St. Joe, The Power of Napping
SMA: Faith Is Culture
By Joseph Toone
Having used the staple saint names Michael, Mary, Margaret, Marie, and Patrick and most of the apostles on my siblings, my parents named their middle-aged surprise (me!) for the most powerful saint, Joseph.
St. Joseph is little mentioned in the Bible and with scant personal details. For the faithful in San Miguel, this simply provides an opportunity to personify Joseph, making him more relatable than simply the lad without sheep or frankincense in a nativity set.
Technically speaking, Joseph is the most powerful saint. Other saints worshipped Jesus or were his pals. Joseph was his foster father. Until recently, all baby boys in San Miguel de Allende had the name José, Pepe for short, an abbreviation for “foster father.”
During colonial times, nearly every popular profession in San Miguel de Allende (carpentry, candle making, masonry, etc.) had St. Joseph as its patron. As such, his feast day was a huge celebration. Well-dressed indigenous women from neighboring villages would pluck the St. Joseph from their local church’s nativity set to place him on a float and carry him into town to the hacienda located on the Presa between La Luz and the neighborhood El Obraje.
Here was a chapel in his honor with an outstanding wooden likeness. For days, there were celebrations, including storytelling, dancing, and the then-popular sport of burying live chickens up to their necks for horse-riding cowboys to pluck from the earth.
During the wars of the 1920s, the hacienda was raided and the wooden St. Joseph statue burned. After that, celebrations became calmer and rallied around the chapel to St. Joseph up in los Balcones, continuing to this day with music and marathons. Saint Joseph is also widely invoked as the patron of a peaceful death for saving Baby Jesus from being murdered by King Herod and for Joseph’s unusual perspective on death. Legend holds that Joseph was taken into heaven in mid-July when Jesus was 17 years old. Whereas others leave Earth with the expectation of seeing Mary and Jesus in heaven, Joseph had to leave Mary and Jesus behind on Earth.
When Joseph is mentioned in the Bible, it is normally for his protective savvy with Mary and Jesus. These actions came to Joseph through his dreams.
While gringos may bury a statue of St. Joseph upside-down to aid in the sale of their homes as the patron of real estate agents, here the faithful take a different approach. As the Pope in Rome does, you place a sleeping St. Joseph statue on your desk, below which you write out your troubles for Joseph to solve while he’s slumbering. If he could solve life-threatening problems for Mary and Jesus, imagine what solutions he can siesta through for you!
As the number-one-rated local tour guide on culture by TripAdvisor, I provide tours Thursday and Friday at 9am from the Oratorio church. To learn more about faith and culture in San Miguel, visit CatholicSMA.com; it benefits children’s library and art programs.