Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Pope, St. Joseph, and Us: Tenderness and Gratitude

It has been quite a ride this year, from Our Lady of Lourdes Day to St. Joseph's Day. Who would have thought that all of this would happen?

But its no different than anything else in life. We have frequent upheavals that change everything in a short space of time. And there are many more ordinary sorrows and joys, surprises, routines, work and rest, changes, expectations, disappointments. Life will not allow us to stand still. In every circumstance, we find ourselves called forth, summoned. Life points us toward a destination, and places us on the road.

As Christians we know that we are challenged every day to grow in the grace and love of God, to become the person that the Lord wills each of us to be. We are called to be His children, and ultimately to be fulfilled by sharing in His glory. The mercy of Jesus is there to sustain us--His mercy is moved especially by our frailty and poverty--and therefore hope must illuminate every step of the journey.

This year we have arrived at St. Joseph's Day at the end of an ecclesial adventure (and, I suspect, the beginning of another).

But every year, this day is a special celebration of a very personal relationship for me. St. Joseph has been my father-in-faith, my friend, my benefactor for many, many years. He has taken care of me from my student day to marriage, and thereafter, he has taken care of us, the Janaro family. He is just like the Joseph of Sacred Scripture: silent, in the background, ready to take us up in the midst of change and even danger and quietly see to it that we have what we need.

We were determined to name a child after him, as a way of acknowledging his great care for us in the communion of saints. But we kept having girls. We finally got tired of his humble attempts to "hide," and thus our youngest became Josefina. He responded by taking very special care of her.

I talk to St. Joseph every day. I ask him to obtain for me the grace to be the man, the husband, and the father that God wills me to be. I thank him for always being there for us. Ever since the angel came to assure him that he really did have a role in the mystery of the redemption, he has been there to protect and care for Jesus and Mary and the whole world of Mary's children, Jesus's brothers and sisters.

My own fatherly heart is full of gratitude to him. Of course this is truly and fundamentally gratitude to God who is the giver of every gift. But God doesn't just give some abstract or magical kind of help. God makes us "gifts" to one another. God's love generates relationships of persons who share in His love, a communion of persons, a real family.

Grazie San Giuseppe! And, of course, Viva il Papa Francesco!

Saint 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.
We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Pope Francis
(Homily of Installation Mass, March 19, 2013)