On December 8, 2020, Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter titled, Patris Corde ("With a Father's Heart"). In this Letter the Pope describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.
Pope Francis stated he was issuing his Apostolic Letter on December 8, 2020 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s (December 8, 1870) declaration of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. On the occasion of this anniversary, Pope Francis has proclaimed a special “Year of St Joseph,” that began on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 2020) and goes to the same feast in 2021.
Though there are only a few accounts of St. Joseph in the scriptures, the passages that are in the bible tell us of a humble, honest and faithful man, who protected Mary and Jesus through some harrowing experiences. Though he was engaged to Mary he found out she was pregnant before they lived together. He had the right to walk away from that engagement but he trusted in God, who sent an angel in a dream to Joseph. Matthew's Gospel records it this way:
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. (NAB, Mt. 1:18-25)
Joseph quickly takes Mary and the infant Jesus to Egypt to escape the murderous rage of King Herod. They become refugees in a foreign land enduring dangers and unsettling conditions in order to keep the child safe. Matthew's Gospel only briefly describes what must have been a dangerous journey in the middle of the night towards safety. (See Matthew 2:13-15)
Joseph and Mary are faithful to the Jewish laws and take Jesus to the Temple, ".....to present him to the Lord as it is written in the Law of the Lord." (Luke 2:22-24) Joseph and Mary continued to take Jesus to the Temple and once they feared Jesus had been lost as they returned from one of those visits and neither Joseph or Mary could find Jesus. Like any teenager, Jesus was growing in independence and did not think of the consequences of not notifying Joseph & Mary that he had remained in the Temple instead of returning with them to Nazareth. "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress." And Jesus respond to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" The family returned to Nazareth together and "Jesus increased in wisdom and in statue and in favor with God and people." (see Matthew 2:41-52)
At the conclusion of Pope Francis' Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde ("With a Father's Heart") he explains why he wrote this letter about St Joseph and the place Joseph has in being Patron of the Universal Church.
The aim of this Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.
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 Tim 2:5), who is our “advocate” with the Father (1 Jn 2:1) and who “always lives to make intercession for [us]” (Heb 7:25; cf. Rom 8:34).
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.
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. Saint Paul explicitly says this: “Be imitators of me!” (1 Cor 4:16). By his eloquent silence, Saint Joseph says the same.
Before the example of so many holy men and women, Saint Augustine asked himself: “What they could do, can you not also do?” And so he drew closer to his definitive conversion, when he could exclaim: “Late have I loved you, Beauty ever ancient, ever new!” We need only ask Saint Joseph for the grace of graces: our conversion.
Pope Francis concluded his Letter about St. Joseph with the following prayer. I encourage you to pray this prayer, especially during this Lenten Season.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.
You are invited to join us on Friday, March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, at the 11:40am or 1:15pm Mass here at St. Peter's as we honor the memory of this holy man and pray that all of us might be as faithful to God as St. Joseph was in his life.
If you have been coming to the Sunday Masses at St. Peter's you will have noticed that we have returned to having some music at those Masses. Though the congregation still may not sing, with the return of a cantor at weekend Masses it is feeling more prayerful and familiar when we gather for Mass. As we journey in this Lenten time I encourage you to come to daily Mass here at St. Peter's. We have Masses Monday-Friday at 11:40am and 1:15pm.
We pray the Stations of the Cross on Fridays at 2:00pm. If you come to the 1:15pm Mass on Fridays you are invited to remain in your place after Mass for quiet prayer and then stay for Stations of the Cross at 2pm. You are asked to reserve a place at Mass or stations by calling the church office at 312-372-5111. We offer the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) Monday - Saturday from 10:30am - 3:00pm. Reservations are not required for confession.
Next Saturday, March 13 the office for St. Peter's will be CLOSED in the morning as the Franciscans of the friary have a morning recollection. The office will open at 12noon. If you call in the morning of March 13 you may leave a voice mail or call after the office opens at 12noon.
May you have a Blessed Lenten Week.