Patris Corde: Eight Reflections on the Year of St. Joseph
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception late last year, Pope Francis proclaimed December 8, 2020-December 8, 2021 the “Year of St. Joseph.” He released an Apostolic Letter named “Patris Corde,” or “The Heart of the Father,” explaining how now is the time of St. Joseph. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I highly recommend it! You can read more about my own journey with St. Joseph here, but for now I wanted to share with you 8 key takeaways from “Patris Corde” and how you can make this year of St. Joseph one you’ll never forget.
What’s in a name? Pope Francis writes that for “ancient peoples, to give a name to a person or to a thing…was to establish a relationship.” St. Joseph has many titles: Mirror of Patience, Terror of Demons, Glory of Domestic Life, and Patron of the Universal Church are some of my personal favorites. But don’t forget his most important mantle: your spiritual father. Calling St. Joseph your father may sound a little weird, but he yearns to help you. He’s a practical saint: for the father who raised him, Jesus denies St. Joseph nothing. For the patron of workers and an exemplar of humble, obedient faith, inviting St. Joseph to be your spiritual father is to form a relationship with the most powerful saint, after Mary.
The Hidden Presence. St. Joseph’s life “…goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence…Saint 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.” One of my favorite things about St. Joseph is that he looks out for the little guy. Who has helped you in your life that stands forgotten or taken for granted? Oftentimes the ones we love are the ones we forget to thank the most. St. Joseph reminds us to appreciate those whose outsized impact on us speaks with the softest voice. Oh and one other Easter egg–the “hidden presence” of St. Joseph can also remind us of the hidden presence of Jesus in the Eucharist!
“We gotta get right back to where we started from…” This oldie but goodie seems appropriate for St. Joseph. St. Joseph is foreshadowed in the Old Testament by Joseph, son of Jacob, who ensured the Egyptians did not die from famine. Pharaoh told his people, “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.” Today in speaking of St. Joseph, we say “Ite ad Joseph,” which means “Go to Joseph.” But really, when we go to St. Joseph, we are invoking his intercession to go to Jesus for us. These words also reminded me of Jesus’s first miracle at the wedding of Cana. Mary told the servants to “do whatever He [Jesus] tells you.” Sound familiar? St. Joseph always brings us right back to Mary and Jesus.
St. Joseph is the portrait of creative courage. He is a great model at both getting out of God’s way and taking initiative. St. Joseph knows how to meld surrender and be a man of action. Joseph followed God’s call to take the Holy Family into Egypt, thereby keeping them safe. But he also got to work when he got there. In a new land, with a new culture, and no friends to help him, it’s likely that St. Joseph put food on the table both through the gold from the Three Kings and the sweat from his own brow, working as a carpenter. St. Joseph creatively worked with God.
St. Joseph’s ability to love each of us in a personal way teaches us how to love in return.
St. Joseph the Worker is your friend. Pope Francis writes that “Work is a means of participating in the work of salvation, an opportunity to hasten the coming of the Kingdom…” St. Joseph shows us how to combine our working and spiritual lives for the service of others. Whether our work is overwhelming or unfulfilling (or both), St. Joseph has likely experienced it and can help you through it, too.
Above all else, St. Joseph was a father. Pope Francis’s insight into this part of his life is spot-on: “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 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.” I don’t think the label is important here. Women can be “fathers” in this way too. We can care and take responsibility for our friends, family, and even the holy souls in purgatory, serving others as stewards of the earth like God called all humans to be.
The chaste heart of St. Joseph models how to love with freedom. We typically think of chastity as the absence of lust or impurity, but it really means “freedom from possessiveness.” It goes back to free will and allowing others to make their own choices. St. Joseph put Mary and Jesus ahead of himself and in so doing, showed us how loving chastely is the definition of living freely. Sometimes loving God chastely can mean giving up our most prized possession: control of our own lives. But when we love God freely and let His plan work, miracles happen.
St. Joseph does not utter a single word in the Bible. I still don’t know why this is, other than to speculate that through him, God is showing us that actions speak louder than words. Taylor Swift says it best: “I’ve never heard silence quite this loud.” The saints are meant to be our role models–and while St. Joseph doesn’t have a catchy saying that we can put on a laptop sticker, he has something better: the heart of a father. His ability to love each of us personally teaches us how to love in return.
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Gabriela R. A. Doyle is a speechwriter and communications specialist from northern Virginia. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University and is an Elon University alumna. Gabriela is a ballerina who believes in happily ever afters and trusts that a little hygge and St. Joseph can fix just about any problem there is.