Today’s reading in chapel on this feast of St. Joseph, reminded me of something from a few years ago. I originally wrote this after a retreat where we talked about women gathering together and women teaching their daughters in order to help them lead more meaningful lives. As a participant, I felt the the discussion was a bit one-sided and I posed the question…. What about the boys? I asked if when they returned home and taught their daughters what they learned in their gathering of women, did they also teach their sons?
I mention Advent in the writing because it was written in December.
Teaching the boys (and girls) to be Josephs …
A recent dream caused me to stop and take notice about what I teach and who I teach it to. In the dream I am helping a young man learn how to care for his motherless infant triplets, one of them I call Hope as I carry her. In reality other than the men in my family, I almost always teach or facilitate women or groups of women. Having grown up in a family with many aunts, sisters who were very close and who were the shakers and movers, I was accustomed to women gathering together with the men in the margins.
I think about the men I know, ones I consider brothers as well as friends. Most are artists, gardeners, lovers of music, poetry, nature and creation in some way or other, some are monks. Some of these friends were raised by single mothers, or by their grandmothers, or had a parent with health or other chronic issue. Some had no siblings or were the youngest.
When I was a girl, tasks and responsibilities were still divided, those done by men and those done by women. But many of my ‘brothers’ were taught skills and rituals that would have been taught to daughters, either because there was no daughter or because the men was raised by someone who saw the value in teaching them these things and took the time to do it. They were also taught to care for others.
As I set up my nativity set that reminds me of children in a Christmas Pageant, I can’t help but look at Joseph and gently touch his face. I’m drawn to him. What do I know about him? Scripture tells me he was a righteous man who did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, a man of honor, but I know he had to be experiencing a bit of dismay at her news. I know that he is considered the patron saint of families, fathers and orphans, pregnant woman, married couples, carpenters, teachers, lawyers, laborers, working people … and more.. He is also considered by some to be the unofficial patron against doubt and hesitation.
I see the people in my life as I look at Joseph. The men and women whose greatest gift is to support others in whatever it is they need to do, often having to take a different path than what they themselves had planned in order to do so. They have a gift of compassion, being honorable, faithful. They do what is necessary to protect those they love. And many of them take the time to teach children, both the girls and boys.
This Advent season I’m teaching my 8 year old grandson (now 12) the tradition of lighting the Advent candles. This is a new practice for us, by next year he will remember having done this and it will become a tradition for him to share with others. I want to teach him family history, tradition, knowledge. But I also want to teach him to be a Joseph. To be open to supporting others. To listen to messages that will guide him.
As I gather with women this coming year I will encourage them to not only share what they experience and learn with other women, sisters, daughters, but to also remember the men, brothers, sons.
We often invest so much time teaching girls and women, empowering them, sharing knowledge, passing on traditions and rituals, that we often forget to teach our boys the qualities that will help them grow into compassionate, faithful and honorable men.
Evelyn Marrero Davila 12/22/13