The Bible suggests St Joseph was a carpenter by trade , though some suggest the translation should be stonemason . Either way , he was a craftsman.
I do some craft myself- a small amount of embroidery , patchwork , crocheting and knitting. My knitting , it must be confessed , is a bit hit and miss. I still recall with pride the jumper knitted all in the round without seams for a university friend, and the fine lace 2 ply blanket knitted over two pregnancies. On the other hand a jumper for my son – in -law was a disaster , being absurdly too short. Attending to detail and working with precision are characteristics of a good crafts person so that counts me out.
I am fortunate , though , in having in my home a number of handmade objects by others . My bedroom mirror was carved from a discarded window sill by my sister’s then boyfriend over forty years ago. A patchwork quilt draped over the bannisters was a gift from my mother.
The cushion covers made by Hungarian peasant woman in my living room are among many items of embroidery including a mat sticker by my daughter in the style of her Transylvanian ancestors. I also have a number of pieces of hand thrown pottery . Some of pieces are quirky individual , others follow traditional patterns but are nevertheless unique .
Some items were bought in other countries and I have often found it hard to agree a just price. Tour guides have often told me to barter down but I can’t do it. I am acutely conscious of the skill and time which has gone into their creation especially as these are people whose livelihoods depend on their craft.
The appeal of objects made by skilled craftspeople lies primarily in their appearance. I look enviously at friend’s bookshelves made by a joiner friend of hers; they are a real contrast to my IKEA bookshelves though I have a tiny sense of pride that I managed to follow the instructions to assemble them.
And therein lies a contrast between handcrafted and mass produced : when an object is mass produced its creator has minimal satisfaction from its creation; when it is made by a skilled craftsman, the creator can have the pleasure and satisfaction in their creation because they created it .They can stand back and say ‘ and it was good ‘ . They can speak and act in imitation of God .
That satisfaction does not prevent them from thinking how they might do it differently next time. We say hand made objects but all creation involves mind, hand and perhaps heart. Moreover, skilled people go on honing and developing their skills for years .
Whether St Joseph made roughly hewn furniture for the poor or finely polished furniture for the rich , or he carved stones for buildings, I hope he was one who was trusted to do the task well and that he gained satisfaction in his own work, and passed on his skills to his son.
Thank you to Sandra Palmer for this contribution to our series of blog posts on St Joseph in our Novena of Prayer to St Joseph.
Prayer: Look around you carefully at home and consider what work has gone into furniture and objects, small and large, around you. Give thanks for those craftsmen and women who create in our world.
Pause to remember your own particular concerns today, and you may like to pray the Novena prayer.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil.
St Joseph, pray for us.