Category Archives: St. Joseph

Five Things to Think of from St Joseph’s Perspective

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Within the Christmas narrative I am always drawn to how Good St. Joseph must have felt with the responsibility of  caring for and protecting his immediate family, the Blessed Virgin and The Son of God.  As a man, I try to imagine having to confront what Joseph confronted as a  husband and new father. It makes me a bit sick to my stomach imagining myself in his sandals. 
Here are five moments I like to consider: 

St. Joseph, thank you and please pray for all of us.

There is a Crisis of “Fatherless” Children in America; We Should Turn to St. Joseph for Help

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME 

By Larry Peterson

September 8 was the birthday of our heavenly mom, Mary. On her birthday I also always think of Mother Mary’s husband, St. Joseph.  Without him there would be no birthdays to celebrate, either on September 8 or December 25. When God chose Joseph of Nazareth to be the foster-father of His only Son, He certainly knew what He was doing.

I call St. Joseph the “Shadow Saint”. That is because so little is known about him. He never spoke a word that was recorded. He never wrote anything that was saved on parchment.  It does not matter. This young man, a “righteous Jew” true to the law, was confronted with being engaged to a woman pregnant with someone else’s child. The reality was a terrible thing for him to bear.

But Joseph, who was only about 19, was a man of faith and God was with him. The penalty for his betrothed could have been death by stoning. Joseph would have none of that. His Mary would not be harmed. He loved her. So he took her in and married her. The child she carried would be his.

St. Joseph’s example of selflessness is something that needs to be talked about with admiration, respect and pride. It might be used as a guide for so many who have, in this secular driven world, fathered children and then abandoned them. 

There is a crisis of “fatherless” children in America. Next to the disrespect and disregard for unborn life, this could be the most dangerous threat to our society. “Fatherlessness” is an ongoing tragedy that can find its roots planted when Roe vs. Wade was passed in 1973. When the destruction of human life was “legalized” the downward spiral of respect for life followed.


There is a “father factor”  involved in virtually all aspects of American life today. Yes, many homes still have fathers but many children live in homes with absentee fathers and the societal effects are felt all across the spectrum of American life.

Statistics show that in fatherless homes poverty is 4X  higher than average, teen pregnancy increases by a multiple of seven (7), abuse and neglect are much more widespread and drug use is more 

You tube.com

prevalent. The list goes on and on.


St. Joseph could be used as a shining example for all men to emulate. He was poor, he was chaste and he respected women, especially his teenaged bride.  He was a man of faith and stayed true to the laws of God and man. Foremost in his life was his faith in God. This was his strength. This is what fortified him. This is what is missing in so many lives today.

Joseph of Nazareth is an example of how one should respect the law. We could explain to young people how he had to put his teenaged and pregnant wife on the back of a donkey and then walk over rocky, dusty roads for over 80 miles, a journey that probably took three days. And why did he do this? He did this because he was required to go to Bethlehem for the census. It was the law.

The story of young Joseph, taking his teenaged wife and baby boy, and escaping Bethlehem because King Herod wanted to kill his son, Jesus, would make any young person’s pulse amp up. The poor guy’s child was being hunted by Herod’s soldiers. His wife was recovering from child birth. He had to make it to Egypt. And he did…for his family. This is what a REAL man would do, or at least try to.

Joseph did whatever he had to do to take care of his wife and son. He worked hard to keep a roof over their heads, to feed them, clothe them, and protect them. He did not care about himself. His family came first, no matter what. He would have gladly died for them if necessary. He was a real MAN. His sacrifice and efforts for his wife and son allowed them to survive so that the salvific narrative would be fulfilled. We owe him so much.

His faith, courage, integrity and love of God resonate like the smashing of cymbals and the banging of drums for all of us to listen to. We need to follow his example. We need to celebrate his life. We need to honor his commitment to his responsibilities. We should cherish his devotion to family.

I realize the possibility of teaching about this quiet hero in public schools might be a ‘pipe dream’ but  I would hope Catholic schools would use him as an example for students to look up to and respect as a role model for what a husband and dad should try to be like.
St. Joseph, two thousand years after his death, is still the finest role model for, not only husbands and fathers, but for all men for all time.

                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

Krakow: The Pope and the Holocaust; I Am Proudly & Humbly Connected to Both*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Mom died from leukemia way back in 1961. She had just turned 40 and, at the time, there were no cures, no chemo and no bone-marrow transplants. She was dead within six months of diagnosis.

We lived in the Bronx in a five floor walk-up. Grandma lived up on the fifth floor and we were down on the third.  Grandma gave up her apartment and moved in with us downstairs. I guess it was to help take care of the “little ones”; I was 15, Carolyn was 13, Danny was 11, Bobby was six and Johnny was two). But, it was not a good thing. Grandma hated dad because, for some bizarre reason, she decided he had killed her daughter and let him know it every chance she had.
I have no explanation for this nor will I ever. None of us do. Hey, we were kids, what did we know. Grandma’s grief was so intense that Dad could not handle it. It was just the way it was. Dad solved the problem by avoiding Grandma as much as possible. He just began hanging out in the local saloons which actually gave Grandma a real reason to yell at him.

On March 8, 1963, Grandma had a massive stroke. I saw her standing seemingly twisted in a body spasm and managed to drag her to the bed. I held her in my arms as she summoned the strength to say an Act of Contrition.  Looking me dead in the eye, she slowly slurred each word. Then we said an “Our Father” together. I was crying like a baby and so were my sister and brother, Danny. Dad was in the other room with Bobby and Johnny, waiting for the priest to show up. He was not crying.

When we finished praying she closed her eyes and became comatose. Father Quirk arrived and administered Last Rites. She died a few hours later in the hospital. That moment is etched forever in my brain’s “like it just happened” memory section.

What does Krakow and World Youth day have to do with all of that? Well, the first question that must be asked is, who was Grandma’s husband, our Grandpa? We were kids and had never asked. We never thought about it. That’s what kids do—take things for granted.

But then Mom was gone and Grandma was gone and Dad was drinking heavily. He died two years later. We had never gotten to the point of asking, “Hey, where is Grandpa?” Just like that it was too late. As adults we never found out—until four years ago. And now, with the Pope going to Krakow, Grandpa is in the forefront of my mind.  Krakow was Grandpa’s hometown.

Forced deportation from the Krakow ghetto, 1942   wikipediacommons
Our Mom had a brother, my namesake, Uncle Larry. He had been in the 8th Army Air-Force during World War II and his plane had been shot down on a bombing mission. He survived the war as a POW in the infamous Stalag 17. One time I asked him about his dad. He told me, “He died.” He never said another word.  That was that. Then we grew up, our folks were gone, and we lost contact as we began our own individual lives.

About four years ago I received a message on Facebook (kudos to Facebook) by none other than my long lost cousin, Vicki, Uncle Larry’s oldest. She had been on a “quest” and located me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected. Now, to the point of this essay.

What follows may seem implausible but it is true and we have the documentation to confirm it. Vicki had been wondering about the missing Grandpa too. Her dad told her the same thing he had told me. Now he was gone. But she never stopped wondering and began a journey into the world of genealogy.  Lo and behold, she unraveled the mystery of the missing Grandpa.

Our grandma was an immigrant from Austria. A devout Catholic who never missed Mass, she married a man by the name of Isidore Schul. This was our grandfather. He was a Hebrew man from Krakow. Our maternal grandfather was Jewish. Shocker of shockers, the immigration papers and naturalization papers all confirm this. He made it to America in 1907.

We cannot understa
nd how these two unlikely people connected, got married and had two children, one of them our own mother. But it was so and that mystery will never be unraveled. We dubbed our long, lost, mysterious grandfather, Grandpa Irv. He and grandma split up when Mom and Uncle Larry were young children. Grandpa Irv died in the Bronx in 1965. We will never know more than I revealed here.

But here is the thing. Cradle Catholics, we are also 25% Jewish. Grandpa Irv was the only one of his family to get to America. His parent’s names were Simon and Regina Schul. Simon and Regina are our great-grandparents. We do not know if they died in the Holocaust or before it began but apparently, from what Vicki discovered, Grandpa Irv’s siblings did. Probably in Ravensbruck but it might have been Auschwitz.

For me, personally, I am humbled by this connection. Jesus, the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, their  relatives, St. Ann, St. Joachim, and the apostles etc. were all Jewish. They were also the first Catholics. And today, as I write this, Pope Francis is in Krakow, Grandpa Irv’s hometown. I feel connected to it all and the Holocaust has a whole new meaning for me. It is all part of my heritage. My “own people” were killed there.  SHALOM

*This article also appeared in Aleteia. org on July 28,2016

                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

Meet a REAL Man; Joseph of Nazareth (Feast Day, March 19)

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I call Joseph of Nazareth the “Shadow Saint” because so little is known about him. There is not even one spoken word he ever said that was recorded.  But his quiet life resonated like huge cymbals being smashed together over the ages and into our very 21st century existence. For it was Joseph of Nazareth who saved the Son of God so he could live to save all of us.
 God sent His Son to us because without His perfect sacrifice we would have been lost forever. All humankind contributed to the death of Jesus Christ. He suffered and died for us  because the love of God is so unfathomable it was the only way to give us all a second chance to grab onto the brass ring of Eternal Salvation. But without Joseph maybe the brass ring would not have been.
Joseph of Nazareth and his boy, Jesus Christ
The ONLY man who could ever call him “my boy”
Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, was obviously humble and egoless and gave of himself. He was a real MAN.  And it was this man, this quiet, shadow saint who single handedly saved the life of our Savior from being put to death while He was still an infant. Imagine if he had not been able to accomplish this.
As a man, I try to imagine having to confront what Joseph confronted as Mary’s husband. He accepted her pregnancy at a time when the scandal of such a thing oftentimes meant execution for the woman. He was forced to put her on the back of a donkey and take her 80 miles over rocky, dirt roads to Bethlehem for the census. She was almost full term and the trip would have probably taken three to five days. I would have been sick to my stomach praying we could make it. Then, upon arrival, his wife goes into labor. There were no ERs, no cell phones, no 911 calls, no paramedics…you are on your own, end of story.
He was in a strange town without friends and could find no shelter. He was probably trembling and telling his wife, “Stay calm sweetie, it will be all right. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.”  And he is forced to bring her to a dirty, smelly stable that is an animal shelter. Here she has to give birth to her child who is the Son of God. As a man, he must have felt so inadequate, so un-manly. His heart must have been breaking.
The miracle of the Virgin Birth takes place and mother and child are fine. But then Joseph discovers that King Herod wants to kill his baby boy. Okay guys, think about it. You have made it this far and now you learn the army has been ordered to find your child and kill him. They are out in force searching for YOU and YOUR family. They are killing all boys two years old and under so as not to miss killing your son. But it is you and your wife and child they want. Those other children are ‘collateral damage”, an afterthought to Herod’s vicious orders. The fear and anxiety within Joseph must have been overwhelming yet he did his best to remain upbeat.
Somehow, someway, with his resolve of faith and trust in God propelling him forward, he made it to Egypt and saved his family. I have no idea how he managed to do it. Egypt was three hundred miles away but he got them there safe and sound. He saved not only the Redeemer and probably the Blessed Mother from death, he made it possible for all of us to be saved too.

One final thought about this incredible person;  Joseph of Nazareth was the only man who ever lived who could point to the Son of God and say, “That’s MY boy.” Imagine that.

St. Joseph, thank you and please pray for all of us. HAPPY FEAST DAY

                                    
                          ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved




I LOVE Christmas—No Matter What

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson
Turkey Day is over and  now the 2015 Christmas odyssey is underway. My personal pilgrimage began  Sunday at 5 AM, as I prepared my wife’s medications for the week. There are fourteen different pills she takes at different times during the day for varied reasons and I do this every week. So, I pour a cup of coffee and spread the pill bottles in a row in front of my still-squinty eyes. I have a pill box with four rows of sevens so I can prepare meds for the entire week. The morning row gets five pills in each box, the noon row gets four, etc. When I am finished there are 112 pills sorted out for the week. I am proud of my system…most of the time.
I finish placing the the last pills in place and reach over to get the coffee. Ah yes, life is always an adventure. That’s right;  I knocked over the coffee.  As I did, I leaned onto the bottom of the pill box and it flipped, ever so gracefully, end over end into the air spraying its newly received contents everywhere. Okay–you get the picture. Pills on the floor, pills on the table floating in coffee (too bad they were not donuts) and me staring, mouth hung open, in disbelief.

