06 The ‘JOSEPH’ in Francis - Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ

posted Mar 13, 2019, 10:27 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 13, 2019, 10:27 AM ]
Exactly six years ago, on March 19, 2013, Pope Francis began his Pontificate. It was the Feast of St Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church. For Pope Francis, the Feast was not a mere coincidence; it was a clear message to the Church and the world, that he wanted his Pontificate to be modelled on the person and message of St Joseph (together with St Francis of Assisi).

His homily at the inaugural Eucharist focused on St Joseph. "In the Gospels, St Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet, in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak, but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love." He continued saying, "We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness." Pope Francis further said "that exercising the role of protector as St Joseph did, means doing so discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. The Gospels present St Joseph as a husband to Mary, at her side in good times and bad, and as a father who watched over Jesus, worried about Him and taught Him a trade. St Joseph responded to his call to be a protector by being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God's presence and receptive to God's plans, and not simply his own."

In focusing on the qualities of St Joseph, in his first homily, Pope Francis left no doubt that he would be doing his best to imbibe some of these qualities personally. As one looks back at these six years, the 'Joseph' in Pope Francis has certainly defined his Papacy in many different ways.

St Joseph epitomizes 'caring and protecting'; he cares for and protects Mary and Jesus throughout. It was not easy to do so, but he undertook the responsibility, which was entrusted to him with complete diligence. That is exactly what Pope Francis is doing today: caring and protecting one and all. He reaches out to the lonely, the sick, the aged, the excluded, the prisoner in ways most extraordinary. His caring and protecting reaches out to the whole of Creation. He inspires and encourages others to do likewise.