St. Joseph the Basket Case


By Joseph Toone

St. Joseph, in addition to being my namesake, I’ve always found to be the most interesting saint.  Not only is he the most powerful, as others were Jesus’ pals or worshipped Jesus, Joseph is his only adopted father.  The nickname, Pepe, for Joseph comes from combining the words for adoptive father.

As such, Joseph is the only saint with two feast days, patron of countless professions and role model for Mexican masculinity and why nearly every Mexican male’s first name remains Jose.  Plus Jose is the name for the Mexican Maria doll’s cohort.  Yet today I learned of another Mexican tradition for Joseph being the provider for Mary and Jesus.

All are familiar with Joseph’s help with real estate as the patron of real estate agents.  Countless times on tours and lectures folks relay their success at selling unsellable homes after planting a St. Joseph statue upside down on the property.

Most are familiar with the image of a sleeping St. Joseph in Mexican nativities.  Following Jesus’ birth Joseph was exhausted and napped (childbirth can tax a lad).  In a dream an angel warns Joseph the murderous King Herod is coming so Joseph awakes to hightail his blushing bride and newborn to Egypt where they will be safe.  Tradition holds you place words or images of your problems under the sleepy St. Joseph and given he could save God and Mary while resting simply imagine all the problems he could siesta solve for you!

My learning of the latest in St. Joseph’s help is a bit of a basket case.

Legend states a nearby convent during the Colonial Era was having difficulties.  A clever nun placed a basket in front of an image of St. Joseph to toss in fruit or fabric, whatever the brides of Christ then lacked.  Shortly thereafter they’d have all the fruit or fabric they needed.

It couldn’t be just any basket and certainly not one with a handle (those were used by women on market days and modern children gathering Easter eggs).  St. Joseph’s basket had to be size appropriate to his image and similar to the baskets men used to bring their goods to market.

For reasons I’m not clear on, the image of St. Joseph needs to be standing.

In addition to fruit or fabric, you can place an image of a sick pal or anyone that needs some celestial help.  Place some pesos in the basket if money would solve your problems.  The key is not to ask for material goods simply for additional luxury.  Joseph helps the needy, not greedy!

In many ways St. Joseph and his basket reminds me of Vision Boards that were en vogue two decades ago.  A Vision Board was basically a piece of cardboard that you placed images of how you’d like your future to be.  It was one of the many indications my marriage had ended long before I realized.

Thinking it would be fun, I encouraged my wife to make a Vision Board while I did the same.  Mine featured good health and the family on fun adventures experiencing new, well, experiences.  Her’s featured jewelry, cars and homes.  Considering our company was doing really well at the time and she had all those things I was baffled if you could paint any future you wanted, why simply repeat the present?

It reminded me of a college psychology assignment where we had to write a page on our future life at age 85.  I had my future spouse and I working in the garden (somewhat slowly perhaps) and sharing a meal with pals in our seaside cottage.  Most of my classmates saw themselves in nursing homes and wheelchairs barely functioning.  I was again baffled.  If you could see any future you can imagine for yourself, why pick a sad one?

In any case, if in these troubling times you find yourself needing some aid yank the St. Joseph from your Christmas nativity, place a basket by him and put in the basket a bit of what you need from him.  It worked for hungry, naked nuns centuries ago, so perhaps you’ll have similar success!

Joseph Toone