Reflecting Heaven Part 14: Notes on the St. Bernadette Sanctuary Renovation

07-28-2021Reflecting HeavenDeacon Peter Auriemma

The south transept of St. Bernadette Church is dedicated to St. Joseph. As part of the beautification project of our Church, a large original oil painting has been commissioned for its south wall. It will be a depiction of the Holy Family in their home in Nazareth.

To say that Nazareth was a humble, back-water place is an overstatement. It was a small hamlet of about 150 families and was founded by descendants of the royal family of King David. It is located in northern Galilee approximately 20 miles west of the Sea of Galilee. We can appreciate a bit of Nazareth’s poor reputation by Nathanael’s comment when Philip tells him of Jesus’ hometown. Nathanael replies, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). However, Nazareth was just a little over 3 miles from the large, bustling Greco-Roman city of Sepphoris, one of the capital cities of the Galilee district.

According to some traditions, Sepphoris was the birthplace of Our Blessed Mother Mary. It is unknown when she and her family moved to Nazareth. At the time that the Holy Family lived in Nazareth, there was a massive building campaign going on in Sepphoris which required the work of numerous artisans. Many Biblical scholars believe that as a highly skilled craftsman, Joseph would have walked there seeking work. As Jesus grew, He would have accompanied him there also.

By trade, St. Joseph was a “tekton” in Greek. This is usually translated into English as a “carpenter”. However, for the people of his time, the term meant much more. A tekton was a very highly skilled craftsman who worked with any hard or lasting material. This could include stone and metal as well as wood. The tekton was trained from an early age by his father and his was considered a very noble and important profession in the life of the town where he lived and worked. He would make plows and all sorts of farming equipment, doors and wooden beams for roofs, and could craft fine furniture. He was also skilled in working in stone and was the one to choose and put in place the large stone boulders which were the foundations of all of the homes in ancient Israel.

The Gospels tell us that St. Joseph was a descendant of King David and a member of the tribe of Judah, and these were prerequisites for the Messiah who was to come. He was also called a “righteous man”. This is a term of great respect given by his peers to a man recognized as one who always seeks the will of God and does it wholeheartedly. As a well-established tekton, he would have been considered a good catch in the town of Nazareth, and he was eventually betrothed to Mary. They probably knew each other from childhood.

Mary was not only a member of David’s royal family, she was also a member of the priestly family of Aaron. She, therefore, would also have been considered a wonderful blessing for Joseph, and to the people of Nazareth, their marriage would have been seen as a very good match. We all know the story of what happened during the time of their betrothal, how Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

We also learn that Joseph is told by an angel in a dream that he is to take Mary as his wife because the child is from God. Joseph is also being called to a special mission, just as Mary is. Joseph is to name the child Jesus. A man “naming” a child means that he claims the child as his own flesh and blood and takes full responsibility for him. That is why we should refer to Joseph as the adoptive father of Jesus.

We can never overstate the importance of the influence of St. Joseph in the life of Jesus. St. Joseph gives Jesus his legitimate standing in Israel, and Jesus’ lineage of the House of David and the tribe of Judah come from his ancestry as his legal father. St. Joseph would have taught Jesus his trade from a very early age. More importantly, St. Joseph’s influence on the intellectual and spiritual formation of his son cannot be over emphasized.

Jesus had to learn to be a man, a son of Israel – and this He learned from St. Joseph who was His spiritual mentor as well. It was the duty of a father to teach the daily prayers to his son and to pray them with him. It was also St. Joseph’s obligation to take Jesus to the synagogue every Sabbath and to prepare Him for His bar mitzvah – His coming of age – and to stand near Him as He read from the scroll of the Scriptures.

St. Joseph’s teaching about the Law and Judaism was so effective that Jesus is referred to as the “teacher” or “Rabbi” everywhere He goes. St. Joseph was the man that Jesus grew up calling “Abba”, which means daddy. We can see the great love that Jesus had for St. Joseph when He taught us to call our Father in Heaven Abba also.

During this year dedicated to St. Joseph, be sure to pause in front of our beautiful painting of the Holy Family in their home in Nazareth. And be sure to bring your problems and concerns to St. Joseph in prayer. He was the man closest to Jesus, and other than Our Blessed Mother Mary, no one knows the Heart of Jesus better than His earthly Abba, St. Joseph.

Novena to the Holy Family

This novena is most appropriately begun nine days before December 28, the feast of the Holy Family. It is also fitting to pray it during the month of February, which is consecrated to the Holy Family.

Novena Prayer

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of loving Holy Church as I should, above every earthly thing, and of ever showing my love by deeds.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of openly professing as I should, with courage and without human respect, the faith that I received as your gift in holy Baptism.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of sharing as I should in the defense and propagation of the Faith when duty calls, whether by word or by the sacrifice of my possessions and my life.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of loving my family and others in mutual charity as I should, and establish us in perfect harmony of thought, will, and action, under the rule and guidance of the shepherds of the Church.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless me and grant me the grace of conforming my life fully as I should to the commandments of God’s law and those of His Holy Church, so as to live always in that charity which they set forth.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I ask in particular this special favor: (Mention your favor).

Dedication of One’s Family

Most loving Jesus, by Your sublime and beautiful virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, modesty, charity, patience, and gentleness, You blessed with peace and happiness the family which You chose on earth. In Your mercy look upon my family. We belong to You, for we have received Your many blessings over many years and we entrust ourselves to Your loving care.

Look upon my family in Your loving kindness, preserve us from danger, give us help in time of need, and grant us the grace to persevere to the end in imitation of Your holy Family, so that having revered You and loved You faithfully on earth, we may praise You eternally in heaven.

Mary, dearest Mother, to your intercession we have recourse, knowing that your Divine Son will hear your prayers. Glorious patriarch, Saint Joseph, help us by your powerful prayers and offer our prayers to Jesus through Mary’s hands. Amen.


Lord Jesus Christ, being subject to Mary and Joseph, You sanctified family life by Your beautiful virtues. Grant that we, with the help of Mary and Joseph, may be taught by the example of Your holy Family, and may after death enjoy its everlasting companionship.

Lord Jesus, help us ever to follow the example of Your holy Family, that in the hour of our death Your glorious Virgin Mother together with Saint Joseph may come to meet us, and we may be worthy to be received by You into the everlasting joys of heaven. You live and reign forever. Amen.