By Rev. James Bernard Herring, O. Praem., JCD, Ph.D., St. Norbert Abbey
I go back to my days in grade school at Gesu, St. Elizabeth and St. Benedict in Philadelphia. When going into the Church I was always drawn to the three altars at the end of the great aisle: the Tabernacle in the middle, our Blessed Mother to the right, and St. Joseph on the left. The image of St. Joseph with the child Jesus in one arm and the stick with white lilies at the top of it always intrigued me. The “good sisters” would explain that St. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus and the protector of the Holy Family. In the school pageants at Christmas, it was the “best” boy who was picked to be St. Joseph.
I looked to St. Joseph as the model for fatherly love. I guess he was the man to emulate and I still pray to him to be my guide in my life as a priest: “Dear St. Joseph, give me the strength and courage to follow Jesus with love and fidelity.” How fortunate we Norbertines are to have his Shrine at the Abbey – to have the opportunity to visit and pray there at any time of the day and night.
St. Joseph is called by many titles. In the Litany of St. Joseph, we call out to him invoking many of those titles ascribed to him as our patron and advocate before Jesus and His Blessed Mother – our Mother, too. Our beloved abbot of happy memory, Abbot Bernard Pennings, O. Praem., turned to St. Joseph when faced with his deepest challenges; I too, have turned to St. Joseph since my days in Catholic grade school to the present when faced with my deepest challenges.
St. Joseph is a true saint for all, but especially for boys and men. He gave his trust to God in following God’s plan for His Son, Jesus. St. Joseph stood by his spouse, Mary, when others might have urged him to abandon her. St. Joseph brought up his foster son as his own. He was a humble man of great stature, deservedly the Patron of the Universal Church.
“St. Joseph pray for us, pray for our children, pray for our teachers and schools, pray for parents…keep us safe so we may walk in your footsteps as first teachers in the lives of our children.”