Pope Francis proclaims a Year of Saint Joseph, an ordinary man

Pope Francis has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” beginning December 8, 2020 – 150 years after Saint Joseph was declared the “Patron of the Universal Church” by Pope Pius IX.

The Holy Father made the announcement in an Apostolic Letter entitled “Patris corde”. Translated “with a father’s heart”, “patris corde” is how Joseph the carpenter from Nazareth loved his extra-special boy Jesus, writes the Pope.

Pope Francis says Joseph “reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation”.

It is Joseph’s “ordinariness” that made the papal leader want to write about him as the months of the global COVID pandemic passed – “when we experienced, amid the crisis, how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked”.

“People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history,” the Pope writes.

“Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone …

“How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility?” he asked.

“How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer? How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all?”

Recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church, Joseph was the husband of Mary, the virgin girl divinely chosen to conceive Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis says Joseph “reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation”.

“A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”

The letter goes on to make a careful examination of the kind of father Joseph was, with extended paragraphs that explore him as: beloved; tender and loving; obedient; accepting; creatively courageous; working and “in the shadows”.

Joseph is an example to all believers.

The Pope says his letter aims “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal”. The second of these – “the intercession of saints” – highlights a fundamental difference between Catholic and Orthodox Christians and Protestants.

“Indeed, the proper mission of the saints is not only to obtain miracles and graces, but to intercede for us before God, like Abraham and Moses, and like Jesus, the ‘one mediator’ (1 Timothy 2:5), who is our ‘advocate’ with the Father (1 John 2:1) and who ‘always lives to make intercession for [us]’ (Hebrews 7:25; cf. Romans 8:34),” writes Francis.

“The saints help all the faithful ‘to strive for the holiness and the perfection of their particular state of life’. Their lives are concrete proof that it is possible to put the Gospel into practice.”

The letter closes with a prayer that is to be directed towards Saint Joseph, which Protestant Christians would also take issue with.

Yet the Pope’s other points are ones which all Christians can agree with, as he highlights “the eloquent silence” of Joseph revealed in the gospel accounts – and the example he is to believers, particularly during a global pandemic.

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