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Joseph as a father

Patricia McCarthy, CND

Photo:  Marie-Claire Dugas

“Patris Corde” is the title of the paper Pope Francis wrote to introduce the Year of St. Joseph which goes from December 2020 to December 2021. The Latin words translate as Heart of the Father. Those two words beautifully describe both the encyclical and Saint Joseph.

Letters from Popes are not read by many and seldom taught in Sunday sermons. Our current Pope Francis is always an easy read. His language is simple and down to earth and usually inspiring. Patris Corde is all of the above and more. Pope Francis says Joseph loved Jesus with a father’s heart, and then proceeds to describe all that this could mean.

The reflections are based on scripture, as all four gospels refer to Jesus as son of Joseph. All that we know about Joseph comes from scripture. We know he was a carpenter, engaged to Mary; a just man, ready to do God’s will; a man who paid attention to his dreams. He was with Mary and Jesus in Bethlehem, Egypt, and in Nazareth. It is assumed he died before Jesus began his public ministry.

Why is Pope Francis mentioning Joseph now? In addition to it being the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, the pandemic has something to do with the timing. “We discover in Joseph the one who goes unnoticed, a daily and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and guide in times of trouble. This reminds us that the hidden ones can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.” Many people far from the public eye are helping others during this COVID crisis. Joseph is like most of us who go through life trying to do good and be responsible to our vocation whatever it may be, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

Joseph’s vocation was to be Mary’s husband and Jesus’ father. One novelist (Jan Dobraczynski ) says that Joseph was the “earthly shadow of Jesus’ heavenly Father.” Jesus’ love of God the Father  took root in him through Joseph’s own heart and life. “The role of father showed itself in the tender and loving way Joseph loved Jesus. In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God: ‘As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.’ (Ps 103:13) God works through our frailty. Only tender love saves us from evil.”

“Joseph was a father obedient to his God. God revealed his plan through dreams: take Mary as your wife, take the child and his mother to Egypt, return to Israel, return to Galilee. He observed the law: circumcision, purification of Mary, offering of firstborn to God, journey to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve.”

Joseph loved Mary tenderly and protected her from danger. He was creatively courageous in dealing with the difficulties surrounding Jesus’ birth. “Why didn’t God intervene in all the problems surrounding the birth of Jesus? Joseph was the ‘miracle’ by which God saved the child and his mother. Whether in a stable or in exile in Egypt, God always found a way to carry out his saving plan.”

“Jesus and Mary needed to be defended, protected, cared for and raised by Joseph. The Church is the body of Christ which is Jesus. Therefore Joseph protected the Church. Every poor, needy, suffering, or dying person, every stranger, prisoner, infirm person is the child whom Joseph continues to protect. This is why the Church must show predilection for such persons.”

Pope Francis quotes Pope Paul VI: “Joseph made his life a service to the Incarnation.” Is that not the call of every Christian?

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic


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