Michelle Martin

The work of our hands

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, my husband first cleaned out the basement and then started turning one corner of it into a small woodshop.

I was a little surprised, because he’s never really shown any interest in building things, and to the best of my knowledge, the last woodworking he did was during a shop class in high school.

Then again, maybe I should have seen it coming. He still has the sanding block he made during that shop class.

The first thing Tony made was a box for our youngest, Teresa, who was taken with the box Queen Elizabeth II receives her state papers in on “The Crown.” Then he started a shelf for Caroline to keep her nail polish on, but postponed that project to build a picnic table before Frank went back to Boston for school and before we had Caroline’s one-year-late graduation party.

Now that he’s staining the shelf, I don’t know what the next project will be.

But making things seems to be a basic human instinct. People are tool-makers and tool-users, and we use everything from wood and stone to metal and textiles to make what we need and what we want. But sometimes it’s not so much about needing the end-product; it’s more about being able to hold something in our hands and say, “I made this.”

I don’t think it’s any accident that St. Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, is described in the Gospels as a carpenter or, in the original Greek, “tekton,” which can also be translated as “woodworker” or “craftsman.”

If Jesus lived with Joseph and Mary until he was 30, he must have worked with Joseph, learning everything from how to sweep the workshop to how to join a corner neatly.

Did he learn to build a table — or a house — before he turned his attention to building his father’s kingdom?

My thoughts are also turning to Deacon Paul Bovyn, who died July 16. He was deacon in our parish and a close family friend who baptized all three of our children.

An independent contractor, he was always making things or fixing things. He made my husband a lamp out of Jack Daniels bottle and decorated the shade with pictures of Chicago gangsters. He made a drying rack for Frank’s hockey gear out of PVC pipe.

I’ll miss Deacon Paul, of course, but every time I see the drying rack in the garage or the lamp (maybe especially the lamp), I’ll remember him and smile.

We humans were made in the image and likeness of our creator God, so it’s no wonder that we like to build and create, even if our efforts cannot compare in any way to the glory of creation. Maybe we can use that impulse to remember that we must respect and care for the world that God made for us, and to think carefully about what we want to make for those who come after us to remember us by.



  • family life