We tire of words when they lie or hide reality. We have too many of them; we have an overproduction of meaningless words, which coincides with an underdevelopment of love and our sense of responsibility for what was said and promised. We are in great need of someone who has the traits of a good father, who speaks less and does more, who is ready to protect, guard and comfort us, who always remains close to us. He is someone who does not leave or abandon us, but follows our every step. We need a father. The contemporary world is in extreme need of a father figure.
Thinking of all this, we are reminded of God as a Father, a father whose attitude towards Israel was described by Moses: “In the wilderness…you saw how the Lord, your God, carried you, as one carries his own child, all along your journey until you arrived at this place” (Dt 1, 31). Pope Francis mentions this in his Apostolic Letter, Patris corde (PC) published on December 8, 2020. In it we read: “Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person. Children today often seem orphans, lacking fathers. The Church too needs fathers. St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians remain timely: ‘Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers’ (1Cor 4:15). Every priest or bishop should be able to add, with the Apostle: ‘I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel’ (ibid.). Paul likewise calls the Galatians: ‘My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!’”(Gal 4:19) (PC no.7).
Without a father, we feel like orphans. Without a certain guide, we become lost in the problems of the contemporary world; we do not know what to do, how to behave or which way to turn. We are not even able to teach. We do not know how to give people the freedom to make choices and remain consistent; we do not know what authentic love and true freedom are. Our heavenly Father, full of mercy, gives us St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as our guardian. The inspired writers all teach us that St Joseph never placed himself at the center. He always put the good of others first, namely, that of Mary and Jesus. He gave of himself without feeling victimized. Instead of frustration, he felt trust. Without complaining, he made concrete gestures of love, service and devotion.
The contemporary world absolutely needs a father. It expects to find one in priests or in consecrated men. Pope Francis: “Our world…has no use for [those] who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction” (PC no.7).
In 1741, our Order acknowledged the greatness and spiritual beauty of St. Joseph by electing him as our own Custos—a choice later confirmed by Pope Benedict XIV. The Provinces of Romania and Slovenia made this choice even more explicitly by naming St. Joseph as their Patron Saint. Still, more is required. All of us spiritual children of St. Francis of Assisi should have a fatherly attitude toward those we meet and among whom we work. St. Joseph wants us to serve them with pure and selfless love, respecting their dignity and freedom, caring for their earthly and eternal good. He teaches us that the people entrusted to our care are not our property, but a gift from God and a means of our sanctification.
“In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father, who ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (Mt 5:45). And a shadow that follows his Son” (PC no.7).
St. Joseph put deeds before words: he acted rather than spoke. He did not get caught up in lofty declarations, but zealously carried out God’s will. Obedient to the inspiration of heaven, he went where God sent him, lovingly doing what God asked him to do.
In this year dedicated to St. Joseph, let us turn to him with this heartfelt prayer:
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.
Friar Zdzisław J. KIJAS