Fr. Charlie McCoy, C.S.C., has checked in with this month’s installment of his blog from the University of Portland, and it is quite timely, coming on the heels of the great feast day Saturday.
My family, in the proud Italian tradition (don’t let my last name fool you), has a great devotion to St. Joseph. It has been particularly important for me as an individual to love St. Joseph, because he is many things that I’m not: he is a quiet man (he utters not a solitary word in all of Scripture), while I’m a loud man; he is a craftsman, while I’m an academic; he makes decisions by following his dreams, while I make them by thinking, talking, or following my gut. It actually makes me quite happy that my favorite saint is so different from me; St. Joseph is for me a gentle, loving encounter with the other.
This past Saturday I was enjoying a very pleasant St. Joseph’s Day. He is the Holy Cross brothers’ patron saint, so the UP community celebrated a special Mass together and ate a terrific brunch worthy of any great Italian neighborhood’s St. Joseph Table. In the afternoon, I had a couple of errands to run, and since I was short on time, I decided to drive instead of walk. About a mile from campus, as I was parking the car along a side street, I hit the curb at a funny angle and heard a loud, “SHHHHHH.” Well, even an academic could figure out that he had just ruptured a tire.
Now I had never learned how to change a tire. When, at the age of 16, I asked my dad to teach me, he replied: “No. Because if I teach you how, then one day, you’ll get a flat on the expressway; and I know you, you’d be crazy enough to get out and change it yourself. And what you should do if you get a flat on the expressway is call a tow truck.” So what does a 37-year-old priest who doesn’t know how to change a tire do when he gets a flat? He calls his superior. No answer. What’s the next thing he does? He calls someone who does know how and won’t be too hard on him.
I instantly knew the right someone was Br. Ken Allen. “Br. Ken, this is Charlie McCoy, I’m on the corner of Lombard and Jordan, and I’ve got a flat. I don’t know how to change it. Can you help me?” Five minutes later, we’ve got the jack under the car. He guided me through the whole thing step by step, letting me do most of the actual operations. “Now,” he said, “if you ever get flat tire on the freeway, don’t try to change it yourself. Just call a tow truck.” As we were finishing up, I said, half-jokingly, half-proudly, “I feel manly. Look, there’s some grease on my hands.” Br. Ken glanced down and sweetly scoffed, “I don’t see any grease. A little paint rubbed off, maybe.” Even on his feast day, St. Joseph was going to humor me only so far.