By ARCHBISHOP GREGORY J. HARTMAYER, Commentary | Published March 17, 2021 | En Español
With the apostolic letter “Patris corde” (With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a “Year of St. Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021.
I love this description of St. Joseph read in a commentary I regularly receive:
“Saint Joseph, to paraphrase Gerard Manley Hopkins, lives in 10,000 places: the man rises at 2 a.m. to plow deserted snow-clogged roads; the nurse who works the night shift and then a day shift; the cop who walks the lonely beat; the mother of the autistic daughter or paralyzed son; the office worker biting his lip at some slight or racial insensitivity against himself because he, too, has to put bread on his family’s table.
Joseph lives in the sales rep with photos of his wife and kids hanging on the wall inside his cubicle, telling a customer that, as much as he would like to sell him another car, the customer can still get another couple of years out of the one he has got. Joseph lives in the teacher who gives hours of her time to help the struggling student. Joseph lives in the clerk, the cop, the secretary, the contractor who approach the people they encounter with kindness and respect because they, too, share the God-like work of putting bread on their table.
The invisible, almost anonymous Joseph; chosen by God to provide for his Son, to watch over him, to teach him, to shape him, to protect and love him and the boy’s mother.”
In the new apostolic letter, “With a Father’s Heart,” Pope Francis describes St. Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadow.
The Holy Father wrote the apostolic letter against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, he says, “has helped us see more clearly the importance of ordinary people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.” In this, they resemble St. Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
In St. Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God, the one that helps us accept our weakness, because it is through and despite our fears, our frailties and our weakness that most divine designs are realized.
Joseph is also a father in obedience to God with his ‘fiat’ he protects Mary and Jesus and teaches his Son to “do the will of the Father.” Called by God to serve the mission of Jesus, he cooperated in the great mystery of redemption.
Vatican News wrote an outline of the apostolic letter when the year was announced. Their story shines a light on Joseph’s connection to our everyday families.
The apostolic letter highlights “the creative courage” of St. Joseph, which emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. Joseph was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting in divine providence. He had to deal with the concrete problems his family faced, problems faced by other families in the world, and especially those of migrants.
In this sense, St. Joseph is “the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.” As the guardian of Jesus and Mary, Joseph cannot be other than the guardian of the Church. Therefore, every poor, needy, suffering or dying person, every stranger, every prisoner, every infirm person is the child whom Joseph continues to protect.
In his letter, Pope Francis notes how, “Every day he has recited a prayer to St. Joseph. This prayer, he says, expresses devotion and trust, and even poses a certain challenge to St. Joseph,” on account of its closing words: “My beloved father, all my trust is in you. Let it not be said that I invoked you in vain, and since you can do everything with Jesus and Mary, show me that your goodness is as great as your power.”
At the end of his letter, Pope Francis adds another prayer to St. Joseph, which he encourages all of us to pray together:
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.
St. Joseph, pray for us.