Franciscan

Franciscan Joy: Working with wood, he's building a future

BY BR. JOHN BOISSY, OFM

It was during my freshman year of high school that I fell in love with woodworking.

I was attending the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati and majoring in Scenic Design and Construction in order to prepare myself for a future as an architect. At the time my mom was looking for a new bookshelf, so I bought my own set of power tools and began to build my first piece of furniture. I was immediately hooked. The idea of designing and creating something that was desired was very fulfilling to me.

After that, my dad asked if I could make him a shoe cabinet. Again, it was fun being able to take an idea that my dad had and bring it to life. I began to really like the appreciation I was getting and the enjoyment my parents were getting from my projects.

My parents encouraged me as the years went by, and other family members and friends started asking me to build furniture pieces for them. I began to realize that this was not only something I enjoyed, it was also something I was good at. The most satisfying part of a project was seeing the pleasure the new owners had for their customized pieces of furniture. I slowly began to invest in more tools and watch YouTube videos on new techniques I could use to make the pieces nicer. My desire to be an architect now changed to wanting to be a furniture maker. I ended up applying to a trade school in Boston called North Bennet Street School. By the time I got through their two-year waiting list, I had made another life choice and was a postulant with the friars.

Before joining the friars I was making custom furniture for people and doing woodturning on a lathe. I would make pens, bowls, boxes, and candle holders that I could sell at craft fairs. I loved experimenting with different types of wood and learning how different woods would be best used for certain projects.

Over time my work has involved carving and making game boards and little trinkets as well. Some of my favorite projects have been a gaming table (for backgammon and chess), a German-styled holiday carousel, a dart board cabinet, and prayer benches. I taught myself techniques such as inlay and dovetailing that I could incorporate into my furniture.

Each project has its own challenges that have me asking, "How can I make this work?" Much of the fun consists of taking that challenge and coming up with a practical solution that adds to the character of the piece and makes it something the owner can enjoy for years to come.

Before the friars I really wanted to start my own furniture-making business when I finished school. That’s still something I would like to do, but I’m also considering teaching woodworking to others. I’m currently taking a couple of courses at Chicago’s School of Woodworking. This is the first formal training I’ve had and I’m finding it both challenging and fulfilling. We have just finished making an end table using mortise and tenon joinery. After these classes I’m really looking forward to continuing my furniture-making education.

For me, woodworking has become something that is part of who I am. I absolutely love the feeling of creating with God while I’m designing, cutting, assembling, sanding, and finishing. It’s a very meditative time for me and gives me time to reflect on creation and on myself.

(Br. John Boissy OFM, is a student at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Photos of his projects are posted on his Facebook page, JLPB Carpentry.)

St. Joseph

He was the most famous carpenter in history. But beyond his occupation, little is known about St. Joseph, whose feast we celebrate on March 19th.

In Scripture, the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55).

Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38).

We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When the angel came to tell him his family was in danger, he immediately left everything and fled to a strange country with his young wife and baby.

We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son for over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, "Is this not the son of Joseph?" (Luke 4:22).

Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870. Having died, according to Catholic tradition, in the "arms of Jesus and Mary," he is considered the patron of a happy death.

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