Saint Joseph, second half of the XVIII century, attributed to Salvatore di Franco, Metropolitan Museum of New York

The Pope and the heart of Joseph

March 19 celebrates the feast of St. Joseph. Here we review the cycle of audiences that the Pope dedicated in recent months to the "spouse of Mary".
Paolo Cremonesi

He recounted it in several interviews: Pope Francis keeps a statue of St. Joseph sleeping on his bedside table and in the evening he slips many of the requests he receives every day under its base. And, as he confessed to the faithful on February 2, he has been reciting a prayer to the Saint before falling asleep for forty years.

Last December 8, the Pope concluded the special year dedicated to Mary's spouse, the occasion for which he wrote the apostolic letter Patris corde, "With a Father's Heart." It is therefore not surprising that Bergoglio has dedicated twelve audiences to the Saint. The wide arc of reflection, which began last November 7 and ended on Wednesday, February 16, allowed him cover a range of themes: from Joseph's "dreams" to his work as an artisan, from his condition as a migrant to his attitude of silence, from the tenderness of his vocation as a putative father to his trust in God's mysterious plan, just to mention a few.

And even if the press has often focused on the more immediate aspects of the audiences (the defense of migrants, the deploration of child labor and white deaths, the issue of children’s sexual orientation or the condemnation of therapeutic treatment, to give a few examples), his catecheses have always traveled deeply, offering a range of observations on our way of conceiving our relationship with God and with reality.

An example of this density of thought is his audience of January 12, entirely dedicated to work. Taking his cue from Joseph, who was not simply a carpenter but also a joiner, as was the custom in Palestine, the Pope said: “Many young people, many fathers and mothers experience the ordeal of not having a job that allows them to live serenely. They live day to day. And how often the search for work becomes so desperate that it drives them to the point of losing all hope and the desire to live.” He continued: “Not enough consideration is given to the fact that work is an essential component of human life, and even a path of holiness. Work is not only a means of earning a living: it is also a place where we express ourselves, feel useful, and learn the great lesson of concreteness, which helps keep spiritual life from becoming spiritualism.”

Another point of meditation was offered in his audience dedicated to "Saint Joseph, man of silence," on December 15. If the premise was a phrase of the philosopher Pascal, who says that ““all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber,” the Pope observed that “we must learn from Joseph to cultivate silence: that space of interiority in our days in which we give the Spirit the opportunity to regenerate us, to console us, to correct us. I am not saying to fall into muteness, no, but to cultivate silence. May each one look within themselves: often we work on something and when we finish, we immediately look for our telephone to do something else… we are always like this. And this does not help, this makes us slip into superficiality. Profoundness of the heart grows with silence, silence that is not mutism as I said, but which leaves space for wisdom, reflection and the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we are afraid of moments of silence, but we should not be afraid. Silence will do us so much good. And the benefit to our hearts will also heal our tongue, our words and above all our choices.”

And on January 26, he reiterated, "We must also say that within each of us there is not only the voice of God: there are many other voices. For example, the voices of our fears, the voices of past experiences, the voices of hopes; and there is also the voice of the evil one who wants to deceive and confuse us […] Joseph demonstrates that he knows how to cultivate the necessary silence and, above all, how to make the right decisions before the Word that the Lord addresses to him inwardly.”

The Pontiff's cycle could not fail to include an audience on mercy, the flagship of a Pope who has dedicated an entire Jubilee year to it. "God does not rely only on our talents, but also on our redeemed weakness,” he observed on Jan. 19: “This, for example, makes Saint Paul say that there is also a plan for one’s fragility The experience of tenderness consists in seeing God’s power pass through precisely that which makes us most fragile; on condition, however, that we are converted from the gaze of the evil one who “makes us see and condemn our frailty”, whereas the Holy Spirit “brings it to light with tender love” (Patris Corde, 2). Instead, the Lord tells us the truth and reaches out his hand to save us. We are the ones who tire of asking for forgiveness. But he always forgives, even the worst things.”

Read also – Przemyśl: "Our journey has just begun"

Finally, the last audience dedicated to "Saint Joseph, Patron of the Church": “Nowadays it is common, it is an everyday occurrence, to criticise the Church, to point out its inconsistencies — there are many — to point out its sins, which in reality are our inconsistencies, our sins, because the Church has always been a people of sinners who encounter God’s mercy.In fact, only love makes us capable of speaking the truth fully, in a non-partisan way; of saying what is wrong, but also of recognising all the goodness and holiness that are present in the Church. But the Church is not that little group that is close to the priest and commands everyone, no. The Church is everyone, everyone. On a journey. Safeguarding one another, looking out for each other. This is a good question: when I have a problem with someone, do I try to look after them, or do I immediately condemn them, speak ill of them, destroy them? We must safeguard, always safeguard!”