St. Joseph, the foster parent

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St. Joseph is a popular saint among our guest bloggers. Three have written to describe how St. Joseph inspires them. Today, we share a reflection on how the patron saint of foster parents teaches acceptance, Mother Teresa guides charity, and children inspire love.

By guest blogger Emily Dagostino

Our first date was to Antietam National Battlefield. When Sean dropped me off afterward, a seafood feast prepared by my sister greeted me: It was St. Joseph’s Day. A couple of glasses of wine and college basketball games later, I emailed Sean, thanking him for our date earlier. I added a few words dedicated to the day’s honoree: patron saint of the poor, of carpenters, and of family life. Sean replied two days later: happy st. nicholas of flue day. i'm going to celebrate it by eating swiss cheese, wearing my swatch, eating chocolate and being a neutral party to settle squabbles, or dare i say kerfuffles.

Among other things, we share an affinity for road trips, Civil War history, sports, including college basketball, and the fascinating stories of the lives (and often gory deaths) of Catholic saints. We’re also both writers, now married three years.

Last year around the time Sean decided to convert to Catholicism, we were completing the licensing process to become foster parents. Not long after, on New Year’s Eve, while others our age were nursing newborns or popping corks from champagne bottles, Sean and I were asleep by 10 p.m., having spent the preceding hours mopping the overflow of a clogged toilet. It was a christening of sorts: We’d just welcomed into our home our first foster child.

Ten months later, we’ve parented seven kids. I knew at the outset I couldn’t be a foster mom without help. I wasn’t sure who besides Sean I could rely on — and knew he’d need help too. So I started praying to saints for the first time since eighth-grade confirmation. I prayed to St. Anthony (lost things) and St. Jude (lost causes). In the toughest months, I said every day, sometimes repeatedly, the prayer of St. Francis. I channeled Mother Teresa, praying to “take what you give and give what you take with a smile.”

Five days a week I kneeled in a chapel and looked to Mary, Jesus, and Joseph. It turns out that Jesus’ earthly father is also patron saint of foster parents. He’s the biblical model for how to love as our own kids who aren’t ours.

Sean and I don’t know how long we’ll have our kids. We have no control. We do what we can to teach values and skills that we hope will increase the likelihood they’ll survive and thrive as adults. We know, though, that it might all be lost the moment they leave our home. These things are true, I think, for all parents but every day these truths worry to the forefront of our family life.

St. Joseph teaches me acceptance. I ask him to guide us toward giving up attachments to what’s already done and to changing what we can’t control. I pray that he helps us love only for here and now, without wondering where it will take us, planning for futures or harboring hopes that we can shape the lives of our kids into what we want them to be.

Even more than to Joseph, though, I look to our kids. They teach me gratitude. The stories of their lives remind me of those of the saints in that they suffer and sacrifice, often to a painful degree. Yet their spirits are resilient. Every day they grace us with moments of joy and laughter. That’s their miracle.

I pray that I might learn from them how to carry more than I want to carry; how to love more than I want to love; how to give without receiving; and, on days when it feels like life takes so much and gives so little, how to smile.


Emily Dagostino is a writer who lives and works in Oak Park, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame and has a master’s degree in print journalism from Northwestern University.

For the month of November we're celebrating all the church's saints--both official and unofficial--with blog submissions from readers and contributors on their favorite saints. Send in your own 500-600 word submission to onlineeditor@uscatholic.org.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.