St. Joseph is not a Leprechaun

I know I’m late to the St. Joseph Post Party, that one I totally missed out on last week.  Luckily this isn’t really about St. Joseph.  Or leprechauns.  Oh, please don’t make that super sad face.  Stay with me just a little longer…

Last week, on St. Joseph’s feast day, my husband went to a meeting/speech/fried foods extravaganza for men at our parish.

They had him at “free kielbasa and beer”.

While there, among other things, he received a lovely St. Joseph holy card with a beautiful prayer on the back.  Immediately following the words to the prayer were some instructions about saying it as a novena.  And then, following that, added in by the publisher of this holy card was a warning.  Something along these lines: “This novena has never been known to fail.  So if you pray it, make sure you REALLY want what you’re asking for.”

At which point my husband shook his head, set the card on the kitchen counter and said “St. Joseph is not some kind of leprechaun.”

St. Joseph is not a leprechaun.  Nor is he a genie in a lamp.  Nor is he a fairy godmother.  And not one of the other saints is any of these things, either.  They are not standing by just to grant our wishes.  They are not at our beck and call.  We are not in charge of them, guys.

Yes we can, and should, pray for the intercession of the saints.  And we can also pray for a bit of their wisdom, a little direction, a portion of the faith they possessed here on earth.  We can pray directly to God for the things we’re sure we need, or the things we’re sure other people need.  We can pray all day and all night and fast and sacrifice and ask every saint we’ve ever known to storm heaven on our behalf. But sometimes, and in some seasons it might even be often, the Lord’s answer will be ‘no’.

Oh that blessed, wonderful, delicious-only-in-hindsight ‘no’.  That ‘no’ that takes away the job that would have taken us away from our family.  That ‘no’ that puts an end to the relationship standing in the way of us meeting our spouse.  That ‘no’ that says “I have something better in store for you.  Just wait.”  Or even the ‘no’ that says “I need something from you that you don’t think you can give.  But you can.”

Can you imagine the kind of God, the kind of Father, who would give us absolutely anything we ask for as long as we say just the right words in the right order for the right length of time?  It’s a truly terrifying thought.  Because even if we have the purest of intentions and our heart could be in no righter place, sometimes we just don’t know what’s best.  For us and for the world.  That’s why we need a Father.  Those of you who are parents can surely see how  such a “you can have whatever you want” policy could go awry.  Even the kindest, cleverest, most godly children need parents to intervene at times.  To make rules that they don’t like.  To say ‘no’ for reasons that they simply cannot understand.

And what if someone were to take the warning on the back of that card to heart?  They decide that yes, they really do want that special, fantastic thing.  They pray the novena.  And then their prayer isn’t answered.  What will they be forced to think then?  Either that they’re not holy and good enough for the saints to hear their prayers and intercede for them or that this entire prayer business is a sham.

We are holy enough.  Every saint was just like us.  A human born on earth.  A sinner.  They picked up their crosses and they carried them and they hurt and they felt despair and they prayed for things and they heard God’s ‘no’.  So we are certainly holy and good enough to pray for the intercession of those saints.  They know how it is.  They know what we’re dealing with here.  They were just like us.

And oh, this prayer business is not at all, even a little bit, a sham.  Prayer opens our hearts to the fact that there is something, someone, much bigger than us, whose help we need to navigate this sometimes stormy sea.  Prayer says “I’m too small and weak to do this alone.  But that’s okay, because I don’t have to.”  Prayer says “This is what I really want, but if it’s not what I really need, please help me to understand that.  Help me to accept your will, Lord.”  And it puts us in a position to accept God’s answer.  Prayer says “Thank you for my many blessings.  For my talents and treasures.  For the things I have that I surely don’t deserve.”  Prayer gives us peace and strength in an uncertain, weak world.

So no, St. Joseph is not a leprechaun.  But would we really want him to be?

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Dwija Borobia lives with her husband and their four (soon-to-be-five!) kids in rural southwest Michigan in a fixer-upper they bought sight-unseen off the internet. Between homeschooling and corralling chickens, she pretends her time on the internet doesn’t count because she uses the computer standing up. You can read more on her blog house unseen. life unscripted.


Dwija Borobia lives with her husband and their five kids in rural southwest Michigan in a fixer-upper they bought sight-unseen off the internet. Between homeschooling and corralling chickens, she pretends her time on the internet doesn’t count because she uses the computer standing up. You can read more on her blog house unseen. life unscripted.

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  • I know of people who approach something called the Rosary of the Unborn in the same manner.  A wonderful opportunity to pray for the end of abortion is warped into a hodge podge of “every Hail Mary said on a special Rosary results in a specific baby saved from abortion” and additional, uncomfortably superstitious beliefs attached to this particular devotion.  Every time I come across it, I’m saddened by the faith and longing for justice so obviously present, marred by the “magic Buddha belly” mentality of prayer.

  • Mrs Swanson06

    I’ve read enough about the ” little people” to know that I would never want to rely on a leprechaun for help!
    One of the things that I have noticed about novenas is the added peace they offer. If one is truly devoted to the practice they are forcing their hearts, minds, and spirits into a state of calm. When one is calm they are better able to listen, which in turn leads to surprising results. Sometimes it is ” no”, but if done in the right spirit (so to speak) that no comes well equipped with the grace to understand why and how to utilize what is already there.

    Dwija this was a great post!

  • Love this! There is a fine line we Catholics walk! When I look back at prayers I’ve prayed, many of the seemingly “unanswered” ones were actually the best things in life that happened to me! 

    I do love St. Joseph very much, though. I believe he does pray for us and intercede on our behalf if we ask. We just have to remember that, ultimately, God is in charge and He decides what’s best for us. 

  • Absolutely.  Remembering his place and our place in relation to God is so important.  

  • Harold Fickett

    Amen.  “The just shall live by faith.”  “In the world, you will have trouble, but behold, I have overcome the world.”  Catholicism is a REALISM. 

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this.

  • I agree.  I love St. Joseph – perhaps he was the first saint I really “loved” when coming into the Church – and he’s been faithful in his prayers and help for me.  But, superstition!  How easy it is to fall into!  Superstition = “Lord, my will be done… and, can you throw in some rally fries for the Mariners this season, while you’re at it? Because You know they need all the help they can get.”

  • Hah!  Yes.  Makes me think of people who wear their team’s jersey to Mass on Sunday morning…you know, just in case that helps 😉

  • I wasted a lot of Hail Marys on the Jets this past season, for my husband’s sake.  But at some point, I thought, “They deserve to lose!”

  • Hahahahahaha!!!!!  Ain’t that the truth….

  • noelfitz

    Being Irish I really wanted proof that St Joseph was not a Leprechaun.  What do we know about St Joseph? Not much more than that he was just and a worker.

    Were all saints sinners? Mary was presumably not.

    In school I learned all prayers are answered,but not as we would always expect.

  • Gail Finke

    This reminds me of something from years ago, when a friend of mine sold Amway. Bear with me here. He was recruited by someone else, and he is the go-getter type who is a born salesman so he thought he’d give it a try. But, being pretty smart, he decided not to hit up his friends and family in case it didn’t work out. He followed every instruction, used ever sales pitch (and did I mention he is a born salesman?). But when he was not a success, he went to the company people and they told him he obviously didn’t pray enough and God did not want him to succeed. He was shocked, and that was the end of his Amway career — and could have been the end of his faith as well. God is not a magic dispenser of wealth and happiness.