Jeffrey Adams, a college seminarian, was eager to learn everything about woodworking. He earned above average grades in his philosophy and theology classes but was just squeaking by in Latin and Spanish. Languages were not his gift. Although he enjoyed reading and thinking and participating on the debate team, his natural inclination was toward manual labor. If he had his druthers, he would learn nutrition in a chef's galley, photography by taking nature walks and biology by observing frogs in a lily pond, not dissecting them in a laboratory.
So now that Brother Ben, known on campus as Big Brother Ben for his towering stature, was willing to apprentice him in the maintenance shop, Jeff was eager to transform a block of lumber into a lamp or the trunk of a tree into a comfortable rocking chair.
The young man's enthusiasm was set back a peg when Brother Ben took one look at him and refused to let him into the shop. He was told he had to go back to his room and change from a long-sleeved shirt into short sleeves. High-speed drills and buzzing saws can grab onto long clothing in an instant and gouge into a person's finger, hand or arm faster than any panic switch can bring these power tools to full stop.
When he returned to the basement, Jeff received a holy card from the Brother. “This is a picture of St. Joseph in his shop at Bethlehem,” Ben announced. “There is a prayer on the back that we offer each day before we start work.”
Jeff was revving to learn patience, wild to learn discipline, and proud to begin learning the humble ways of refashioning God's beautiful creation into functional pieces of art. He turned the holy picture around and fervently prayed for guiding inspiration from the silent foster father of Jesus.
Carpenters' Prayer to St. Joseph
Holy saint Joseph hear our call
Father to no one, and to all
Teach us your gentle care to give
So that in harmony we may live
Trusting the angel's voice you heard
Sheltered the virgin bearing Word
Send us your faith from up above
So that in harmony we may love
From jealous dangers you did flee
Shielding the Holy Family
Give us your wisdom to discern
So that in harmony we may learn
Creating beauty from plain wood
Working with hands for others' good
Help us the Tempter's ways to foil
So that in harmony we may toil
Dying with Jesus by your side
Close to the Virgin Mother Bride
Fill us with peace when death is nigh
So that in harmony we may die.
Living on high with saintly race
From the Redeemer ask this grace
Free us from sins we do despise
So that in harmony we may rise
For Holy Homework: During this month dedicated to St. Joseph, let's place a copy of this prayer near one of the work stations of our life: kitchen counter, office desk, dashboard, book bag, laptop, etc., and pause at least once each day for the next 31 days to pray for help from the virtuous guardian and protective father of us all.
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