It is said that Catholics like to collect statues. That is a bit of an understatement. We not only like to collect statues, we love to have statues.
Well, here in the sanctuary, we have the statues of Mother Mary and St. Joseph. Then at the entrance there is the life-size statue of the Sacred Heart. In the room just adjacent to the canteen, there are the statues of St. John the Baptist, St. Francis Xavier, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and a smaller statue of the Sacred Heart.
There are some more statues around the compound, and so there are enough of statues to give us a feeling that this is a holy place.
By and large the statues are standing upright, and that’s the way we are used to seeing them.
Today I like to show you a statue that is not standing upright. Not only is it not upright, it is lying down, sleeping actually.
|Sleeping St Joseph|
If we are wondering what statue is this, or which saint is this, this peculiar statue came into the so-called “limelight” when Pope Francis visited the Philippines in January 2015.
During a speech he said this: “I would like to tell you something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a strong man of silence. On my desk I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church. Yes, he can do it! We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem.”
The statue that the Pope was talking about is the “Sleeping St. Joseph” and the statue that we are looking at is the “Sleeping St. Joseph”.
Besides what the Pope said about St. Joseph looking after the Church even in his sleep, St. Joseph is a man who listens to the Word of God that is spoken to him in his dreams. And he acts on it.
It was because God’s Word has made its home in him that he was able to provide a home for Jesus and Mary.
Although he had his troubles and fears, he found his peace in God and was able to protect and provide for Jesus and Mary.
So all that Jesus said in the gospel, about keeping His Word, about a peace that the world cannot give, about not letting our hearts be troubled or afraid, all that was actualized in the life of St. Joseph.
And today, the 1st May, we also honour St. Joseph under the title “St. Joseph the Worker” and he is the saint that we turn to today as we ask him to pray for us that we offer our work for the glory of God and also to help us in the difficulties we face at work.
So even though this statue portrays St. Joseph as sleeping, yet in his sleep he is also working. He is praying for us, praying for the Church as he is also the protector of the Church and model of all who labour.
There is this story of how St. Joseph was sent to answer the prayers of a community of nuns.
In the town of Santa Fe in New Mexico, there stands the Loretto Chapel. Inside the Gothic structure is the staircase referred to as the miraculous, inexplicable, marvelous and is often called St. Joseph’s Staircase.
The stairway confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen. It makes over two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20’ tall and has no center support. It rests solely on its base and against the choir loft. The risers of the 33 steps are all of the same height.
Made of an apparently extinct wood species, it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails.
Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction.
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded that access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel.
So the Sisters made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Six months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, the Sisters concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the Sisters' prayers.
The staircase is a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for that time (1878) and some of the design considerations still perplex experts even until today.
Of course, seeing is believing, but even without seeing the miraculous staircase, we can believe it. Because with prayer, nothing is impossible, and when St. Joseph rises from his sleep and gets to work, it will be for the glory of God.
Let us ask St. Joseph to pray for us, that like him, we will keep God’s Word and let God’s Word make its home in our hearts.
In our troubles and anxieties, may Jesus grant us His peace, and it’s a peace which the world cannot give.
May we also sleep in peace, and rise with strength to work for the glory of God.