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Posted June 19, 2013

Book: Go To Joseph
Author: Michael O'Neil McGrath
World Library Publications. Franklin Park, IL. 2013. Pp. 131

Excerpt from the Foreword:

Brother Michael McGrath is a Christian artist who sees that everyone wears the same face of Christ in a unique way. He knows that we all come from Nazareth, and that only good can come from Nazareth. In his books At the Name of Jesus: The Way, the Truth, the Life and Blessed Art Thou: Mother Lady, Mystic, Queen, Brother Mickey gave us images of the carpenter's son and his mother that opened our hearts and took our breath away. Here in Go to Joseph he gives us words and paintings of the working-class hero who is a model for husbands, fathers, cooks, laborers, business people, immigrants, social workers, ministers, and neighbors. Joseph is in all of us and we are in him, when we have eyes to see.

Christianity is all about seeing. St. Ignatius said that his mission as a Christian theologian was to help others see God in all things. And Mickey's gift as a Christian artist is to see the invisible and make it visible for everyone. Christian or not. In Go to Joseph he imagines the unimaginable and creates paintings of Jesus' earthly father that reveal spiritual qualities only the inner eye can see: love, peace, strength, fortitude, compassion, gratitude, wonder, and awe. If our purpose in life is to come to "know God and Jesus Christ whom God sent to earth, Brother Mickey's trilogy is a triple taste of eternity.

Excerpt from the Book:

Working Men

"Let your work be manifest to your servants,
And your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
And prosper the work of our hands --
O prosper the work of our hands!" Psalm 90:16-17

St. Joseph burst onto the scene of popular religious devotion just at the time in Western European history when the middle and working classes were beginning to grow because the feudal system had finally ended. The Christian churches, which were in the throes of either reforming old growth or generating new, were preaching about the dignity of the common laborer. In Catholic religious art, we begin to see a slight shift in attention from Mary as queen of a heavenly court toward her husband, who had progressed from nonentity on the sidelines to craftsman and working man at the center of activity. Ite ad Joseph, Latin for "Go to Joseph," was a new and popular bit of devotional advice for the faithful.

It took a long time to get there, but in many ways the twentieth century was really Joseph's time --- and he has Communism and popes to thanks for it! Shortly before the century began, Pope Leo XIII, the great champion of workers' rights, wrote an encyclical entitled Rerum Novarum, in which he supported the creation of labor unions. He also wrote an entire encyclical on Joseph in the face of the rising tide of injustice against workers due to industrialization, capitalism, and Marxism. Pope Pius XI declared Joseph the patron of Russia as his own defiant act against Stalin and atheistic Communism. Following suit, his successor, Pius XII, declared May 1 the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker as the Catholic alternative to Communism's May Day.

As a result of all this attention to Joseph the worker, statues and holy cards of him became commonplace in Catholic churches around the world. Sometimes they simply depicted Joseph holding the infant Jesus and the flowering staff.

Occasionally, he also holds a loaf of bread as a symbol of his role as provider. (I received a holy card like this as a prize for winning a first-grade spelling bee.) But more often than not, he wielded carpenter's tools such as a hammer and builder's square (never a hammer and sickle, as seen on Soviet flags!).

Table of Contents:

1. Go to Joseph

2. Family tree

3. Just man

4. A manly vocation

5. Nativity

6. No room at the inn

7. Presentation

8. Flight into Egypt

9. Rest on the flight into Egypt

10. Heading home

11. The whole Holy Family

12. Sun/son of justice

13. Growing in wisdom

14. Working men

15. Pillar of gentle strength

16. Joseph, companion of the sick

17. Patron of a happy death

18. San Giuseppe

19. San Jose

20. Patron of the universal church

21. Final prayer