Here we sit (or stand, lie, or whatever position you’re in when reading this), just two weeks shy of the mid-point of the Year of St. Joseph. (This may be a record — only three words into my column and then a digression.)
I have included in The Anchor a plethora of stories and features about local events marking this wonderful year, yet only now have I really thought about this remarkable man.
I don’t have to tell you about all his remarkable traits — they’re well-known and revered. I believe the reason why I hadn’t given him much thought is because during the 20th century, the name Joseph, so callously trimmed to Joe, had lost is beauty and charm.
I’m not sure why all of a sudden a cup of coffee became a cup of Joe; why someone who was unremarkable or even more dull became an average Joe or worse, Joe Schmo.
As a young lad, I hated the name Dave, worse yet David. I still do to a degree. That’s why I keep telling my youngest pup, I prefer going by a variation of my middle name, Brian, which I have morphed into Brain; which draws myriad eye-rolls from aforementioned pup (again I digress). But in my youth, Joe was another name that I found simple, plain and dull — and both names are so Biblical, but I do believe society played a part in trivializing both. Even the impish cartoon character Dennis the Menace had a sidekick named Joey.
As I grew, you couldn’t hear the name Joe or Joey without thinking of a movie with mafioso undertones, or a lame sitcom.
But then, some years ago, I began to research my family tree, one which I’ve mentioned before, I fell out of and broke my arm, and discovered a very interesting pattern. Going back several generations, covering hundreds of years, the name Joseph pops up countless times. Not Joe, or Joey or Jo-Jo. No, it was the dignified Joseph — on both sides of my lineage, particularly the Jolivets.
I have grandfathers and uncles that go way back with either a first or middle name of Joseph. My father was Loridas Joseph. And I know that Catholic families back then preferred to use Biblical names (Where the Loridas came in, I have no idea, despite researching it. It was my pépère’s name too. My mother told my dad there was no way in the world any of his sons would be called Loridas — thanks, mom).
The name Joseph began to bulldoze its way into my heart, knowing so many of my ancestors shared that name, and it was because of a reverence for good old St. Joseph.
In fact I named my late youngest son David Joseph — for me, my dad, my ancestors and mostly for St. Joseph. I think it was the David that did him in.
Today, David still bothers me — that was the name I was called when in trouble, which was not less than often. But I like Dave — I like Brain more, but Dave will do. But I assuredly have grown very fond of Joseph in honor of St. Joseph, whom I took on as a saint to go to for intercessory prayers. He is a big part of my heritage.
In fact I was thrilled when in 2013 the Apostolic See added Joseph to the Eucharistic prayers used at Mass. I felt he should have been there all along.
It’s very uplifting to have a year dedicated to such a humble, prayerful, obedient man of God — and such a large part of my family history. It’s time he reclaims the dignity of his God-given name. Good-bye Joe, Joey and Jo-Jo. And nothing personal to those who like those monikers, but a Joseph by any other name just doesn’t work for me.