I grew up in a matriarchal society. My Irish father and uncles were known to wax nostalgic about their mothers, the grandmothers for whom I am named, and spoke in glowing terms of their own brides over coffee or other adult beverages around the kitchen table. Every day was Mother’s Day on the calendar of my childhood. Of course, our Blessed Mother was held in a place of high esteem all year, especially during the month of May. This has always seemed natural and right to me.
Becoming a mother, however, helped me to broaden my focus, to recognize the special role of the fathers and husbands seated around the table, including my own darling husband, the father of our three teenagers. It has made me more appreciative of St. Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, since aren’t we all only caretakers of the children of God placed in our care? It seems appropriate that Mary’s month of May begins with the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
So, this Mother’s Day, I am sharing a tribute to St. Joseph that I first heard during a St. Francis Xavier School Christmas program many years ago. It’s called, “Getting to the Front of the Stable,” by Ann Weems.
Who put Joseph in the back of the stable?
Who dressed him in brown, put a staff in his hand,
and told him to stand in the back of the creche,
background for the magnificent light of the Madonna?
God-chosen, this man Joseph was faithful
in spite of the gossip in Nazareth,
in spite of the danger from Herod.
This man, Joseph, listened to angels
and it was he who named the Child
Is this a man to be stuck for centuries
in the back of the stable?
Actually, Joseph probably stood in the doorway
guarding the mother and child
or greeting shepherds and kings.
When he wasn’t in the doorway,
he was probably urging Mary to get some rest,
gently covering her with his cloak,
assuring her that he would watch the Child.
Actually, he probably picked the Child up in his arms
and walked him in the night,
patting him lovingly
until he closed his eyes.
This [Mother’s Day], let us give thanks to God
for this man of incredible faith
into whose care God placed the Christ Child.
As a gesture of gratitude,
let’s put Joseph in the front of the stable
where he can guard and greet
and cast an occasional glance
at this Child
who brought us life.
Happy Mother’s Day to our mothers, grandmothers and godmothers….and to our fathers, grandfathers and godfathers, too!
[This was written for the pastor’s column in our parish bulletin in my role as coordinator of youth ministry.]