Pope Francis spoke at length with the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, about St. Joseph — why he chose to dedicate last year to the saint, what he teaches about fatherhood, and about Jesus, and what fathers and all of us can learn from him.
One element of the interview is the Pope’s explanation of why he loves Joseph so much.
“I have never hidden the closeness I feel towards Saint Joseph,” he said. “I think that it comes from my childhood, from my formation.”
The Holy Father said that he sees in Joseph the representation of “what Christian faith should be for each of us, in a beautiful and simple way.”
In fact Joseph is a normal man and his holiness consists precisely in making himself a saint through the beautiful and ugly things he had to experience and face.
For all his simplicity, though, Joseph had a key role to play in salvation history, the Pope reflected.
Indeed, the events that saw the birth of Jesus were difficult events, filled with obstacles, with problems, with persecution, with darkness; and that, in order to come towards His Son who was being born into the world, God placed Mary and Joseph at his side.
If Mary is the one who gave birth to the Word-made-flesh, then Joseph is the one who defended him, who protected him, who nourished him, who made him grow.
2 Characteristics joined together
Pope Francis said St. Joseph could be seen as “the man of difficult times” – a man who “knows how to take on responsibilities.”
He explained that he sees two characteristics joined together in the saint: his spiritual depth, and his great practicality.
The accounts of God speaking in Joseph’s dreams “bear witness to Joseph’s ability to know how to listen to God speaking to his heart. Only someone who prays, who has an intense spiritual life, can have the capacity to know how to distinguish God’s voice in the midst of many other voices that dwell in us.”
But beside this characteristic is Joseph as a “concrete man” who “faces problems with great practicality, who never assumes the position of being a victim when faced with difficulties and obstacles. Instead, he always places himself in the perspective of reacting, of responding, of trusting God, and finding a solution in a creative way.”
The beginning of his ministry as Peter
The interviewer noted how Pope Francis in fact began his Petrine ministry on the feast of St Joseph, a fact that the Pope said he has always considered a “kindness from heaven.”
I think that in some way Saint Joseph wanted to tell me that he would continue to help me, to be beside me, and I would be able to continue to think of him as a friend I could turn to, whom I could trust, whom I could ask to intercede and pray for me.
However, the Pope urged all the faithful to form this relationship with the saints.
I think that it can be of help to many. This is why the Year dedicated to Saint Joseph, I hope, made the heart of many Christians rediscover the profound value of the communion of Saints which is not an abstract communion, but a concrete communion that expresses itself in a concrete relationship and has concrete consequences.