Bethlehem worships St. Joseph | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Bethlehem worships St. Joseph

On the first of May, the feast day of St. Joseph the worker, the Bethlehem community saw a dream come true. In St. Catherine’s Church, a large icon portraying St. Joseph was placed on the north wall on the left of the great altar.

During the celebration of Vespers, Fr. Artemio Vítores, Custodial Vicar, blessed it after having illustrated the major figure of the earthly father of Jesus, the groom of the Virgin Mary and a just man, without forgetting to explain the meaning of the celebration and why St. Joseph is a condensation of the highes values. He thanked and praised the intuition of the Artist who painted the icon with the signs of the Jewish tradition,that is, holding the Torah and wearing the royal garments showing he belonged to the house of King David. From the painting there emerges above all the tenderness of a father, holding his son Jesus in his arms, fondly resting against him, his first teacher in the law of God.

The icon was painted on wood by Father Nathanal Theuma, of the community of St. Mary of Beauty in Italy, who adapted the measurements to a space that was prepared, as he had already very worthily done with the icons of the sanctuary of St. John in the Desert in Ain Karem.

In Bethlehem, alongside the Grotto of the Nativity, the Franciscans have always venerated the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, dedicating an altar to her. A particular thought for St. Joseph, the attentive and caring guardian of the mystery of the Incarnation, was missing in the church. Looking for the artist who was to have the task of painting the icon was accompanied by prayer, for more than a year; every Wednesday after vespers, the Bethlehem community sang the antiphony to St. Joseph and last night the song echoed with the joy of gratitude before the beautiful and precious icon painted by Father Nathanal.

The whole Franciscan fraternity of Bethlehem was present at the celebration, in which some friars from St. Saviour and St. John of Ain Karem took part, together with the icon’s Artist and some of his friends, in praising the Lord. The celebration then continued with a joyful dinner in the Convent refectory.

Fr. Jerzy Kraj , Guardian of Bethlehem