Saint Joseph, the worker!

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

I can work the petrol mower, change a plug and light-bulb, mend a bicycle puncture, and even replace a flat tyre on the car, but I prefer to error the side of caution when it comes to specialised jobs. Some years ago in a different chapter of life, I had a problem with a brake-drum. The vehicle would only move in reverse. With no breakdown services available I managed to get back to the mission and mechanics by actually reversing for six miles. The problem was fixed quickly by an experienced man with the right tools, but I had a sore neck for weeks.Just after Easter the boiler here at Bishop’s House ‘went on the blink’. The ‘Lockdown’ was on by this stage, and I had dark thoughts of being without heat/hot water for goodness knows how long. Fortunately, the weather was clement, and my use of hot water is ‘modest’ (A parishioner in one of the out-stations once commented politely, ‘Father, you wash like a pigeon!’); there was no great crisis, but deep down I knew it would need seeing to, and I accepted it was well beyond my ability. I needed help. I know my limits.Saint Joseph is a well known and much loved Saint, husband of our Blessed Lady, step-father to Jesus. He is described as a good and up-right man. He taught Our Lord the trade of a carpenter. Saint Joseph has become greatly loved because of his role as Guardian of the Holy Family, Patron of tradesmen and artisans, and the Saint we pray to for a happy death. Let’s turn to him. Let’s use his skills.There is nothing morbid in this. He reminds us that a ‘good’ death is something we can all experience once we approach it with an active faith-life.Details of Saint Joseph’s own death aren’t recorded in the Gospels, although a tradition has been passed to us that he was blessed to die with Jesus and Mary by his side.Mary would know how to grieve with faith and profound love, equipping her to carry grief for many years without it becoming a paralysing burden. She would now be a single parent. Jesus would become the ‘man of the house’. Life would be profoundly changed for them.In these days we are constantly told to ‘Save lives’, and to ‘Protect our professional health-carers (NHS)’. We are aware that even the most skilled professionals, even when properly equipped, do not succeed in all cases. Sadly, loved ones die, and many die in circumstances that are distressing especially for family and friends, neighbours and colleagues who are unable to be present at the end. A difficult experience is made worse, and we carry the wounded memory for life.Let us learn to turn to St.Joseph the Worker, just as we look for the services of skilled professionals in other aspects of life, asking him to teach us and train us and guide us. We can ‘learn the trade’ of living with faith right up to that point when we will not need faith, because we will see, we will know. Our Catholic community has a valuable insight to offer to society at this time; the gift of believing in a loving God who has overcome sin and the power of death, and wants to welcome us into Paradise.Efforts to preserve life here matter very much. It’s not a case of telling the bereaved, ‘Never mind, there’s always heaven’. God calls us to live our lives with care and compassion in the here-and-now. He gives us each other. But ultimately, He calls us beyond this, to share the ultimate Victory, the Fulness of Life found only in Christ.Captain Tom at the age of 100 has stunned us with his fund-raising achievement, but the best still lies ahead of him. This created world has much to offer, but it runs out, it lets us down. St.Joseph reminds us that our loving God has more, and it’s better, and it will last.The difference a living faith can make was shown to me by an elderly parishioner whose wife had died. He had loved her dearly for many years and was heart-broken when she died. He was a very sad man. One day he appeared in the sacristy and was a changed man. I wondered if he had met someone else, but he explained with joy what had caused his transformation. He told me, ‘Father, up to now, each day was taking me further away from Marie. But suddenly I have realised and believe that each day that passes is actually bringing me closer to the moment I will be with her again!’Then I understood that faith doesn’t just change death, it can change grief too.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I sleep and take my rest in peace with you.
Happy St.Joseph’s day!

As ever in Christ,


Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster