Here’s an illuminating argument between Catholic family members all devoted to St. Joe.
St. Joe. The worker. Eleven am in the morning, Saturday, May 1st. Two hours after a meditation was sent between family members.
Daniel Leon (oral and maxillofacial surgeon texting from his home in Hudson Yards, Mid-Town Manhattan): Happy St. Joseph the Worker! I just wanted to say hello and send my fam that beautiful reflection! What do you all think? Have you had a chance to read it?
Mom (retired attorney, texting from Sleepy Hollow, NY): Beautiful, Danny! Read it right after you sent it… perfect with my 9am coffee. It really makes you think.
Natalie (Mom’s youngest, a Starbucks shift manager, studying philosophy, texting from Miami Dade in South Florida): Hello, hello… Saw what you sent, too. It reminded me of this video presentation—
St. Joe, What Do You Know?
Daniel (answering Mom, ignoring Natalie): I know, right? Got it from my Legatus chapter. Joseph was a quiet but holy man of God. He was a hardworking carpenter, a genuine provider, the leader God wanted to serve the Holy Mother and Jesus. I’m inspired by him! Father Right always tells us, “base your life on St. Joe, gentlemen!”
Sal Leon (second child of Mom, endodontist, texting from Tribeca in Lower Manhattan): That’s it, big brother! That’s the key! Good Ol’ St. Joe, guardian of Jesus.
Mom: St. Joseph was incomparable among husbands, boys. He was chaste and loving to Our Lady, fulfilling his duties perfectly. You can’t go wrong with St. Joe.
Sal: You said it, Mom!
Daniel: Good one, Mom!
Natalie: You all should really check out that video. It opens up everything. Gives you a new angle. It’s just an eye-opening little quiz.
(No texts are sent for about four minutes…)
Annoyed By The Real St. Joe
Daniel: Nat, how ya doing? Is this one of those crazy videos? You sent us that disgraceful essay last year. Let’s have a little respect for St. Joe. Especially today. Especially this year. This is the holy year, after all.
Mom: Your brother has a point, hon.
Natalie: Who is disrespecting St. Joe?
Sal: Uh, the controversial videos are. That whack job YouTuber is. And you too, IF you swallow his BS, kid sister. Why don’t you drop the crazy bible studies and go back to the real stuff? Study your Catechism for a change.
Natalie: Sal, I know that you are devoted to St. Joe…
Sal: I am a Catholic husband and father. You better believe I am devoted to St. Joe.
Natalie: Great. That’s why you need to get to know who he was. You need to see him in a culturally plausible way. Jesus also.
Sal: I know everything I need to know about St. Joe, thank you.
Natalie: Do you? How much do you know about a first-century Galilean artisan? Have you read the sources on the videos I send you? They are clearly given.
Getting Ugly With St. Joe
Daniel: Here we go with the Bible study cultural irrelevance.
Natalie: It is very relevant. You are Catholic, right, Danny? Doesn’t that demand being serious about the in of “incarnation”?
Sal: What does that even mean?
Daniel: You are talking nonsense, Nat.
Natalie: No. I am just going beyond the usual theological boilerplate. I find it funny that two graduates from the University of Michigan and self-professed Catholic “defenders of the Faith” can’t see why the prefix in of incarnation is essential. Into what did God the Son carnate?
Sal: What he said!
Mom: Into humanity, Nat! You know that!
Natalie: Yes, we agree on that much. But humanity is always lived out in culturally specific ways. Nobody is omni-human.
Jesus The Terrorist?
Daniel: You think I don’t see those images you put up on Facebook? It’s very disrespectful to make God look like a terrorist, Nat. Do I have to spell that out to you? Do you remember what happened on 911?
Mom: Never forget!
Natalie: Actually, racism is very disrespectful, Danny. In fact, racism is incompatible with the Gospel.
Daniel: You are calling me a racist?
Natalie: No, Danny. I am talking about racism. Like casually dismissing Middle Eastern North African males as “terrorists” is the product of racism, whether you accept that or not. Your story isn’t finished yet—a little Aristotle for you there.
Mom: You know your brother employs minorities, Natalie. Even Arabs.
Natalie: It is likewise very disrespectful to turn Jesus into a synonym for God. Jesus is more than that.
Daniel: Now here comes that heretic Richard Rohr.
Mom: How can there be anything more than God, Nat?
Natalie: Well, there’s no Emmanuel without the us part. Emmanuel means “God with us,” right?
Daniel: WRONG! Jesus is GOD! That’s Catholicism 101!
Heretical Views On St. Joe
Mom: You sound so confused! All this highly speculative stuff… What has happened to you, Nat? Dad and I raised you all to be solid Catholics!!
Natalie: Just watch the video, Mom. Try to answer the questions. Watch your thinking process.
Mom: Nat, what happened to my baby girl?
Natalie: What happened to you being a critical thinker, Mom? You were an attorney. A good one! For Christ’s sake, how is it you can be so sophisticated in your professional life, but when it comes to faith, Sesame Street?
Mom: DO NOT take the Lord’s name in vain, Natalie!
Natalie: Mom, Christ is a title, not Jesus’ last name.
Daniel: We’ve been through this before, Nat. SAINT Joseph, the Blessed Mother, and the SON OF GOD Who is GOD HIMSELF are not like other human beings. It’s HOLY FAMILY, Nat! Get it? They are holy! Do you even know what holiness means, Nat??
Natalie: Marcion has so many disciples these days.
Sal: Who the hell is Marcion?
Daniel: Another heretic, Sal. Is he your new guru, Nat? Marcion? Is it hip to follow Marcion? Tell me, please.
Natalie: Uh, I’m following Marcion? Are you even trying to understand me?
Mom: We all need to calm down. Your father would not like us fighting.
Daniel: Nat, this guy’s blogs state that Joseph abused Jesus.
Natalie: That’s not what he wrote, Danny.
Daniel: We can read English, Nat. He says Joseph beat the sh-t out of Jesus! He implies it, anyway! THAT’S ABUSE!
Natalie: He explains why intense physical discipline is used in that cultural world based on honor. Sons are raised to be avengers. As his essays say, if a Western parent were to adopt these child-rearing practices lauded by the Bible (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15, 17, 19; and Sirach 30:1-13), bad things happen. You would be creating psychologically wounded and probably disturbed personalities. And probably jail time for yourself.
Real Ugly Now
Daniel: Maybe that’s the problem, Nat. If Dad had raised you a little more biblically, maybe you wouldn’t be a divorcee.
Sal: Let’s stop with the low blows.
Natalie: LOL! Not only is it low, but it also is ignorant, Danny. If you paid attention to what I send you, you would understand the Scriptures better. There are no biblical prescriptions for fathers to physically discipline girls. That’s not how it goes in the Middle East for the past four thousand years. Men do that with postpubescent boys. We need to acknowledge that in the Mediterranean world of Jesus, love and violence were intermixed. It’s not an endorsement, just an acknowledgment.
Daniel: Yeah. Tell that to the girls they murder over there.
Natalie: Do you know why honor crimes happen?
Daniel: I don’t care to know.
Natalie: That’s the problem. That attitude pools ignorance.
Sal: How can you, a self-professed feminist, endorse those animals killing their daughters?
Natalie: Those human beings, you mean. I am not endorsing. I’m explaining.
Plug Your Ears!
Mom: I am tired of this. I don’t want to hear ugly things, especially about St. Joseph on this special Feast!
Daniel: You’ve upset your mother, Natalie. Happy?
Sal: You always have to push it too far, don’t you, Nat?
Natalie: Okay. I’m out.
Daniel: The Faith is simple, Nat. Simple, like those criminals picking tomatoes you go and help protest at the fast-food headquarters? I’ll say this for those wetbacks: at least they have a simple faith. What happened to yours?
Sal: St. Joseph did not beat the Son of God! It is unimaginable to think he did!
Mom: I hate the way you make it all ugly!
But Natalie was gone. It was too painful to stay in that echo chamber texting hurtful things. Natalie loved her family. And there was more to Saturday than pain. So she got up and greeted Saturday.
It was a rare Saturday for Natalie to be not working. She stretched. Natalie fed her cat. Then she said this little prayer…
you begged for work in the village square.
You prayed, give us tomorrow’s bread today—
give me work today, or we starve.
You did the best you could, honest to your times
Help me do the same in my messy life
Pray with me to see things clearly as you do,
Like Jesus does.
Pray with my family and for my family,
And with amen, Natalie got on with her life and weekend.