Venice | “With a father’s heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels refer to as ‘the son of Joseph.’”
This was the opening sentence of the apostolic letter “Patris Corde” of Pope Francis on the 150th Anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX in his decree Quemadmodum Deus.
The 1870 decree stated, “Jesus Christ our Lord... whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw but conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby, they might obtain eternal life.”
Therefore, it is appropriate to reflect on this most honored of Saints as a second Father’s Day is taking place during a global Pandemic on June 20, 2021.
In his apostolic letter, released in conjunction with the start of the “Universal Year of St. Joseph” which began Dec. 8, 2020 and concludes on Dec. 8, 2021, Pope Francis reflected on the fatherly qualities of St. Joseph, describing him as beloved, tender and loving, obedient, accepting, and “creatively courageous.” He also underlined that he was a working father.
The Holy Father referred to the Saint as “a father in the shadows,” citing the novel “The Shadow of the Father,” published by the Polish author Jan Dobraczynski in 1977.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who for the Diocese of Venice instituted a “Year of St. Joseph” on March 19, 2020 in the context of the Pandemic and under the title of Protector of the Universal Church, proclaimed “St. Joseph is a figure who led by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection.” The Diocesan celebration of the “Year of St. Joseph” was extended to coincide with the “Universal Year of St. Joseph” and will continue until Dec. 8, 2021.
As a model of obedience of what God asked of him, Bishop Dewane, said St. Joseph freely and willingly accepted a vision he was given in life… “to be the foster father of Jesus but also the head of the Holy Family; the provider and the Protector.”
Saints and Popes through the centuries have spoken on St. Joseph’s influence to intercede as the faithful have turned to the Saint as a powerful patron and faithful guardian, father and friend. Many seek the intercessions of St. Joseph for healing and conversion, help with their children, a new job or home, and for all their needs of body and soul.
Pope Leo XIII presented St. Joseph as a model at a time when the world and the Church were wrestling with the challenges posed by modernity wrote in his 1889 encyclical on devotion to St. Joseph “Quamquam pluries,” “Men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph.”
In his own 2020 letter, Pope Francis wrote: “The greatness of St. Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, “at the service of the entire plan of salvation.”
Pope Francis also cited St. Paul VI who pointed out that St. Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood “by making his life a sacrificial service to the mystery of the incarnation and its redemptive purpose. He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work. He turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home.”
At the conclusion of his apostolic letter, Pope Francis explained that his goal was to increase “our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and is zeal.”
The saints help all the faithful “to strive for the holiness and perfection of their particular state of life,” the Holy Father added. Their lives are concrete proof that it is possible to put the Gospel into practice.
“Jesus told us: ‘Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart’ (Mt 11:29). The lives of the saints too are examples to be imitated. St. Paul explicitly says this: ‘Be imitators of me!’ (1 Cor 4:16). By his eloquent silence, St. Joseph says the same.”
Therefore, on this Father’s Day, turn to St. Joseph as an example to follow as we all strive to grow closer to the Lord.
For links to the Apostolic letter (in English and Spanish) or other resources in celebration of the ongoing “Year of St. Joseph,” please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/a-year-of-st-joseph/.