Tuesday, March 9, 2021


Tracey Rowland has a piece up in the latest issue of Columbia entitled, "The Chivalry of St. Joseph". In a sense it is the most logical case of chivalry going—St. Joseph is the original courtly lover of Our Lady. All well and good.

Rowland quotes Stratford Caldecott to shore up her case:

In St. Joseph, justice is combined with tenderness, strength and decisiveness with flexibility and openness to the will of God. He is an adventurer, too, like the questing knights of later legend.

There is a relationship there but there is also a huge difference. The knights of later legend fought actual battles with weapons and killed their opponents. At base, that was what a knight was. They were idealized killers. Over time, his role became more complicated as he was also expected to be a Christian and a courtly lover. It is the tension between those roles that makes the knight interesting. St. Joseph, not so much. At least, not in the story we have of him. The actual St. Joseph may have been a fascinating character, one of those people you'd love to have a beer with. we have a few lines about him in Matthew and then a whole lot of mythology added to that.

Which brings to this further comment wherein Caldecott quotes Charles Péguy:

There is only one adventurer in the world, as can be seen very clearly in the modern world—the father of a family. Even the most desperate adventurers are nothing compared to him.

Well, I know what Peguy was aiming at and what Caldecott was hoping to get quoting him but that sounds like something you'd find in a Hallmark card for father's day. Particularly when applied to St. Joseph because there is one very significant difference between your father and my father on the one hand and St. Joseph on the other. And that something doesn't go with desperate adventurer.

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