On the day of the inauguration of Pope Francis, we had no class because it was the Solemnity of St. Joseph. This gave us all the opportunity to watch the papal Mass on the big screen. It was heartening to see so many people congregated in St. Peter’s Square. As for the liturgy, I was particularly intrigued by the Gospel reading, chanted in Greek by an Eastern Catholic Deacon. At the time we guessed that he was Eastern Orthodox, because Patriarch Bartholomew might not have approved of such prominence given to an Eastern Catholic. I am still trying to find out who the Deacon was and to which Church he belonged after all.
In the Pope’s homily (or Bishop of Rome, as he calls himself), there were two points which made an impression on me. One of them is the connection between St. Joseph’s office as protector of Christ (and the God-oriented sensitive realism with which he fulfilled it) and our own calling as Christians: ‘Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!’ Concretely, this includes caring for our families and ‘building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness’.
The second point is the sentence which Pope Francis said twice: ‘We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!’ Tenderness, which St. Joseph showed to the other members of the Holy Family (in his own carpenter’s way), is a prerequisite for care and protection. It is ‘not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit’. We have to protect that strength in us, to keep watch against hatred, envy and pride: ‘Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down!’ Being a protector means looking on other people ‘with tenderness and love’ and thus opening up ‘a horizon of hope’.
To speak personally: there are persons who are fire to the tinder of my protectiveness, not because of any immediate danger, but because they are in a crisis of vigorous self-questioning. To keep their horizon unobstructed is the task of the street-sweeper, the quiet worker who labours not for himself. And even if someone should ultimately labour for himself, the labour need not be lost.
For it is not merely an inner joy that we seek; it is the stormwind of peace on the horizon, the Perichoresis. Thus, at least, says the Office of Readings for St. Joseph, in the words of St. Bernardine of Siena:
In fact, although the joy of eternal happiness enters into the soul of a man, the Lord preferred to say to Joseph: “Enter into joy”. His intention was that the words should have a hidden spiritual meaning for us. They convey not only that this holy man possesses an inward joy, but also that it surrounds him and engulfs him like an infinite abyss.
Blessed Triduum to all!