Pope Francis announced the start of the observance of a Year of St. Joseph on Dec. 8 to mark the 150th anniversary of the saint’s proclamation as patron of the Universal Church.
The Year of St. Joseph aims to encourage the faithful to follow the saint’s example so that they may strengthen their “life of faith daily in the complete fulfilment of God’s will.”
The pontiff also issued an apostolic letter dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.
In the letter titled “Patris corde” or “With a father’s heart,” Pope Francis shared his “personal reflections” on St. Joseph.
“My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic,” he said, noting that many people had made hidden sacrifices during the crisis in order to protect others.
“Each of us can discover in Joseph — the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence — an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble,” he wrote.
“St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation,” said the pope.
Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph patron of the Universal Church on Dec. 8, 1870, in the decree “Quemadmodum Deus.”
In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis reflected on the fatherly qualities of St. Joseph, describing him as beloved, tender and loving, obedient, accepting, and “creatively courageous.”
He also underlined that he was a working father.
“In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way,” the pope wrote.
Pope Francis has promoted the devotion to St. Joseph throughout his pontificate.
He began his ministry as pontiff on March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, and dedicated the homily at his inauguration Mass to the saint.
“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,” said the pope.
Pope Francis’ coat of arms features a spikenard, which is associated with St. Joseph in Hispanic iconographic tradition.
During his apostolic visit to the Philippines in 2015, the pope explained why he kept an image of the saint on his desk.
“I would also like to tell you something very personal,” he said. “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! Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath St. Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words, I tell him: pray for this problem!” said the pope
At his general audience on March 18 this year, he urged Catholics to turn to St. Joseph in times of adversity.
“In life, at work and within the family, through joys and sorrows, he always sought and loved the Lord, deserving the Scriptures’ eulogy that described him as a just and wise man,” he said
“Always invoke him, especially in difficult times and entrust your life to this great saint.”