 Fortunately, God has blessed me with a self-deprecating sense of humor. I took a breath and began to laugh. Then I created some dialogue for the moment. I raised my hands, looked out across my random pill and coffee display, and announced to no one, “You are such an idiot!” Then I laughed some more and began Round Two of the weekly pill dissemination. That time I succeeded.

No matter, Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love the ‘reason for the season’ which is the Baby Jesus. I love the awe in the faces of so many children and the extra smiles that come from the wonder and mystery surrounding Santa’s impending visit. I love the cookies and candy and cake and even some of the anxiety and pressure and insanity that mixes in as we move forward. I even love eggnog, fruitcake and pfeffernuesse. I am a hopeless Chrismatist
More than anything, I love thinking about the Holy Family. Have you ever really thought about the Blessed Mother when she was  a young girl about 14 or 15 years old?   She was almost full-term in her pregnancy and was forced  to travel on the back of a donkey for over 80 miles to fulfill the census law. We have  to marvel at  her husband, Joseph,  who must have just loved her so much that he was willing to accept her Baby as his own. He led her and the unborn Child on this journey, protected them with his life and made sure that the Savior of all mankind lived to complete His mission. This was, after all, a very different time culturally. Mary’s alternative could have been death by stoning. Thank you, St. Joseph. Thank you, Mother Mary. Thank you, Jesus.
I will finish this up by telling you I made it to eight o’clock Mass with the wife at my side. What better way to continue the day, especially after the pill and coffee fiasco.  Yes, the Season of Advent is upon us. I have no idea how the rest of this day or the days following will play out. No matter what, it will be OK.  We are on our way to Christmas. For all of you willing to embrace the season, it is a beautiful, wondrous time for family, friends, love, joy and miracles.

In closing, as we continue on this unpredictable and happy odyssey into  Christmas wonderment, I would like to wish you all a beautiful, blessed,  healthy and joy-filled Christmas.  (If I don’t electrocute myself putting up my Christmas lights you may hear from me again before Christmas arrives.) 

“Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.” 
St. Paul of the Cross   (Catholicquotes.org)
                     ©LarryPeterson 2015                                    Photo courtesy  davidthig.org.uk

St. Joseph, "Shadow Saint": His Example is the Answer to the Fatherhood Crisis in Society

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Every March 19, The Catholic Church honors and celebrates a man who, next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the greatest of all saints. His name is  Joseph. He was Mary’s husband and the foster father of  Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Included among his honors he is venerated as the patron of fathers, workers, and unborn children.

I call Joseph the “Shadow Saint” because so little is known about him. There is not one spoken word he ever said that was recorded. What is known and what the facts bear out are: Being a Jewish man of great faith he trusted God and took Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant at the time;  He cared for and protected his wife and “foster” Son from the moment God asked him to; and He loved them unconditionally and without reservation. Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth, was a real MAN.

We need St. Joseph more so today than ever before. Marriage and fatherhood are in crisis. In fact, America is becoming a nation of absentee fathers. The influence of fathers in families has been in steady decline for decades.  A ‘fatherless America’ helps breed a poverty rate for the fatherless at 4X the national average. In addition, it spawns increased drug abuse, physical and emotional health issues, lack in educational achievement, and a sharp increase in crime. Finally, it promulgates an irresponsible teen pregnancy rate that sees newborn children being  born into hopeless situations. Much of this hopelessness is attributed to the absence of fathers.

Let’s face it, in our secular and contemporary society men are portrayed in a negative way. The press and media marginalize, demonize and portray men  as oversexed objects who can only think of having sex and drinking beer. Comedy shows (sit-coms) direct children to perceive them as idiots and “snicker” along with their moms  about dad’s behavior. Compare the character Jim Anderson in the 60’s sitcom, “Father Knows Best” to Homer Simpson in the animated, 20 year long hit, “The Simpsons”. Anderson is a hard working, God fearing man who loves and respects his family and takes care of them. His wife and kids respect him and they all love each other. (How corny, right?) Homer Simpson is basically a buffoon who swills beer and is lazy and irresponsible. His wife and daughter are the voices of reason and keep order in the family. Homer Simpson is the stereotypical TV “dad” of the last 20 years. How illuminating and uplifting for the kids who have grown up watching this.

