I received a peculiar gift at a recent parish visit. It’s a statue of St. Joseph, asleep. Joseph is curled up with his head on his traveling bag. His eyes are closed. He’s peaceful and still. I was told the image depicts Joseph dreaming. That could be. Angels appeared to him in dreams, telling him of God’s plan and the part he would play in it. It sounds beautiful and makes sense—Joseph dreaming, angels, God’s plan—but I wonder: Could the image simply be a Joseph who was just plain tired?
He finds out that the woman to whom he’s betrothed is pregnant. He begins to settle into married life, only to be told by census takers that he needs to travel to Bethlehem to register. He arrives in Bethlehem, only to face the double challenge of no vacancies and his wife going into labor. He makes plans to return to Nazareth, only to be told that, given the political climate, Egypt is a better option.
Disappointment, constantly changing plans, reacting, shifting, recalculating, and reorganizing, Joseph must have been exhausted! The hardship of travel, the stress of providing for his family, fear of the unknown, and anxiety about the future must have weighed heavily on his heart and mind. Joseph asleep calls to mind all he endured for the mystery of the Incarnation. He has to be the “patron saint” of a good night’s sleep.
Many of us are more overworked, stressed out, and deprived of sleep during these times of uncertainty than ever before. We’re tired of the internet, tired of our family, tired of online classrooms, tired of the pandemic, tired of masks, tired of bad news, tired of politics, tired of sickness, tired of being broke, so tired of so much physically, psychologically, and emotionally.
When was the last time you really slept well? Medical professionals say that a lack of sleep can lead to poor health. Heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes can result from chronic sleep loss and fatigue. Really tired people can cause accidents. They are more likely to make mistakes. Tiredness can lead to poor judgment, attention deficit, and a lack of self-control. Tired people are more prone to do and say things they regret.
Get some rest! Sleep refreshes and restores. You’ll feel better about yourself, others, and the crazy world in which we live. When St. Joseph rested, deep in sleep, God spoke to him. There’s so much that God wants to say to us. So stop, close your eyes, and rest. “In peace I will lie down and fall asleep, / for you alone, Lord, make me secure” (Psalm 4:9). How close God is to us when we sleep.
Good St. Joseph, it has been so long. Pray for me that tonight I can get a good night’s sleep.