I like St. Joseph very much. He is a strong man of silence. On my desk I have a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church. Yes, he can do it! We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. This means please pray to St. Joseph for this problem.
— Pope Francis addressing Filipino families
EVER since the Holy Father told familes gathered at the Mall of Asia Arena on Day 2 of his January visit, about his statue of the Sleeping Saint Joseph, the icon of Jesus’s foster father dreaming has become probably the best-selling Catholic figurine in town. Devotees tell of placing notes about their problems under the statue at night and receiving solutions and guidance the days following, just like Pope Francis.
One 40-something marketing consultant with a wife and grown children was skeptical when he tried it out, then got three concerns resolved in ways better than he imagined. Also doubting, his wife had her own scribbled issues addressed, joining the growing ranks of Sleeping Saint Joseph believers.
Many of the faithful see heavenly intervention in these events, and that certainly is part of the story. Still, God may be conveying more than just sleeping on our problems and praying for solutions.
Besides faith and hope in the Lord’s guidance and grace, the Sleeping Saint Joseph extols unsung patience and perseverance in one’s strivings for goodness, even when God seems silent or absent in the face of difficulties and debacles. And that is the proven path to eventually solving our problems and advancing our work of building the Kingdom of God in our lives and our world.
Needless to say, there is much distress, dysfunction, and destruction in the world, part of being created and therefore not perfect like the Creator. In this fallen state, striving for the goodness, truth and love of our Father in heaven will necessarily take forever and demand immense effort and sacrifice. All of human history attests to this eternal truth.
So the quiet struggles of the carpenter-father of Nazareth is exactly what humanity needs to move forward in anything, especially the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth. His work will take time, not to mention blood, sweat and tears.
That was certainly much extolled last month with the centennial celebrations of the Oblates fo St. Joseph, an Italy-based religious order founded by St. Joseph Marello. The OSJ first set foot in the Philippines on August 26, 1915, invited by Lipa’s first bishop, Italian Monsignor Giuseppe Petrelli.
The first group of five Italian priests took charge of San Jose, Cuenca, Rosario, Ibaan, Taysan, Lobo, and Alitagtag parishes in Batangas. Since then, the OSJ in the Philippines has grown to a nationwide congregation of 115 priests and brothers, and some 140 other OSJ members at various stages of religious instruction.
Elevated to its own province or organizational unit under the OSJ in Rome, the congregation serves in 10 dioceses in the country, plus parishes in Italy, Australia, Brazila and the United States. The order has also established training facilities and built many churches, including Santuario de San Jose in Greenhills.
Of course, a century of achievement did not come without perspiration and perseverance. A couple of Italian priests served for six decades, including indefatigable church builder Fr. Guido Colleti, who spearheaded the construction of Santuario. And two missionaries in Batangas were martyred during World War II: Fr. Vincenzo Prandi in Cuenca and Fr. Antonio Franchini in Padre Garcia.
So the building of God’s Kingdom demands that those who serve His will be willing not only to work and sacrifice, but to wait, just like Saint Joseph and the Oblates who, like him, work for “the interest of Jesus”. For if it is truly His work, then it will be done in His time. Amen.