Our saints are the creme de la creme of our Catholic world. They represent the very best of the best. They are what I call our Catholic Hall of Fame. And St. Joseph stands at the top of the list. No one in history was ever given such a responsibility as he was. The man was charged with taking care of the expectant Mother of God and the Baby who was to grow up to be the Messiah, the Chosen One. Imagine that. A simple carpenter being asked to raise and protect the baby that would grow to be the Man that changed the world forever.

Joseph did whatever he had to do to take care of his wife and son. He worked hard to keep a roof over their heads, to feed them, clothe them, and protect them. He did not care about himself. His family came first, no matter what. He would have gladly died for them if necessary. He was a real MAN. His faith, courage, integrity and love of God  resonate like the smashing of cymbals and the banging of drums for all of us to listen to. WE should LISTEN TO HIM ! We need to follow his example. We need to celebrate his life. We need to honor his commitment to his responsibilities.

St. Joseph, a hard working carpenter was the perfect dad. Two thousand years after his death he is still the finest role model for, not only husbands and fathers, but for all men for all time.

St. Joseph, thank you and please pray for all of us. HAPPY FEAST DAY

                                    Copyright ©2015 Larry Peterson

Happy Father's Day to the Best "Dad" ever–St. Joseph

by Larry Peterson

I call Joseph of Nazareth the “Shadow Saint” because, even though he was responsible for being foster-father to the God-man and husband to the God-man’s mom, the Blessed Virgin, his own life was so quiet and unknown.  He had to shelter them, protect them, feed them, provide for them.  He married Mary (who was a teenager) while the cloud of “adultery” (a sin punishable by death) hung over her head.  Imagine how incredibly difficult this must have been for him, a “righteous Jew” who followed the law and found himself betrothed to a pregnant woman who was not carrying his child.  He must have loved Mary so much and had such great faith.

Then he managed to take her to Bethlehem for the census when she was almost full term.  If that were I,  I would have been sick to my stomach the whole way, wondering if my wife could make it and if the child would survive.  This was an 80-mile trip over rocky and dusty roads and Mary had to ride a donkey.  Then, after the baby is born in a dingy stable with smelly animals, he had to hide his wife and Son and run from the maniacal Herod, who wanted the child dead and had ordered his soldiers to find Him so they could kill Him. Imagine the fear and anxiety as you try to avoid detection.  Feel your heart pounding faster and faster at the sound of every hoofbeat or snapping branch.  I cannot imagine.  Joseph must have had incredible courage.
Back in Nazareth he raised his Boy as any loving and caring father would.  He aided the Boy when he took his first steps, held Him on his lap when he scraped his knee causing it to bleed, showed Him how to eat, taught Him how to pray, read the scriptures to Him and tucked Him into bed at night.  No-one ever in the history of the world has ever been entrusted with such incredible responsibility.  No one in the history of the world could tell Jesus, the God-man, when to go to bed or when to wash His hands for supper or “not to interrupt” if mom or dad was speaking.  Yet, we know so little about this just and holy man.  What we do know is he saved the Son of God who, in turn, lived long enough to save us all.  Oh yeah, he also was married to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He loved her with all of his heart, took care of her, and protected her against all dangers.  There is a love story for you.
There are no writings left behind by Joseph.  There are no words that were spoken by him that were ever recorded.  We have no idea as to what he might have even looked like.  None of that matters, because we do know he was there when God needed him to be there.  Last year Pope Francis picked St. Joseph’s Feast Day day to be installed as Pope.  This was no coincidence I am sure.  Joseph is considered the Protector of the Universal Church.  He is also the patron saint of fathers and families.  Next to his wife, he is the greatest of all other saints.  Just remember that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, called him, and only him, “dad”. And maybe (I like to think this) the Blessed Mother called him “sweetie” or “hon”.
Hey guys, imagine this. You get up in the morning and your wife says to you, “Good morning sweetie, want some scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast?”  You turn and look and the Blessed Virgin Mary is standing there in a housecoat holding two eggs in her hand.  That would have happened to only one man in all of history and his name was Joseph.  No one, anywhere, ever, was afforded such an honor. No one.
HAPPY FATHER’S  DAY ST.JOSEPH.  Thanks for being there for your Boy, your wife, and for setting such a magnificent example all of us.