News Analysis

A teenager’s spiritual diary has become an unexpected hit

Joe Wilson (1994-2011)

There are many words that describe Joe Wilson: gracious, affable, gentle, kind, studious, humble, thoughtful, patient and non-judgmental.

Joe was born on December 12, 1994. He grew up in Carfin, Motherwell, with his parents, Alan and Veronica, and his younger sister Angela, whom he treasured greatly. He attended Our Lady and St Francis Primary School before going to Taylor High School. On December 20, 2011, a few days after his 17th birthday, he died of an undiagnosed heart condition at Wishaw General Hospital.

After his death, his father discovered a diary that Joe had kept throughout his teenage years. His words stood out due to their academic and mature style which seemed unusual for someone of his age. With help from staff at Taylor High, a book called Joe’s Words was created, filled with extracts from his diaries.

Joe’s writings are filled with a sense of determination to live by God’s will. He notes that after going to Mass he felt he had “returned home”. On September 14, 2010, Joe observed that “human beings have a gift: perseverance.” On the same day he wrote: “I am going to die one day so I may as well give my all to everything I do.”

Joe’s Words became a huge inspiration for people of all ages. Since his death, more than 2,000 copies have been distributed. In recent weeks there have been hundreds of requests as his story travels throughout the world thanks to a new website, joesfaith.com.

On June 10, more than 200 people gathered at Carfin Grotto to pray for Joe’s intercession. Many of them had never personally met Joe but felt drawn to his words, perspective and dedication to the Catholic faith.

In his diary, Joe wrote about increasing his prayer habit to feel closer to God. He was very aware that prayer fulfilled him with a sense of belonging. When Benedict XVI visited Scotland in September 2010, Joe wrote about the joy he experienced when attending the papal Mass at Bellahouston with his school. He described Benedict as “gentle and humble, a model of Jesus” – a description that could be applied to Joe himself. His wish in life was to help people. Through his legacy and the words he left behind, he spiritually supports more people than he could ever have imagined here on earth.

Joe had a calming presence and an infectious energy. He was a true advocate for treating people with kindness and humility. In June 2009, he wrote that “criticism can be mentally destroying”. He was very mindful of this and was the first to compliment others, lifting their spirits and making them feel positive, happy and hopeful. He would often greet his friends and family with a trademark “Joe hug”, and this is a lasting memory of Joe for many.

Joe’s positive outlook and determination never to judge would often comfort, inspire and enliven others. His words continue to do so today.