Friday, March 19, 2010

St. Joseph's Day

Today I remember and give thanks for the men who have helped give shape to my own understanding of becoming a mature man in a society that has very few role models of healthy and mature masculinity.  Some have been uncles in my family network, others have been spiritual guides and mentors that have been a companion for me at particular points in my life.  In that list of male mentor relationships I remember with deep affection and appreciation my stepfather--later adopted father--who entered my life at twelve years old, and who willingly took on the not-so-easy task of loving not only my mother but also her three young boys and learned along with the rest of us how to be a family together.

Each of these men had a growing spiritual depth to them and a sense of community responsibility; and fortunately for me took interest in me and my growth as a whole human being. They had learned how to be emotionally present to themselves and others, and how to make commitments to the well being of others. Each of these men also had their own limitations and seemed to know how to acknowledge and make peace with that part of themselves and be charitable about others' failings.  They learned how to give nurture and support as well as provide strength and power for living.

I turn my attention with gratitude to these men particularly on this day each year, because in the Church's calendar we celebrate the one I think of as their patron, Saint Joseph.  Joseph was, according to tradition, the stepfather of Jesus.  He was the male figure in the holy family that labored on their behalf as a carpenter, and served as protector of the young family when King Herod was threatening the life of Jesus.  He heeded the warnings of his dreams to move the family to Egypt to escape Herod and returned the family to their homeland when Herod died.  He and Mary together suffered through Jesus' adolescence when, at 12 years old, Jesus stayed on in Jerusalem without telling them.  Even the holy family had their problems!

So for all those men and women who have been our mentors and guides in life, for those who seek our well-being and right living--let's give thanks to God!  And let's try to be that way for others that God might place in our path, too.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I am now in the season of Lent and I've been thinking of the importance of pruning grapevines and other plants as analogous actions to the spiritual disciplines of this time in the Christian year.  Pruning a grapevine serves the purpose of concentrating and channeling energy for particular growth--to direct the energy into the growth of grapes in the summer and making the vine fruitful for harvest in the fall.  Similarly Lent can be seen as a time reserved for pruning our lives of all the stuff that diffuses our energy and makes us less concentrated on living into our core spiritual and ethical values and primary relationship with the divine.  A season dedicated to looking at where we expend energy in fruitless compulsions and distractions and letting go (with prayer and the grace of God, and sometimes with the help of others) of those actions and habits that stunt our lives is well worth practicing.  Sadly, popular religion can trivialize the potential for this season...turning it into a time of giving up candy or chocolates rather than looking at the greater issues of where we really get hooked and diminished!  What drains me of my vitality and power in living?  What keeps me from being at peace?  Where do I feel blocked or constricted in my relationships?  How do I participate in structures and systems that thwart or constrict or oppress others unjustly?  These are not easy or comfortable questions, but they have a better chance of  leading us to insights about what really needs to be pruned away and what preparation is truly necessary for healthy, vital, fruitful living and new growth that benefits not only ourselves but all those with whom we share a connection.