Consider the blacksmith standing at the anvil.
The din of the hammer deafens his ear
and the heat of the forge scorches his skin.
Yet his mind is set on the tool that he is shaping.Sirach 38:28
I am helping a parishioner pour a concrete driveway. He points to the wooden form at the edge of the dugout pad. “I paid eight bucks for that 8-foot 2×4.” He shakes his head. “Last year, the same size board cost two bucks.”
His words echo a complaint I heard a building contractor last week.
“What’s behind the spike in price?” I ask.
“Low interest rates.”
The cement truck is delayed, so we sit on the patio. My parishioner is a young father, devoted husband and good provider. He hunts elk and competes in endurance cycling. I’m honored that he asked me to help him. Mainly, I’m grateful for the adage my father taught me a lifetime ago: Show me your friends, show me yourself.
Later that afternoon, his kids arrive home from school just as the cement is setting up. Their mother comes out of the house. Soon the small hands into which I press Holy Communion each Sunday are being pressed into cool, grey cement. The smiles on their faces as curious and angelic as when attending Mass itself.
“You two are doing a great job of raising a family,” I tell her.
She smiles and reaches for a garden hose to wash the little ones’ hands.
I resume helping her husband gather shovels and trowels. Our talk returns to supply chains and construction costs. The parish has no need for a new driveway, but the pandemic and declining attendance has affected our budget. Sometimes I feel like the owner of a fixer-upper that has turned into a money-pit downer. Which is why I find myself leaning on St. Joseph these days.
The Gospel describes Joseph as a carpenter, but the Greek word connotes a high level of skill, as in an artisan, journeyman or specialist. I realize that society need contractors to keep projects running and supply chains going, but local communities need craftsmen–like St. Joseph and the blacksmith in the Book of Sirach–to foster pride in handiwork and love of one’s place.
My friend shouts towards the driver who is getting reading to leave.
“Hold on, I’ll write you a check.”
On the way to the house, he grabs a basketball from his son who is taking aim for the hoop on the backboard next to the driveway.
“The cement’s still wet!”
The boy shakes his head and I just smile. For a pastor like me, it is attention to detail—like the fit-and-finish of family love—that makes my life worthwhile.