My Favorite St. Joseph Story

I've posted this story before on my own blog, so it may be something you've already read. It describes one of those experiences that sometimes comes our way — a chance meeting which we might never have had if we'd been just a few minutes earlier or later, but something that ends up changing the course of everything in our lives. Perhaps I should say that these things seem like chance, but it's all part of God's wonderful plan for us. Here's the story.

I was a young Episcopal cleric just returned to Rhode Island from a stint of serving in the Anglican Diocese of Bristol, England. The parish I had come to was middle-to-high: vestments, occasional incense, a few statues strategically placed.

There was a parishioner who wanted us to have a new statue of St. Joseph. The old statue was small and not in terribly good shape. I was deputized to find a new one, but there were a couple of requirements. It had to be two feet tall and it had to be cheap. The only solution was to go to a local religious goods store and look for something that might look half-way acceptable if the lights were dim.

I found one. It wasn’t beautiful, but it didn’t look as though it had been dragged behind a truck either. “Wrap it up and I’ll take it,” I told the clerk. “Sorry, sir, but this is the last one and we don’t have a box for it,” was the reply. A dilemma. I was driving a Volkswagen, and the back seat was already fairly full with a child’s car seat and other assorted items. The only option I could see was to stand it up in the passenger’s seat and strap the seat belt around it, which I did.

I was just closing the passenger door. St. Joseph was safely strapped in, facing ram-rod straight ahead. I heard a voice behind me. “You might want to let him drive.” I turned around to see a young priest about my age, with a grin on his face. We exchanged quips about the statue with the seat belt, and then began to chat about other things. We quickly discovered that my Episcopal parish and his Catholic parish were located fairly close to one another. We seemed to click, we made lunch plans, and one of the most important friendships of my life began.

We got together regularly to talk. It didn’t take long for our discussions to turn into question and answer sessions – me asking the questions, and him giving the answers. I wanted to know about the Catholic faith. And he told me. He was always gentle in his answers, but he never watered down the truth. Even if the issue was a difficult one, he always told me what the Church teaches. I was grateful for that. I would have resented it if I had discovered that he was tailoring what he said to make it fit what he might have thought I wanted to hear. I learned Catholic truth, and when it was presented to me in its fullness and in its beauty, I knew I had to embrace it. I believed it completely.

How grateful I always have been to St. Joseph. Without saying a word, he helped bring me into the Catholic Church by introducing me to a faithful Catholic priest. The statue may not have been very beautiful, but everything else in the story is.

Our parish has a St. Joseph Shrine, which is the partial fulfillment of a promise I made to the gentle Spouse of the Blessed Virgin and Foster-father of our Lord. The full promise is that we will have a dedicated Chapel in his honor. That will come, but meanwhile my gratitude for the prayers and guidance of St. Joseph are pretty-near boundless, and I've followed the advice given to me by the wonderful priest who befriended me, "You might want to let him drive."

St. Joseph Shrine, Our Lady of the Atonement Church

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

9 thoughts on “My Favorite St. Joseph Story”

  1. Thank you again Father for a truly uplifting personal story from your spiritual journey. I pray for you regularly as you make more and more trips here and abroad supporting and defending those of us who are Ordinariate bound. May God give you the courage and strength to continue as we desperately need your expertise from having made the journey ahead of us. Fr. Holland, Christ our Saviour Anglican Church, Denison, Texas.

  2. Thank you Fr Christopher; what an affecting story. Made me smile in a very teary way – but that's good! I believe God brings people, places, events and resources into our lives continually. From here, the statue looks rather beautiful too. He certainly looks as though he was always meant to be "homed" there. God Bless.

    1. Thanks, Gigi. Actually, the statue in the story is still in the Episcopal parish which I left. The picture here is of our present shrine at Our Lady of the Atonement, with a rather nice and large depiction of St. Joseph. I'm glad to know the other statue is still where I placed it — perhaps someone else will be moved to "come home" as a result of the prayers of St. Joseph.

      1. Aah. Well, both statues seem to have found their rightful homes then. I do think St Joseph gets rather overlooked. I went to a convent school and we weren't really encouraged then to pray to St Joseph. I remember asking what he was the patron saint of and being told that he was a saint by "default", and that his "situation" was rather like that of Mary Magdalen… ! Perhaps by "default", these are two saints I have special affection for.
        I did manage to find out that St Joseph is patron of babes in the womb and of fathers. I find that particularly touching. He gets a bit sidelined in the Nativity story. I thought it was lovely that you referred to him as the "Foster-father of Our Lord". We tend to marginalise his importance in the life of Jesus and underestimate his courage and his love of God and for Mary. Thanks again!

    1. "I am Joseph who wanted
      To teach my own boy how to live.
      My lesson for my foster son:
      Endure. Love. Give"

      I hadn't read that poem before Mary; thanks you! How lovely and how very human.

  3. Wonderful story Father. I too, as a new Catholic who entered the fullness of the truth at your parish, am beginning my own devotion to St. Joseph, for I am a blessed father of 5 beautiful girls (my youngest you baptized yourself). Let us talk how we can get that St. Joseph chapel started :).

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