Pope's teachings

St. Joseph, a brave and creative heart

Three major themes appear in the Pope's teachings these weeks: he continues his catechesis on prayer, an ecumenical Vademecum for the local Churches has been published under his blessing, and he has written an apostolic letter on St. Joseph. 

Ramiro Pellitero-January 2, 2021-Reading time: 5 minutes

In this article we focus on the letter Patris corde, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church.

Beginning the "Year of St. Joseph". 

With the letter Patris corde (December 8, 2020) the Pope calls for a "Year of St. Joseph" until December 8, 2021. He says his goal is to "that love for this great saint may grow, so that we may be impelled to implore his intercession and imitate his virtues."

Secondly, the figure of St. Joseph takes on the role of the pandemic prominenceby placing Francisco not only as a "intercessor, support and guide" in these times of difficulty, but as a special representative and patron of those "ordinary people"They have worked, they have instilled hope and they have prayed, holding us all in their hands. In many cases, they have even given their lives for others.

"Jesus saw the tenderness of God in Joseph." (n. 2), who also taught him to pray. Also for us "it is important to encounter the Mercy of God, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation, having an experience of truth and tenderness". (ibid.). There God welcomes us and embraces us, sustains us and forgives us. 

In a manner similar to that of Mary, Joseph said. "be it done" to God's will, even if it only manifested itself to him in dreams. And so he was able to "teach" obedience to Jesus: "In the hidden life of Nazareth, under the guidance of Joseph, Jesus learned to do the will of the Father." (n. 3) that passed through the Passion and the Cross (cf. Jn 4:34; Phil 2:8; Heb 5:8). The Pope even says: "I wish to imagine that Jesus took from Joseph's attitudes the example for the parable of the prodigal son and the merciful father (cf. Lk 15:11-32).".

José "welcomed" The role of husband of Mary and father of Jesus, which God asked of him, was a very important part of his life. And that shaped his inner life: "Joseph's spiritual life does not show us a way that explainsbut a way that welcomes" (n. 4). 

Although God's plans surpassed his expectations, he acted with fortitude, taking on with "creative courage". even those that seemed contradictory, unexpected or even disappointing. On these occasions, God often brings "to bring out resources in each of us that we didn't even think we had." (n. 5). 

Custodian of Jesus and Mary, the Church and the Needy

Specifically, José "I knew how to transform a problem into an opportunity, always putting trust in Providence first.". Thus he was able to guard and serve Jesus and Mary (cf. Homily at the beginning of the Petrine ministry19-III-2013). And it is now the custodian of the ChurchThe motherhood of the Church is manifested in the motherhood of Mary. 

Consistently, as Jesus himself expressed (cf. 25:40), Joseph continues to care for the most needy, because in them he continues to see the "Child" that is Jesus and Mary, who (as mother of mercy and spouse of Christ) also identifies with them. "That is why St. Joseph is invoked as protector of the indigent, the needy, the exiled, the afflicted, the poor, the dying." (Patris corde, n. 5). "From Joseph" -The Pope proposes "we must learn the same care and responsibility: to love the Child and his mother; to love the sacraments and charity; to love the Church and the poor. In each of these realities there is always the Child and his mother." (ibid.).

Model and employer of workers

Since Leo XIII (cf. Enc. Rerum novarum, 1891), the Church proposes St. Joseph as a model worker and patron of workers. In contemplating the figure of St. Joseph, Francis points out in his letter, we can better understand the meaning of work, which gives dignity, and the important place of work in the plan of salvation. On the other hand, today we should all reflect on fatherhood.

 "The work" -writes the Pope. "it becomes an occasion of fulfillment not only for oneself, but above all for that original nucleus of society which is the family." (Patris corde, n. 6). 

And in relation to the current situation, he points out: "The crisis of our time, which is an economic, social, cultural and spiritual crisis, can represent for everyone a call to rediscover the meaning, importance and necessity of work in order to give rise to a new 'normality' in which no one is excluded. The work of St. Joseph reminds us that God made man himself did not disdain work. The loss of work that affects so many brothers and sisters, and which has increased in recent times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, should be a call to review our priorities." (ibid.).  

What does it mean to be a parent? 

In the last part of his letter, the Pope pauses to consider how Joseph knew how to be a father "in the shadows" (citing Jan Dobraczyński's book, The shadow of the Father, 1977, Palabra, Madrid 2015). 

Today, Francis believes, we need fathers everywhere. In our society, children often seem to have no father. And the Church also needs fathers, both in the literal sense, good family fathers, and in a broader sense, spiritual fathers of others (cf. 1 Cor 4:15; Gal 4:19). ¿But what does it mean to be a parent? The Pope explains suggestively: "To be a parent means to introduce the child into the experience of life, into reality. Not to hold him, not to imprison him, not to possess him, but to make him capable of choosing, of being free, of going out." (n. 7). And he thinks that the word "castísimo"The Christian tradition, which places Joseph next to Joseph, expresses that "logic of freedom" that every parent must have in order to love in a truly free way. 

From "self-sacrifice" to gift of self

Francis observes, introducing a decisive reflection, that all this would not be considered by St. Joseph as a "self-sacrifice"This could give rise to a certain frustration; but rather, with greater maturity, as a gift of self, as the fruit of trust in God. That is why St. Joseph's silence does not give rise to complaints but to gestures of trust. This is the way it is. Today's language, typical of a culture in which the Christian perspective fails, no longer sees sacrifice as a gift of self, but only as a costly path, and does not discover its connection with life and joy. At the same time, it needs parents who give themselves generously to the education of their children.

"The world" -he points out- "needs parents, reject the masters, that is: reject those who want to use the possession of the other to fill their own emptiness; refuse those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, confrontation with oppression, charity with assistentialism, force with destruction." (ibid.). 

Francis invites us to overcome this (merely human) logic of sacrifice and to rediscover the gift of selfThe path to happiness and self-fulfillment, with all its beauty and joy, is the path to happiness and self-fulfillment. It is necessary to change logic, because "the logic of love is always a logic of freedom." (ibid.). 

In the present educational moment, this proposal of the Pope, as a fruit of the contemplation of St. Joseph, is a powerful light source: to reject the logic of possession and to exchange it for the logic of love, which consists in giving oneself. In the case of parents, at the service of the care, education and true freedom of the children entrusted to them by God.

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