For many it would have seemed a happy coincidence, but for me it was an answer to a desperate prayer. It happened on the break day midway through the IRF (Institute for Religious Formation) 30 Day Retreat held in Sedalia, CO, at which I was one of the retreat directors. A native of Kansas, I was eager to take a short trip into the gorgeous Rocky Mountains, and then meet friends in Denver for an afternoon lunch and visit before returning to continue the retreat.
Stopping at a close-by gas station, I asked the locals for some directions. Suggesting I drive over the pass to Georgetown – a quaint mountain town with interesting gift shops and a cute ice cream parlor – they gave me a map and I set out. The road was clear as I began the climb, but about halfway up the slope it began to snow – at first a flurry, gradually growing into a full-fledged blizzard as I continued the ascent. Just as I was beginning to doubt if I should keep going, a snowplow appeared in front of me, clearing the way. As I reached the top of the pass, it pulled aside, and I started down the other side of the mountain.
Just a little after I had begun the descent, my car slid out of my control skidding sideways down the mountain, then plummeting nose first into a snowbank on the left side of the road. Stuck! I tried backing out, rocking, then backing – praying and trying again. Really stuck! With only a Spring jacket, no gloves, and armed with a windshield scraper I tried digging the snow from around the tires, and tried again and again – all the while praying loud to the angels, to God, to Jesus, to Mary, all seeming to no avail. Getting back into the car to thaw out my frozen fingers, I shouted in desperation: “St. Joseph, you protected Mary and Jesus on their flight to Egypt, please help me! I don’t believe God wants me to die up here!”
At that moment, a beat-up looking pickup drove up, then a strapping young man walked toward me saying: “Looks like you need some help. Put her in reverse and I’ll get you out of here.” It took just a minute and I was free, grateful, and cautiously making my way down to Georgetown with him following me like a protector. When I turned a bend about halfway down, I noticed that he had disappeared though I had seen no place a car or truck could turn around. At first concerned for his safety, I then wondered: was that St. Joseph? or a young man acting in the spirit of St. Joseph? an angel? I will never know. I did spend a few minutes in Georgetown, on to Denver to enjoy time with my friends, then back to finish the retreat.
There must be many St. Joseph stories – where someone unassuming and humbly helpful simply appears when a person is desperate or in need, lends a hand, then disappears without waiting to be thanked or rewarded by the person left grateful and relieved. Maybe you are the “St. Joseph” – though you’d never think of yourself that way! What is your St. Joseph story?
Today as we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, it’s a good day to remember with gratitude all those who are that steady, ready to help presence in our lives and in our communities. It’s a good day to do random acts of kindness in the spirit of St. Joseph. It’s just another way to quietly but persistently be peace, build peace, preach peace.
Who knows – someone like me might be telling or writing a story about what you did to help them in a time of need.