Pope Francis has dedicated this year to St. Joseph, and so that seems like a good focus for us all as we begin the new year. The Pope made this declaration earlier this month in a letter entitled Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”), on the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX declaring Joseph “Patron of the Catholic Church.” Pope Francis said that his intention “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal”. It’s a beautiful reflection on the foster father of Christ (and it’s not especially long), so I highly recommend reading the full text at http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20201208_patris-corde.html.
Even though Joseph doesn’t speak a word in Scriptures, Pope Francis acknowledges several virtues that he exhibits which are good models for us to follow. He describes Joseph as
- a “beloved father”, who dedicated his life to serving Jesus and Mary
- a “tender and loving father”, who raised Jesus as his own and was an instrument of the tender love of God
- “an obedient father”, who obeys the voice of the angel who speaks to him in dreams, taking Mary into his home and taking the Holy Family to Egypt to keep them safe from King Herod
- an “accepting father”, who accepted Mary unconditionally into his home and who serves as a model for all, especially in a world where so many women are grossly mistreated
- a “creatively courageous father”, who dealt with difficulties in creative ways in order to care for Jesus and Mary
- a “working father”, who worked hard to make an honest living, and who therefore lifted up the dignity of human labor
- a “father in the shadows”, who dedicated his life to the quiet daily sacrifices of fatherhood.
St. Joseph is a very special saint to us at Christ the King for many reasons. The only saint from the Congregation of Holy Cross, St. Andre Bessette (whose feast day is this week on January 6th) was renowned for his devotion to St. Joseph and for building the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal (where we took a group of parishioners on pilgrimage a few years ago). We also live in a part of the country where many things are named after him and we see his name everywhere. This gives us a great opportunity to focus on this holy man, whose life of quiet service gives us many examples of how we can offer our daily work in service to the Lord.
The Pope concludes with a beautiful prayer that all of us can offer to St. Joseph:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.