With A Father’s Heart
We have precious few facts about Saint Joseph, the step father of Jesus. There are just a few references in the infancy narratives of the Gospels. We hear about the significance of his dreams. They reveal that God spoke to him in ways that many people don’t think about.
How many of us remember or understand our nighttime dreams? We hear that he was a just man. The public ministry of Jesus reveals a man who learned a great deal in childhood about people and compassion and justice. Mary and Joseph clearly played a major role. Parents are the primary formators for all of us. Jesus had wonderful parents!
Pope Francis has released another apostolic letter. Patris Corde was released on December 8, 2020. It commemorates the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as a patron of the universal Church. Francis writes of how Joseph loved Jesus with a father’s heart (Patris Corde) and how prominent his name has been in papal documents. It was Pope Pius IX who proclaimed Joseph as patron of the Church in December 1870.
Pope Francis connects Joseph to the ordinary men and women who, though previously unnoticed, proved to be heroes during the pandemic time. He writes of Joseph as the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discrete and hidden presence.
That’s where he compares Joseph to the many ordinary people who have protected us in this strange time. Very few are prominent; they are mostly women and men who used to be taken for granted. Like Joseph, they provide support and guidance in times of trouble.
Saint John Chrysostom points out how Joseph placed himself at the service of the entire plan of salvation and has thus been venerated as a father by the Christian people. He stands at the crossroads between the Old and New Testaments. Francis uses ample OT passages to help us understand the role of Joseph in our history.
The Pope offers personal reflections on Joseph as a beloved father (for so many in Church history), a tender and loving father (not unlike the father of the Prodigal Son), an obedient father (especially in the dreams experienced by him), an accepting father (in his protection of Mary’s good name), a creatively courageous father (especially in the face of difficulties and challenges), a working father (see the many papal links of Joseph to human labour, particularly since Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum), and a father in the shadows (Joseph as the protective earthly shadow of the Heavenly Father).
Francis ends his reflections by reminding us that the aim of the letter is to increase our love for Saint Joseph and to grow in imitation of his virtues and zeal. This letter from Francis is simple and beautiful and personal. I’m not a father in the biological sense of the term. But I’ve had many mentoring and paternal involvements in my priesthood and Jesuit life. The letter challenges me. I’m sure that this letter is excellent reading for a Catholic father trying to grow in his vocation.
You can find the letter here: