St. Joseph, patron of workers, not of sleepyheads

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MOLO, Iloilo City, April 27, 2015 – St. Joseph was always “on the job” even while asleep.

This is true even as an image of the saint in deep slumber becomes increasingly popular among the faithful.

An image of the “Sleeping St. Joseph” (Photo: Sky Ortigas)

According to Fr. Rey Zerrudo, parish priest of San Jose Obrero Parish in Molo, Iloilo City, and professor of Biblical Studies in St. Joseph Regional Seminary, the image of the “Sleeping St. Joseph” should be understood in the context of the Gospel, particularly, the episode of the young Joseph’s moment of crisis when he discovered that the Virgin Mary was already with child even before they started living together.

Well-deserved rest

“St. Joseph, an upright man, who never doubted Mary’s honor, agonized and, in the end, made the decision to ‘put away’ Mary privately to spare her from public shame and execution because the punishment dictated at the time by the law for women found to be pregnant before marriage was death by stoning,” the priest shared to CBCP News.

“At that moment St. Joseph did not yet know that the child in the womb of the Virgin Mary was the fruit, not of any man, but of the Holy Spirit. It was only after making a difficult but upright decision that St. Joseph slept soundly. That is what we see in the image of the ‘Sleeping St. Joseph’,” the Bible professor pointed out.

Lest the faithful be misled as to the true message of the “Sleeping St. Joseph”, Zerrudo warned: “St. Joseph’s sleep is the well-deserved rest of a hard-working carpenter. It is not the sleep of the indolent or of a ‘Juan Tamad’ of local lore, who slept under a tree just to wait for the fruit to fall into his mouth.”

Practice of faith

The priest further explained that the rest of St. Joseph, although well-deserved, was not a time exclusively for himself. “In his sleep, St. Joseph dreamt and it was in the dream that he learned of God’s plan of which he acted upon immediately.”

Zerrudo explained that the effectiveness of St. Joseph, even while asleep, could be appreciated in Pope Francis’ practice of writing a little note and putting it underneath the image of St. Joseph.

Ever since Pope Francis referred to his devotion to a sleeping image of St. Joseph, where he inserts small pieces of paper and asks the Holy Patriarch to pray for a solution, on Jan. 16 in his address during the Encounter with Families at the Mall of Asia Arena, a devotion to the “Sleeping St. Joseph” has spread to many homes and offices among the Catholic faithful.

Not superstition

Of the practice of writing one’s petition on strips of paper and placing them under a saint’s image or in a holy place, the priest allayed any fear of superstition and assured that it is a manifestation of authentic Catholic devotion.

As an example, the Bible professor recalled that Pope St. John Paul II, in his pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the Great Jubilee, visited the Western Wall of the Temple of Jerusalem, popularly called the Wailing Wall, and inserted a small piece of paper in between the stones of the wall. In that piece of paper the Holy Pope wrote a prayer asking for forgiveness and for a renewed commitment for genuine brotherhood with the people of the covenant.

“Prayer can be made in many ways. One way is to write it on pieces of paper,” the priest explained. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas/CBCP News)

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