the kitchen. Once removed, an assortment resumed. The same happened with flower donations for the chapel. We began only receiving spider chrysanthemums (generally agreed upon by all the nuns to be brutally ugly) and no other kind of flower. Turns out a sneaky sister knew how St. Joseph works and kept a spider mum (her favourite bloom) in front of a likeness of St. Joseph in an out-of-the-way location in our hallowed halls.

The Little Sisters of the Poor recount that when they needed a handyman, they put a little statue of St. Joseph (with a missing arm) in a place of honour. Not long after, a one-armed carpenter showed up at their front door asking if they needed any help.

In a more serious vein, during the earlier days of the pandemic, some of the Mother House’s food sources failed and we no longer got any bread donated. (There are 75 sisters there!) Mother Superior announced at lunch that we had some flour left, so we’d have to begin making bread every day till the flour ran out. The very next day, St. Joseph provided so much organic, artisanal, whole-grain, sourdough, seven-grain, rye, brioche, French, Italian loaves, buns, rolls — and even offerings for the gluten-free among us — that the bread freezer was overflowing and we had to apportion the rest out to soup kitchens and others in need. And the husband of Mary has kept providing the same till this day.

St. Joseph is popularly invoked — even by non-Christians — when looking to sell or buy a home. In one of our locations in North America, we were in danger of losing our long-held Pauline bookstore property … because it was in a choice location. Two weeks before we almost lost it for good, a man named Joe walked through our front door and resolved the entire decades-long struggle.

There is a popular fad right now of the “Sleeping Joseph” statue (symbolizing God providing — therefore we should be as trusting of God as the “Sleeping Joseph”). I’m sorry. Not my style. My favourite image of Joseph is a statue I have of him very much awake with his carpenter’s axe at the ready thankyouverymuch.

Although St. Joseph is patron of the Universal Church, workers, immigrants and refugees, fathers, families, pro-life, the dying and several countries such as Canada, he is also an omni-patron. Many saints have confirmed this, saying that in Heaven, Jesus still chooses to “obey” His stepfather and grant whatever He asks. If you pray the Litany of St. Joseph, you’ll find him invoked under a multiplicity of titles: “Terror of demons,” “Solace of the wretched,” and even “Hope of the sick.”

When I was very ill recently, my superior told me to pray to St. Joseph (which I had never done before for sickness). I used St. Joseph’s oil from Montreal and eventually pulled through with flying colours. (I now owe him a visit at his Oratoire!) Never doubt the goodness and influence of the Guardian of the Redeemer!

(Sr. Helena, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA.  Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

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