Saintly Snark – A Reflection for the Feast of St. Joseph

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Know any Christmas-y songs about St. Joseph? No? Well, I know only one, and I cherish it because it’s midrash-like: it goes behind the scene, and evokes a rich line of thought (one of the purposes of midrash).

Actually, the scene is set after Christmas, when Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus are fleeing to Egypt to evade Herod’s soldiers, coming to execute all baby boys who could pose a threat to Herod’s power (think “the Holy Innocents”, whom we celebrated a couple of days after Christmas, bringing us back with a thud from all the holiday sweetness and light).

It’s one long trek to Egypt by foot and donkey, so the family takes a break when Mary sees a cherry tree up ahead. Some juicy cherries sound wonderful to her, so the song reports her request of Joseph to pick some for her.

Snarkily, Joseph replies, “Let the father of the baby pick cherries for you.” Wow! Was he ruminating during that whole long trip over Mary’s pregnancy- without-his-involvement, and the resultant upending of all their happy plans together? (Unexpected pregnancies and other life-altering events have been known to make good, even saintly, people snarky and then some!).

There’s no record of Mary’s reply – perhaps she was stunned to silence by her spouse’s uncharacteristic testiness. But someone else does reply: that “father of the baby” causes the cherry tree to bend down far enough for Mary to pick her own cherries!

I suspect the stunned silence shifted to Joseph, who had to rejoice in such an emphatic affirmation of the baby boy’s true origin, putting to rest all Joseph’s anger, hurt and bitterness.

Of course, “The Cherry Tree Carol” is made up: there’s no mention of cherries in the scriptures, as far as I know. But in the department of “be careful what you wish for”, could this be any better a response?

So many conversations could grow from this rich, imaginative carol! What could you say to Joseph? To Mary? Even to baby Jesus?

Smiling Memories of Christmas Past

By Sister Loretta Cornell, President, MHSH

When we came downstairs on Christmas morning to all the presents under the tree—and I do mean ALL the presents because there were 11 of us—we sang Happy Birthday to the baby Jesus.  After that we each looked for our special pile of presents, which would consist of things we needed such as socks and clothing as well as a toy, a game and a sock filed with nuts, hard Christmas candy, a tangerine and an apple.

After the presents were opened, Mom and Dad would go to Mass together.  Sometimes, those of us who hadn’t gone to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve would go with our parents.

When they came home it was time to play the games. My Dad played the games with us and my Mom went to the kitchen to cook.  We had the best fun, laughing and carrying on with Dad, who usually won the games, but it didn’t matter.  We had fun and enjoyed one another.  In the early afternoon, we would gather and have our Christmas dinner, which always began with grace and thanking Jesus for being born into our lives.

Our Christmas was equal parts joy in the birth of Jesus, warmth in being together as a family and the sheer fun of playing with new games and toys.  Those Christmases have blessed me with loving and smiling memories. And they have sustained me through Christmas days that were less merry—times when there was loss and sadness and missing people long gone.

But still, after all these years, today my thoughts of Christmas are still smiles and laughter and a profound thankfulness for the gift of the infant Jesus and the love that shines through family and friends and memories.

I hope this remembrance of my early Christmas days brings a smile to your face and heart.  And I hope that you, too, have cherished memories that light up this holy time.  May Jesus always be the center of your life and your Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad.