WelCom March 2021
Pope Francis has declared 2021 as the Year of St Joseph. St Joseph, whose feast day is on March 19, is one of his favourite saints.
Pope Francis already had a connection with St Joseph when he was living in Argentina. It was in the church of St Joseph in Buenos Aires where, in 1953, the 17-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio discovered his vocation and declared his desire to dedicate his life to God.
After many years, it was on the feast of St Joseph, March 19, 2013, when that young boy – now a mature adult – would be inaugurated as the Pontiff and the head of the Church.
Pope Francis formally inaugurated his papacy on St Joseph’s feast day, March 19, and he has a spikenard, the flower used as a symbol of St Joseph, on his coat-of-arms.
And he has popularised statues of St Joseph sleeping – or, dreaming – mentioning on many occasions how he places particularly difficult prayer requests under the statue.
Meeting families in the Philippines in January 2015, he told them, ‘I have great love for St Joseph because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of St Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the church.’
When he became pope Francis wanted St Joseph to go with him, as a discreet guide, and a protector who is silent but always attentive. Even today, in the Pope’s personal study at Casa Santa Marta, there are two statues portraying the saint.
One in particular is very dear to the Pope and he has carried it with him since he lived at the Jesuit Major Seminary of San Miguel, where he was the rector. It’s an unusual image in the eyes of many, but the devotion is widespread among South American Catholics: it’s a statue depicting St Joseph sleeping.
It is a wooden statue, simple in the way Joseph was himself, wrapped in his humble robes. Yet the symbolic value of this image is strong.
While asleep, St Joseph received messages from God, who warned him about the danger posed by King Herod and entrusted him with loving and protecting Mary and the Baby Jesus.
It was in a dream when Joseph accepted his role as putative father of Jesus and of all mankind, an archetypal figure of protector, defender, and consoler. Joseph is the attentive and tender guardian of the Family, a just man who accepts and guards the mysteries of God, as he willingly chose to accept and protect Mary, the woman chosen by God to be the Most Holy and Immaculate Mother of His only Son.
The Pope has the habit of placing under the statue of the saint a list containing the problems, petitions, and prayers of the faithful. It’s as if he were inviting St Joseph to ‘sleep on it’, and perhaps to put a good word in before God to solve difficult situations and to help those in need, thus calling upon the saint’s role as a father who is merciful and totally attentive to those he loves.
‘He’s a truly special saint, who protects and helps us even while he sleeps!’