Glorious Janitor: The Life of Brother Joseph | Crisis Magazine

Brother Joseph

The janitors, doormen, and apartment superintendents in my parish and I have a particular fraternal bond, for we are situated to observe the private lives of many. They are called upon at inconvenient hours, to do tasks and handle emergencies, uncongenial to those in some other lines of work. The term “janitor” is related to the Roman god Janus who guarded doorways, protecting the goings in and out of people as well as of years themselves and transitions in one’s life, which is how we get the month January. Ovid and Cicero were of the opinion that the name Januarius was derived from the Latin verb “ire” meaning “to go,” which makes sense, with relation to doors and years. The Vatican Museum has a statue of Janus Bifrons, so called because he has two faces, and that is an advantage if you have to keep an eye, or eyes, out for people. The pagan god is only on display in the Vatican for aesthetic and anthropological reasons, and no one lights candles before it, but the name was not uncommon among Christians, and so we have the patron martyr of Naples whose blood liquefies.

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