“Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
These were the words in an apostolic letter issued by Pope Francis last year, Patris corde (“With a Father’s Heart”), observing the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as the patron of the universal Church. The pope was speaking about the persons working to provide essential services amidst the pandemic. To mark this occasion, the pope had proclaimed a year dedicated to Mary’s husband, Joseph, as the special “Year of Saint Joseph”, which concluded on December 8 of last year.
As part of observing the year and to bring into focus the increasing need for understanding the concept of gender neutrality, the Saint Mary’s Church in Peringottukara of Thrissur, has a sculpture of the Holy Family with a slight twist than the regular ones. The sculpture is made such that Saint Joseph is seen handling baby Jesus in his arms while Mother Mary is taking rest.
The sculpture is an attempt to bring home this message, along with a societal message. Usually, Mary holds infant Jesus, in the Holy Family set-up, while Joseph stands beside and looks at them. However, in this sculpture by sculptor KK George (53), Joseph is seen taking care of the baby, as Mary is sleeping adjacent to him.
Speaking to TNM, George says that the fathers’ legion suggested the theme to commemorate Saint Joseph’s year. “We also wanted to take forward the concept of gender neutrality, and that both the parents have equal responsibilities in taking care of a baby,” he says.
George, who has been a full-time sculptor for nearly three decades, has been engaged in sculpting statues and figures based on several biblical themes for several churches, including those outside the state as well. “The sculpture was completed in December and was unveiled by December 13 last year. I also take up assignments in other states, including Pondicherry, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu,” he said.
In the pope’s letter, he had described Saint Joseph as a “beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows” and explained that the aim of the year was “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.”