How Virtue Conquers Vice

Where there is charity and wisdom,
there is neither fear nor ignorance.

Where there is patience and humility,
there is neither anger nor disturbance.

Where there is poverty with joy,
there is neither covetousness nor avarice.

Where there is inner peace and meditation,
there is neither anxiousness nor dissipation.

Where there is fear of the Lord to guard the house,
there the enemy cannot gain entry.

Where there is mercy and discernment,
there is neither excess nor hardness of heart.


The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi is October 4.

Image: St. Francis Giving his Mantle to a Poor Man by Giotto, ca. 1297.

From the Web Gallery of Art (https://www.wga.hu/index.html): “This is the second of the twenty-eight scenes (twenty-five of which were painted by Giotto) of the Legend of Saint Francis…Francis hands his valuable golden cloak to an impoverished citizen. The scene takes place in front of two rocky hills, on whose peaks two very different types of architecture rise up–the world of the city and of the cloister confront one another here. The descending slopes meet behind the figure of the saint, emphasizing his position in the picture, as well as characterizing his situation in life: this is a first indication that the saint will decide to lead a secluded life of poverty.”

Newsletter: April 2019

Dear Friends of Joseph House:

When the tomb of Christ opened on that first Easter Sunday, a new reality for all people also opened up: resurrection is just as real as the cross.

Although rooted in history and the bodily nature of existence, the Resurrection of Jesus reveals an entirely new horizon for the whole world. The disciples could speak with the Risen Christ, could touch Him, yet they were encountering a mystery that transcended their senses. These encounters changed them—fundamentally—and their lives were radically different afterwards, marked by a fearlessness in proclaiming the Good News of God’s love.

But in the quiet hours of that Easter morning, there was only silence and the gentle rays of the rising sun. People waking up that day had no idea the world was changed forever. God is like that. Divinity is typically revealed with little fanfare.

Reminders of the hope held in store for us are always present, but they can be easy to overlook. We often need to slow down and pay attention. With that in mind, we would love to share a little “resurrection” story that was written by a Little Sister years ago for this Newsletter:

A friend presented me with a jar containing a twig with brown and green bumps on it. I’d never seen anything like this before. She said she had found two caterpillars and fed them parsley for a week. Shortly thereafter they evolved into chrysalises. These cases were attached to the twig by two clear strands. My friend told me to observe the jar closely as these chrysalises would emerge into butterflies. I had never done this before but I put my trust in my friend.

For more than a week I became an observer and watched my jar. I was late going to the Joseph House Center one day. I was hurrying about when I noticed something wonderful had occurred in that jar. A big, beautiful butterfly with shades of blue, red, black, and orange on its wings had taken the place of one of the cocoons. I took it outside to release it into the air. It had a difficult time adjusting to its freedom. Soon it started stretching its wings and then flew off. I took the feeling of the chrysalis and butterfly to the Joseph House Center that morning. My hope and prayer is to give new life to the poor.

The new life ushered in by Christ is communicated to each one of us personally. In unexpected moments we can catch a glimpse of it, and it can inspire us to share it with those who need it the most. Person to person—that is how Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples, how the Gospel was spread, and how it is lived out today.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” That’s the approach taken at the Joseph House Crisis Center, where for 35 years we have welcomed families struggling with the burdens of poverty. We assist dozens of people every week because of your faithful support.

Charlie, 64, is an Army veteran who lives alone. He’s had several strokes and is in poor condition, both physically and financially. To make matters worse, a family member cheated him out of some money. The electricity was turned off in Charlie’s trailer. Our payment of $225 restored the power.

Eveline, 55, also lives alone. A broken furnace required her to depend on electric heaters in her home. This doubled her electric bill and she needed help paying it. We contributed $225.

Pam, 51, lost her managerial position at a food store. She found part-time work (with a net pay of $300 monthly), but finding another full-time job was taking longer than she expected. Pam never thought she would be in a desperate situation. We paid $225 toward her rent.

After going through a difficult time, Kaitlin, 41, and her husband had their home go into foreclosure. They ended up losing everything and were homeless. When Kaitlin’s husband found a job as a cook, they felt hopeful for the first time in a long while. The couple still faced an upward climb: a landlord let them move into an apartment, but they needed to pay the rent as soon as possible. We sent over $170.

Haywood, 70, and his wife have a combined Social Security income of $661 monthly. They’ve been frugal their entire lives and live in a home the size of a matchbox. The water was going to be cut off because of delinquent bills. We paid $275 to get their account up to date.

Carmella, 60, has worked as a de-boner in a chicken plant for years. She injured her arm and needed to have surgery. Fortunately, Carmella qualified for Workers’ Compensation, but snafus led to a delay in receiving her first check. Carmella was very worried about losing her housing. A few months ago, she moved into a newly-built apartment complex for people with low incomes. It’s the nicest place she’s ever lived. We sent $300 to the landlord so Carmella would not be evicted.

