Saint Joseph the Workman

Father Anthony Brankin, of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was commissioned by the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to create a unique bronze sculpture for the outdoor St. Joseph the Workman devotional area. This work, one of Father Brankin’s largest, took more than a year to conceptualize and create.  The final finishing and addition of the fine patina was completed only days before the sculpture was delivered to the Shrine.

Originally conceived to be a bronze statue of St. Joseph the Workman, the commission decided it would be important to emphasize St. Joseph’s foster fatherhood of Christ. The portrayal of Joseph was to include all his qualities that enabled him to love, protect, and teach the boy Jesus as He grew in wisdom, age, and grace in Nazareth, as well as to portray those same qualities in St. Joseph that modern fathers must aspire to, showing that St. Joseph is both their patron and their model.

“We wanted to indicate in the final composition that tenderness and strength are not qualities arrayed in opposition to one another in a male, but rather to be found in abundance and together in the most manly of men and fatherly of fathers.”- Father Anthony Brankin

The bronze depicts a humble scene in Nazareth where the carpenter Joseph is shown happily teaching the boy Jesus how to work with wood. Jesus and Joseph glance at each other with peaceful smiling looks—reflecting their quiet love and admiration for each other.

In order to establish some ironic drama, Jesus and Joseph have lashed together two planks of wood; they fashioned a cross. Indeed, a premonition of the future seizes Mary; thus, she is seen gasping, putting her hand to her mouth. The bronze also shows the Archbishop and viewers, who are in prayer before Mary at the entrance to the home, turning their heads toward Jesus and Joseph in this quiet revelation of His most Merciful Death. Once again it is shown that Devotion to Mary, as always, leads to her Son.

QUAMQUAM PLURIES – “On Devotion to St. Joseph”
Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII – August 15, 1889
(in Spanish)
LE VOCI CHE DA TUTTI  – “For the Protection of St. Joseph for the Second Vatican Council”
Apostolic Letter of Pope John XXIII – March 19, 1961
(in Spanish)
REDEMPTORIS CUSTOS – “On the Person and Mission of St. Joseph
in the Life of Christ and of the Church”
Apostolic Exhortation of  Pope John Paul II – August 15, 1989
(in Spanish)
Catechesis on work, fundamental dimension of human existence
General Audience – Pope John Paul II – March 19, 1997
(in Spanish)
The Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome
Homily of Pope Francis – March 19, 2013 – Solemnity of St. Joseph
(in Spanish)

Unlike many artists, Father Brankin sculpts the heads first, in order that to be constantly aware of the presence of the subject and to be inspired early on. Father Brankin likes to think that the figure he is sculpting is right there with him to guide his hand and to encourage his labors. When the sculptor steps back, “The eyes of the figures seem to cast just the right glance and the fingers curl just so!” Then he adds, “Oh, that sends a cheer to my heart and a tear to my eye. And I know that I am as near to heaven as I can be on earth.”

Father Brankin says God has given art to humanity so that he might be able to participate with and anticipate the inexpressible joys of heaven. “Without words, and more surely than with them, art communicates God—His Knowability, His Essence, His Attributes.”

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