For the first time in one year – 52 weeks – I attended a real mass in Baguio last month, at St. Joseph Pacdal parish church in Baguio City. (Sheepishly, I confess that the day before, I had my first full-body massage, also in the Pines City, after 54 weeks. After all, body and soul are intimately, intricately connected, as most everyone knows).
The choice of a church named after St. Joseph, the Bible’s strong and silent foster father of Jesus who does not have the honor of a single quote attributed to him, was not deliberate, but a happy happenstance. As the Philippines celebrates the 500th year of her Christianization, so also the Philippine Church marks the Year of St. Joseph (2020-2021) as declared by Pope Francis last Dec. 8.
Women of a certain age pray to St. Joseph for a suitable husband, according to legend. I always thought that it’s because wives attribute a blissful wedded life to a husband whose principal role in life is to say, “Yes, dear.” On the other hand, women who have stopped counting their years pray to St. Joseph for a good death. Why this is so remains a semi-mystery as there are no written accounts of how Joseph died and when. The few times that he appears in the New Testament, he is with Mary when she gave birth to Jesus in a barn, when he and Mary find the boy Jesus lecturing to teachers, when he and Mary attend a wedding feast during which the host has run out of wine. In the temple or at the reception in Cana, Joseph does not utter a word, leaving it to Mary to scold their son in the temple and, years later, implore him to do something about the wine.
On a personal note, Pope Francis has on at least one occasion referred to St. Joseph as his problem solver, admitting that whenever he has a problem, he would write it down on a piece of paper and place the note under Joseph’s head. Kaboom! Overnight in Manila and everywhere, images of a Sleeping St. Joseph popped up in all sizes. Joseph the Laborer would be kept awake forevermore solving the world’s problems. Please banish the pandemic, St. Joe.