Shayne is a young man of 20. For the past year he’s been living by himself in a very old house. Shayne walks to work at a fast-food restaurant and is doing the best he can. Despite his determination, he had to contend with living in a home without electricity. We paid $225 toward the past-due bills to get the power back on again.

“Come, have breakfast.” This is what Jesus said to the disciples when He appeared to them for the third time after the Resurrection (John 21:12). Caring for people in down-to-earth ways is truly divine. Thank you for helping the Joseph House do the same for so many of our brothers and sisters in need.

We wish you and your loved ones a Happy Easter and all the joy this springtime season brings!

Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary


Use our Contact Form to send us your prayer requests. We will remember your intentions in our daily prayers.

The Joseph House depends on your support. Learn how you can help: Donate.

The World is a Joyful Mystery

Spring is a tonic for the soul. After being cooped up inside during the winter, stepping outside to perceive the awakening land is a blessing. It feels like the flowers and grasses are not the only things coming back to life.

Sooner or later, though, we have to consider the garden chores that await us. There’s always a list of things to do: pruning, clearing, raking, planting. But perhaps not every corner of the yard needs to bear the mark of human cultivation. Pope Francis gives an example why in his encyclical, On Care For Our Common Home:

Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of His infinite beauty and goodness.

“Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “His eternal power and divinity have been made known through His works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20).

For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty.

Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

Here is a “before” photo of our yard. Hopefully at a later time we will have a nice “after” picture. A good portion of the yard will probably end up in its natural, untouched state 🙂

St. Francis is in our garden for inspiration.

This Hermitage Speaks

Carlo Carretto was a Little Brother of Jesus, a religious community inspired by the life of Charles de Foucauld. With a poetic style, he also wrote several books that explored his desire to live a contemplative life in the world.

One of those books was about St. Francis of Assisi (I, Francis), and Carretto in fact died on the saint’s feast day (October 4) in 1988. What follows is an excerpt from the preface in which Carretto reflects on his time spent in a hermitage favored by St. Francis, a cave near the Italian town of Narni:

I sought out this hermitage because it is one of the special places of the Franciscan world, where the Saint sojourned on repeated occasions, and where all blends together in a perfect oneness. Forests, bare rock, the architecture, poverty, humility, simplicity, and beauty, all go together to form one of the masterpieces of the Franciscan spirit—an example to the centuries of peace, prayer, silence, ecology, beauty, and the human victory over the contradictions of time.

When we behold these hermitages, abodes of men and women of peace and prayer and joyous acceptance of poverty, we have the answer to the anguished conflicts that torment our civilization.

You see, these rocks say to us, peace is possible.

Do not seek for luxury when you build your houses, seek the essentials. Poverty will become beauty then, and liberating harmony—as you can see in this hermitage.

Do not destroy forests in order to build factories that swell the ranks of the unemployed and create unrest; help human beings to return to the countryside, to learn again to appreciate a truly well-turned object, to feel the joy of silence and of contact with earth and sky.

Do not hoard up money—inflation and greedy people lie in ambush for you; instead, leave the door of your heart open for a dialogue with your brother or sister, for service to the very poor.

Do not prostitute your labor fabricating things that last half a season, consuming what little raw material you have left; but make pails like the one you see here at this well—it has been drawing its water for centuries and is still in use.

The ill you speak of consumerism is a cover. You fill your mouth with words in order to stifle a bad conscience. Even as you speak, you are consumerism’s slaves, without any capacity for innovation and imagination.

And then . . .

Unburden yourselves of your fear of your brothers and sisters! Go out to meet them unarmed and meek. They are human beings too, just like you, and they need love and trust, even as you.

Do not be concerned with “what you are to eat and with what you are to drink” (Matt. 6:25); be calm, and you shall lack nothing. “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33), and everything else will be given to you for good measure. “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).

Assisi, the city of St. Francis.

Yes, this hermitage speaks. It speaks and says brotherly and sisterly love is possible.

It speaks and says that God is our Father, that creatures are our brothers and sisters, and that peace is joy.

All you have to do is will it. Try it, brothers and sisters, try it, and you will see that it is possible.

The Gospel is true.
Jesus is the Son of God, and saves humankind.

Nonviolence is more constructive than violence.
Chastity is more pleasurable than impurity.
Poverty is more exciting than wealth.

Try to think about it, sisters and brothers. What an extraordinary adventure lies here before us. If we put Francis’s project into execution we shall be escaping the atomic apocalypse.

Is it not always this way? God proposes peace.
Why not try it?