Before his conversion, Bartolo Longo was a Satanic priest. After his conversion, he became an exceptional laymen who was deeply devoted to the holy rosary and also a Knight Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Supulchre of Jerusalem. It was his membership in the Equestrian Order - which has, as its principle concern, the support of the Christians in the Holy Land - that led me to seek his intercession for my pilgrimage as a Knight of the same Order.
After praying at his tomb, the priest who accompanied me and I made our way back through the basilica where this depiction of the Visitation of Our Lady to Saint Elizabeth caught my attention:
As I thought about the inclusion of the adoptive father of the Lord, it suddenly occurred to me, "Of course Joseph wouldn't have let Mary go on her own! What kind of man would have sent Mary on her own?!
As I left the basilica, I knew the prayers of Blessed Bartolo would accompany me on my pilgrimage, but I had no idea how close Saint Joseph would be to me.
After we visited the homes of Mary and Joseph at Nazareth, I went away with a much deeper appreciation of their courage and faith, each in their own way, especially on the day we drove from Nazareth to Ein Karem, where Zechariah and Elizabeth:
|Interior of the Church of the Visitation|
|Looking out from the Church of the Visitation|
|Mosaic on the facade of the Church of the Nativity|
Throughout the pilgrimage, and especially after visiting the Church of the Visitation, I knew I wouldn't to return with some sort of a reminder of Saint Joseph. I do, after all, bear his name. However, finding good images of him is not as easy as one might think, not even in the Holy Land, but on the day we stopped at a Christian store specializing in hand-carved olive wood, I found just the item:
It is a small, 8" olive wood devotional shrine (that weighs more than you'd think) to Saint Joseph carved by local Christians. Unfortunately, the photo doesn't quite do it justice.