2. Saint Joseph: model and example of the josephite educator

Since the beginning of the birth of Artigianelli Boarding School Saint Joseph was the point of reference for all:  for adults, the perfect educator; for today young people who become workers, the example of the artisan and the worker. We must also say that Nazareth is home and exemplary family to be used as a model within a boarding school or an educational institution. Moreover, the two characteristic virtues of the Josephite/Murialdine educator are humility and charity, synthesis of human and evangelical qualities of the educator on the example of Saint Joseph. We are invited to make our own the sentiments of Saint Joseph, particularly in spending time with youth as our first fathers did. Finally Saint Joseph teaches us to conjugate together laboriousness and intimacy with God, attitudes and behaviors that are human as well as religious, but that offer the complete image of Saint Joseph, who was thus the custodian of the Savior in that time of redemption that lasted about 30 years in the home of Nazareth with Mary and Jesus.

Fr. Pedro Olea

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Saint Joseph: model and example of the josephite educator


The group of priests, who under the leadership of Don Cocchi founded the Artigianelli Boarding School had clearly in mind the idea that the central point of reference should have been Saint Joseph. The Saint would be a model of educator for them, and for the boys and young people would be an example of artisan and worker, when they would become artisans and workers themselves in later years.

The boys of the boarding school either lacked a family or were coming from families with serious problems. It was a question to remedy these situations in the measure possible: the boarding school ought to have been the family they never had and for this purpose the best example was the holy family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the home of Nazareth. A family with a father, a mother and a son, as are the more normal families of this world, who had to face the same difficulties of many families of yesterday and of today: a precarious lodging in the moment of birth, an attempt of murder from king Herod, and a headlong flight in middle of the night. And on the returning trip from Egypt Joseph took the precaution and changed destination because Archelaus was king of Judea. In short a family that overcame difficulties with its own effort and work.

The boarding school needed a model of educator, and what better educator was there than Saint Joseph who educated the Savior? Saint Joseph had protected the child Jesus, had taught him the trade of the carpenter and thus had assured him a future. Once adult Jesus himself became the carpenter of the town, a job hard but honest.

When we think that Jesus saved us, we generally think of his passion, death, and resurrection, neglecting the fact that his whole life was redeeming, and so we forget the importance of Saint Joseph in the history of salvation. The life of Jesus in the home of Nazareth, his growth, the learning of a trade, his work as a carpenter with Saint Joseph and later by himself are redeeming events, and in all these Saint Joseph had a fundamental role: the image of a father.

Saint Joseph was, therefore, the “educator optimus,” the best of the educators, whom we should take as model. This is what the founders of Artigianelli Boarding School did.

When later Saint Leonard Murialdo founded the Congregation with the help of Don Reffo and Don Constantino had in mind all we have written above, and Don Reffo put it in writing: “the new Congregation was named after Saint Joseph in a natural and spontaneous manner – they could not have chosen a better name, a more propitious patron.” (Eugene Reffo: Explanations of the Ristretto del Regolamento).

Saint Joseph was the patron, model and gave his name to the Congregation, therefore, his own characteristic virtues were assigned to the Josephite religious educator: obedience, for which the Saint had given marvelous examples; chastity for he had lived together with Mary; poverty for the fact that he had worked with his hands all his life.

To the religious vows were added other virtues: mainly, humility and charity as it is very evident from the documents of the Congregation since the beginning. It was the humility of the David’s descendant, who lived unnoticed. The gospel says little of him, only the essential: work, education. The rest is silence. For this reason the Josephite must “occupy the last place and work intensely as if he were in the first place (…) glad to be able to continue among our poor boys the enviable mission of Saint Joseph with the divine adolescent Jesus.” (Eugene Reffo: explanations of the Ristretto del Regolamento) Consequently they made their own the motto “Fare e Tacere” (work and keep quite).

To humility was added charity, love, because Josephites must have toward the boys, adolescents and young people, the same sentiments that Saint Joseph nourished toward Jesus. It was clear that around those virtues of Saint Joseph there were other, so Josephites made their own laboriousness and intimacy with God. Who has ever lived more intimately united with God and with the Virgin than Saint Joseph in the home of Nazareth?

For all this when Josephites speak of “our Saint” they clearly mean: Saint Joseph. Don Reffo used to say: “Saint Joseph is the living rule of the Congregation, in which all must be Josephite and in which anything must be but according to the spirit of Saint Joseph.” (Eugene Reffo: The End…)

For this if we follow this model, the image of Saint Joseph urges us to fulfill our task of educators/”fathers” because in reality we represent those who entrust their sons, – who are what is most valuable and most precious we have, – and in the case of orphans and abandoned, we substitute them. Of this we should feel proud and responsible.

The boarding school ought to have been like the home of Nazareth, where lived a family destined to bring salvation, with its problems and with its joys, model of life for the educators, the families and the alumni. To take as a model the family of Nazareth was a great educational intuition that was transmitted to us by Saint Leonard and those who worked with him. It reflected the need of a united action of education with the families. Educators, parents, and young people, we must work in the same direction and therefore must form “a well-united family,” like the family of Nazareth.

It was necessary therefore that Josephites would make their own the sentiments of Saint Joseph toward Jesus, fulfilling their mission as it were the same mission of Saint Joseph with Jesus, but with a quality much proper of Saint Leonard, who, as Don Reffo says, recommended all his life sweetness and gentleness, the friendly and amiable way to say things, above all, when there was something to reprimand in the behavior of the boys. The guiding conviction was that it was better to reward than to punish, because reward encourages the continuation of good behavior.

An important part of education is to stay with young people and Don Reffo narrates that Saint Leonard was frequently in the recreation area, playing soccer with the little ones and other games of the time. The first Josephites did the same, knowing that education has an influence that lasts with time.

The education of Saint Joseph is reflected in the whole life of Jesus. Sometimes and not few times, artists reflect the reality in a better way than theologians. There is a painting in the church of the Jesuits in Quito that we could use as an illustration. We see in this picture the shop of Nazareth where Saint Joseph plays with the child Jesus. They are building a cross. The child holds three of the arms that have been put together and Saint Joseph gives the fourth arm in order to complete its cross. The painter succeeded to express in a most beautiful way an indisputable truth: the educational influence of Saint Joseph in the acceptance by Jesus of the will of the Father till death and death on a cross. Hardly can one express better the educational action of Saint Joseph.

Saint Joseph is our model for that education that extends in time, of our sowing that produces fruits with time and that teaches us to be patient. We have in Saint Joseph a model and a protector, who obtains for us from the Holy Spirit the necessary gifts to educate, because as Saint Leonard used to say, we are “beloved sons of Saint Joseph, who is protector and father of the Congregation.” (Saint Leonard Murialdo, Writings, 4, p.348; Marengo, Epistolary, n.2284)

And for this we, Josephites, must pray for the boys, who are at present with us and are growing, but also for all those who have been with us. We have always to recommend them to God and to Saint Joseph in all our prayers.

After an attentive reflection on the evangelical passage of Jesus lost and found in the temple, the last General Chapter of 2012 again recommended to us that “we Josephites recognize the child Jesus himself in the young people we educate and we share the ministry of Saint Joseph, excellent educator”; and that the boys “may have the experience of being loved, listened to, appreciated and may have thus a home, a family, like our model of Nazareth,” and in the educational style we assume certain typical features of Saint Joseph, in particular: sharing the life, joys and sufferings of youths, living among them as friends, brothers, and fathers, creating with them a climate of trust and optimism, so that the educational action might be effective. Similarly his spirit of faith (of Saint Joseph) helps us to contemplate the mystery with humility in the trusting and constant search of God’s designs. (General Chapter XXII Doc. 1, no. 8-10) For this the General Chapter reminded us of the centrality of Saint Joseph in the foundational charism of the Congregation as father of all Josephites and educator, reaffirming the importance of the Saint and of the family of Nazareth in the pedagogy of the Congregation.

I desire to conclude with a prayer to Saint Joseph that we can repeat with Saint Leonard who wrote it:
Oh, Saint Joseph, we are your servants and your sons, come to live in this new home of Nazareth, come to reign over us. We give you the same authority you had in the family of Nazareth. Oh, Saint Joseph be faithful custodian among us of Jesus and Mary, father of this family on which the eternal Father has established you. Amen (Saint Leonard Murialdo, Writings 6, pp. 356-358).

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