Sister Clare Hunter, F.S.E., is convinced that she is alive today due to the intercession of St. Joseph. She shares her remarkable story.
By: Sister Clare Hunter, F.S.E.
A darting light sprints across the heavens and stops before the larger light representing God, ready to receive a mission. The opening scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when God calls St. Joseph to go and help the Bailey family has always been very moving to me. Secular though it may be, I believe it is a wonderful depiction of God entrusting St. Joseph with the mission to save a man in need. Recently it occurred to me that the scene resonates so deeply because I believe that St. Joseph saved my life.
When I was 15, my brave parents shared the story of the decision to abort me. Swayed by many influences, they felt it would be the right solution for them. Of course it was painful for them to admit, and for me to learn. Yet, I was grateful to know, and it instilled in me a profound gratitude for my life. This body experience is the source of my deep desire to awaken in others the value of their lives and the inherent dignity of all human life. It truly was a miracle that my mother left the abortion clinic. This miracle allowed my parents to raise six children in a strong Catholic family life and impart in each of us the mission to protect all human life.
The miracle intrigued me. What happened on December 27, 1971, in the room of that abortion facility that caused my mother to change her mind? I have always desired to know whom God may have sent to intercede for me. It was a homily on December 28, 2011, the feast of the Holy Innocents, which moved me to meditate on these questions even more. The priest spoke a great deal about St. Joseph and I began to wonder how Joseph must have felt to know that the lives of the infant boys of Bethlehem would not be spared as he fled with the Blessed Mother and the infant Jesus. As a father and a protector, he must have known great pain and anguish. It seemed to me, that as he was missioned by God to protect the Christ child, that he must desire to protect all of God’s children. Now from his place in heaven, does he hold a particular office to save the lives of children on earth? Immediately, I knew! Yes, it was St. Joseph who was sent to save my life!
My affection for, and fascination with, St. Joseph made so much sense after this revelation. I began to see countless examples of his presence and intercession throughout my life. St. Joseph has been a true spiritual father who has led me to a deeper love and relationship with the Blessed Mother and the Holy Trinity. In my desire to grow in holiness and deepen my prayer life, I can get so frustrated, negative and prone to despair. How often I cry out: “Somebody help me! Show me what to do!” More often than not, a prayer to St. Joseph, or a reflection on his life brings me the peace I need to be present and consistent in my prayer life. It is as though he stabilizes me, like a flagpole, as I flap in the wind of the Holy Spirit.
On feast days of St. Joseph*, my community sings a hymn entitled “Go all ye to Joseph.” I recall the first time I heard these words and I found myself distracted as I thought about what they were actually saying about Joseph. The hymn is a moving description of the reality of who Joseph is, and reminds us why we should have a devotion to him. “Go to Joseph!” It made perfect sense. He was God’s choice to be the foster father of Jesus, the spouse of the Blessed Mother and the patron of the universal Church. He is the man I wanted on my side.
I seem to remember only one verse of the song: “go all ye to Joseph…..because he sees Mary, the Queen at his side,” which repeats again and again in my head. One day while singing in the kitchen, a sister turned and smiled saying, “you know you have the words wrong.” We had a good laugh when we realized that the two lines are in two different verses. How did I manage to miss the other lines, and put those two together? As I reflect on these phrases, I see that they perfectly speak my personal relationship with Joseph.
“Go all ye to Joseph!” He understands what it means to respond with alacrity to the will of the Father. Joseph is a man who spent the early part of his marriage and fatherhood on the move, at the Father’s command. I am confident that if I am in need of help, and it is according to the Will of God, Joseph will be sent, and know how to help me. I think of him traveling to Bethlehem, hastening door to door for a place for Mary to give birth to her son, presenting Jesus in the temple, fleeing from Herod’s soldiers sent to kill the newborn king, traveling to Egypt and then moving to Nazareth, and losing Jesus in Jerusalem. He is a protector of life, of the family and a man who knows God’s voice and is ready to serve. Though I go to Joseph, I see more and more clearly, that he usually comes to me even before I ask.
I owe a great debt to St. Joseph and I pray that he will continue to be by my side as I strive to live my vocation as a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist. “Go all ye to Joseph…..because he sees Mary, the Queen at his side.” St. Joseph, pray for us.
*St. Joseph has two feast days on the liturgical calendar. The first is March 19—Joseph, the Husband of Mary. The second is May 1—Joseph, the Worker.
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