“St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
This is wonderful news.
Marking the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being declared patron of the universal church, Pope Francis proclaimed a yearlong celebration dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.
In a Dec. 8 apostolic letter, “Patris Corde” (“With a father’s heart”), the pope said Christians can discover in St. Joseph, who often goes unnoticed, “an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”
“St. 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,” he said.
As Mary’s husband and guardian of the son of God, St. Joseph 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.”
Despite being troubled at first by Mary’s pregnancy, he added, St. Joseph was obedient to God’s will “regardless of the hardship involved.”
“In every situation, Joseph declared his own ‘fiat,’ like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,” the pope said. “All this makes it clear that St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood and that, in this way, he cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation and is truly a minister of salvation.”
St. Joseph’s unconditional acceptance of Mary and his decision to protect her “good name, her dignity and her life” also serves as an example for men today, the pope added.
“Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence toward women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man,” he wrote.
Pope Francis also highlighted St. Joseph’s “creative courage,” not only in finding a stable and making it a “welcoming home for the son of God (who came) into the world,” but also in protecting Christ from the threat posed by King Herod.
You can read the full apostolic letter here.
And read the decree announcing indulgences for the year.
The decision by the Holy Father to turn attention toward Joseph in the middle of Advent is especially timely and important — reminding us of “the great silent partner of the Holy Family, model of courage and perseverance in troubled times.” I wrote about this great saint some years back for Word Among Us:
The season of Advent is a good time to think about why Joseph matters so much today. The Church officially reveres him as the patron saint of workers, of fathers, and of a happy death. But I like to think of him as a patron for other causes that speak profoundly to us now. After all, Joseph dealt with the same crises that millions of families face today: government-sponsored terrorism, forced migration, and the pressure of leading a family in distress. Like no other saint, he can help us respond to these challenges with the steadfast faith and courage that he showed.
…This Advent, as many of us struggle with how to do God’s will or trust in his plan, St. Joseph shows us the way. For Joseph, as well as for us, the way starts by following the angel’s call not to fear. God helped Joseph navigate his burdens. He didn’t take them away; he just showed Joseph that he was trustworthy.
Joseph, in turn, listened to God’s promptings and courageously followed them. He trusted God and stayed faithful in prayer even when his work and home life were turned upside down. His love for Jesus and Mary compelled him to keep trying. In the end, his courage, trust, and steadfast love became the foundation for Jesus to grow up and fulfill the will of the Father.
We, too, can create openings for Jesus this Advent. As we try our best to follow God’s will and love our families, we can trust that Joseph is interceding for us.
This year, as you light the candles and sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” remember that the light of Jesus is growing brighter. God’s presence is closer. If you have any doubts about that, just think of Joseph, the great silent partner of the Holy Family, model of courage and perseverance in troubled times. Hold onto the words of the angel that echoed down to him—and to us—as the great defining message of Advent hope: Do not be afraid.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
UPDATE: Speaking of St. Joseph, here’s some prophetic wisdom from Elizabeth Scalia from almost exactly a year ago! She made Joe her patron before it was cool. Check it out!