By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published March 24, 2017 | En Español
Pope Francis keeps a statue in his apartment at the Santa Marta residence of a sleeping St. Joseph. The Holy Father says that he often places notes of the unresolved problems that he faces under that statue for St. Joseph to handle. Jokingly, the pope says that St. Joseph is now sleeping on a mattress of difficult issues!
St. Joseph’s feast this year was delayed until Monday, March 20, because the actual date coincided with the third Sunday of Lent. However, the Church’s love for this special father was only delayed and not forgotten.
Fathers come in all sizes, shapes, ages and backgrounds. They share a wonderful common bond—they love their children. I have given a lot of thought about fathers recently as I have encountered a number of them in my ministry. A group of fathers came to visit me at the Chancery the other day as they asked me to endorse an effort designed to invite more men into a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. I was happy to endorse this effort, which will be introduced within the next few months. These men are fathers with very tender hearts and a deep desire to strengthen their faith witness for their families.
Over the weekend, I met a father at a baptism ceremony, and he told me with tears in his eyes of his personal thanks for my service to the Church. It nearly brought me to tears to witness his gratitude for our faith and his obvious devotion to those that he loves. There were fathers and grandfathers who were holding and cuddling the little ones who found a midafternoon baptismal ceremony not in keeping with their usual personal calendars. Today’s fathers are not afraid or reticent to show a tenderness with their kids that is refreshing. St. Joseph must have demonstrated that same kind of affection with the Child Jesus. That accounts for the Church’s deep devotion to Joseph as the model for fathers of all ages.
Several recent studies have concluded that when a father’s faith life is vibrant and recognizable, his children are much more likely to maintain their own faith—even more so than when a mother’s faith is in play. Fathers who witness to their faith have a profound impact on the lives of their children. Therefore, anything that the Church can do to encourage our men to practice and live their faith will benefit the next generation of Catholics—not to mention the current generation as well.
The image of a sleeping St. Joseph fits perfectly the Gospel stories that give us only a very incomplete view of this just and gentle man. Joseph was always being guided by a dream—to take Mary as his wife, to take Jesus and His Mother into Egypt, and then to bring them back to Judea. Joseph’s dreams were important vehicles for God’s redemptive action in our world, and Joseph always followed the directions given to him in those dreams.
As the sleeping statue of Joseph that now rests atop Pope Francis’ growing list of concerns, may Joseph inspire the Holy Father with the wisdom and the insight to continue to guide our Church according to the directives of the Holy Spirit. May St. Joseph also bless all of our fathers—living and deceased—for the important witness of faith that they have given and continue to provide for their children.
St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, “wake up and continue to watch over our Church as carefully and as tenderly as you did for the members of that Holy Household of Nazareth!”