Monday, March 19, 2012

St Joseph - The Wise Old Man

Have you ever noticed how certain characters crop up in story after story? They're called archetypes. You've got the princess, the king, the wicked queen, the witch, the soldier, the jester, the fairy godmother, the wicked sorcerer and the wise old man.

What I love about the saints is that they fulfill a kind of function in the life of the world as if they are making all the fairy stories come true. The fairy tales with their stock characters point to a greater reality, and the reality is the mystery of salvation working its way out through ordinary human history.

St Joseph, for example, is the historical foster father of Our Lord. He's a humble carpenter, a wise, strong and silent man. But in the wider scheme of the imagination he also becomes the wise old man.  See how this character type comes up in story after story? Gandalf, and Obi Wan Kenobi and the Wise Wizard and Merlin. You can think of more--maybe Dumbledore. These wise old men are the mentors of the hero. They are the 'extra father.'

Within the Judeo Christian tradition they are Father Abraham, the patriarchs, Moses with his staff and old Samuel who anoints the king. They are the monks and hermits of the world--Elijah the prophet and the Apostle John--venerable and strong. They are St Antony of Egypt and St Benedict.

The wise old man is also St Joseph. He's there as a source of wisdom, chastity, charity and clarity and light. He's there as an extra grandfather and godfather and holy father in God.

St Joseph
pray for us.


  1. First class!
    Thank you, Father!

  2. George de la Tour, Mr. Candlelight.

  3. Following an implication? of your post , FR, On repetion I can't nuance this just right, true God AND true man being a mystery and me no priest, but The PP aka pastor where we used to live on more than one St Joseph and Holy Family sermons developed St Joseph's character from looking at Jesus' Human reactions in a number of circumstances and saying how this showed what a good father God had chosen for the job. I'd muck up repeating any of his concrete examples, but I expect you get the idea.