An ordinary Joe who does extraordinary things

All my life I’ve been surrounded by Josephs. Maybe it’s an Italian thing because some of them were Giuseppes.

My father was Joseph, the carpenter. My mother was Josephine, but not the plumber. And I was Joe. Well, not quite. So that we didn’t all answer at once when someone called, “Joe!” I was dubbed JoJo.

That’s not bad when you’re a toddler, but when you’re a teenager, it can be a bit embarrassing. At your college commencement, do you really want the Dean to announce, “JoJo!” when you get your diploma?

As it was, I received my sacraments at St. Joseph Church in Shelton and religious instructions from the Sisters of St. Joseph and, predictably, I went to St. Joseph High School.

I confess that I resented being an “ordinary Joe” and wished my parents had named me something more flamboyant like Kent or Reginald, but I guess they figured “Kent Pisani” didn’t quite fit our ethnic profile.

So I thought of myself as an Average Joe, Joe Schmo and Joe Sixpack…until I developed a devotion to my patron, St. Joseph, and realized it’s an honor to be named after the husband of the Mother of God and foster father of the Son of God, whose feast we celebrate on March 19.

It’s a great year for us Joes and Josephines because Pope Francis has proclaimed “A Year of St. Joseph” in observance of the 150th anniversary of his being named Patron of the Universal Church by Blessed Pius IX.

The pope also issued an Apostolic Letter titled “Patris Corde,” (“With a Father’s Heart”) to “increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.”

St. Joseph was an ordinary person who did extraordinary things because he accepted God’s will. And he continues to do extraordinary things from heaven. He is a model for all Catholics, especially fathers, in a time when families are fractured and homes are broken.

St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Some saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.”

Our family always prays to him in times of crisis, and over the years, many prayers have been answered through his intercession. We have a shrine in his honor with statues that we have acquired from all over the world.

One of my favorites I found in an antique shop in Montreal. It’s a hand-carved wooden statue I got when we made a pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal during the Jubilee Year in 2000.

The Oratory, which before COVID-19 attracted 2 million visitors annually, is the world’s largest shrine to St. Joseph and was built through the efforts of St. Andre Bessette, who was the doorman at Notre Dame College, where thousands of people visited him because of his gift of healing through the intercession of St. Joseph.

Early in his life, he worked in eastern Connecticut in factories and farms before returning to Canada to enter the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870.

I also have a library of what is known as Josephology—the study of St. Joseph—with several dozen books about this great saint. One of them, published in 1887, is titled, “St. Joseph: The Advocate of Hopeless Cases” and contains dozens of stories about the saint’s miraculous intercession.

As Pope Francis says, “Each of us can discover in Joseph— the man who goes unnoticed—a daily, discreet and hidden presence, an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

A humble carpenter, St. Joseph is known by many titles: “Protector of Holy Church,” “Hope of the Sick,” “Patron of the Dying,” “Solace of the Afflicted,” “Guardian of Virgins,” “Pillar of Families,” “Glory of Home Life” and “Terror of Demons.”

He has always been known to respond when people pray to him. As St. Augustine said: “What could Jesus Christ refuse St. Joseph, who never refused him anything during his mortal life on Earth?”

St. Joseph, pray for us!