A Vincentian View: Windows on St. Joseph
On many occasions, I have mused on the beautiful stained glass windows in our St. Thomas More Church on the Queens’ campus of St. John’s University. Sometimes, I will go to the Church to pray, and my attention gets drawn to a particular scene. I will then begin to think about the story and where it all leads. In my head, I have created a quiz on the windows which reflects my ponderings. So far, it has remained for my sole (soul?) entertainment.
Some of the questions in my quiz reflect the fact that the windows put certain characters consistently in the same color garments. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, for example, is regularly presented in blue and white. This would not be unexpected for her. Most of us would usually envision her in blue as consonant with a tradition of the Church. Jesus is clothed in red and white—except the glorified Lord who appears all in white. Now the question: who else is regularly garbed in red and white?
With a little inspection, I think that one would find that it is St. Joseph. I find that notion very attractive. The idea that Jesus takes after Joseph seems correct, and the windows subtly remind us of that truth.
Since Advent, Joseph has been in my thoughts. For some reason, he has come to the fore in my reflection. When I have been invited to give a talk for some parish community, I have steadfastly striven to speak about him. On March 19, the Church celebrates the principal feast of St. Joseph each year. In this year, the celebration got moved to March 20 because of the Sunday. As it happens, I am preaching a parish mission on the 20-22 in a parish named after St. Joseph. Is it any surprise that I will be speaking about him?
The theme that I am following in one form or another flows from the popular expression “like father, like son.” Or said another way “the apple does not fall far from the tree,” or still another way and my favorite (following Wordsworth) “the child is father to the man.” Clearly, few stories involve St. Joseph in the New Testament, but some evoke the recognition of similar traits in Jesus. And some words and actions in the stories of Jesus might be attributed to the influence of St. Joseph. I am very serious about not getting involved in fanciful imaginings. Those kinds of fantasies are not attractive to me. I am also careful about not using images of St. Joseph which picture him as an old man. The thinking behind those portrayals does not convince me.
The love of a father for a son and the love of a son for a father, the lessons of carpentry, the words and actions of a faithful Jewish man, the love of Mary and respect for women, all of these provide material for a rich, honest, reflection on the relation of Joseph and Jesus. I do not know if they wore the same colors, but I do believe that their hearts tended in the same direction. When we had the readings of the transfiguration recently, a thought occurred to me: is it possible that Joseph could have spoken these same words:
“This is my beloved Son,
with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.” (Mt 3:17)