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A boy gave Pope Francis a scarf of the Pavia soccer club at the weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 17.
A boy gave Pope Francis a scarf of the Pavia soccer club at the weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 17.
Photo Credit: Remo Casilli | Reuters

POPE’S MESSAGE | St. Joseph reminds us to give importance to what others discard

At audience Nov. 17, Pope Francis began a series of catechesis talks on St. Joseph

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On Dec. 8, 1870, Blessed Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. One hundred and fifty years since that event, we are living a special year dedicated to St. Joseph, and in the apostolic letter, “Patris corde,” I gathered together some reflections on him. Today, like never before, during this time marked by a global crisis made up of several factors, he can offer us support, consolation and guidance. This is why I have decided to dedicate a series of catecheses to him, which I hope may further help us to let ourselves be enlightened by his example and by his witness. For a few weeks, we will talk about Joseph.

There are more than 10 people in the Bible who bear the name Joseph. The most important among them is the son of Jacob and Rachel who, through various vicissitudes, went from being a slave to becoming the second most important person in Egypt after the Pharaoh (Genesis 37-50). The name Joseph is Hebrew for “may God increase, may God give growth.” It is a wish, a blessing based on trust in providence and refers especially to fertility and to raising children. Indeed, this very name reveals to us an essential aspect of Joseph of Nazareth’s personality. He is a man full of faith... he has faith in God’s providence. His every action, as recounted in the Gospel, is dictated by the certainty that God “gives growth,” that God “increases,” that God “adds”: that is, that God provides for the continuation of His plan of salvation. And in this, Joseph of Nazareth is very similar to Joseph of Egypt.

The main geographical references regarding Joseph: Bethlehem and Nazareth, also assume an important role in our understanding of him. In the Old Testament, the city of Bethlehem is called Beth Lechem, that is, “House of bread,” or also Ephrathah, after the tribe that settled in that territory. In Arabic, however, the name means “House of meat.”... In the light of the story of Jesus, these allusions to bread and meat refer to the mystery of the Eucharist: Jesus is the living bread descended from heaven (John 6:51). He will say of Himself: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:54).

Bethlehem is mentioned several times in the Bible, as far back as the Book of Genesis. Bethlehem is also linked to the story of Ruth and Naomi, told in the short but wonderful Book of Ruth. Ruth gave birth to a son named Obed, who in turn gave birth to Jesse, the father of King David. And it was from the line of David that Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, descended. ...

In fact, the Son of God did not choose Jerusalem as the place of His incarnation, but Bethlehem and Nazareth, two outlying villages, far from the clamour of the news and the powers of the time. ...

This is why the choice of Bethlehem and Nazareth tells us that periphery and marginality are preferred by God. Jesus was not born in Jerusalem, with all the court… no, He was born in a periphery and He spent His life in that periphery until the age of 30, working as a carpenter like Joseph. For Jesus, the peripheries and marginality were favored. ... The Lord always acts in secret in the peripheries, even in our souls, in the peripheries of the soul, of feelings, perhaps feelings of which we are ashamed; but the Lord is there to help us move forward. The Lord continues to manifest Himself in the peripheries, both the geographical ones and the existential ones. In particular, Jesus goes in search of sinners; He goes into their homes, speaks with them, calls them to conversion. And He is also rebuked for this: “But look at this Teacher,” say the doctors of the law, “Look at this Teacher: He eats with sinners, He gets dirty.” He also goes in search of those who have done no evil but have suffered it: the sick, the hungry, the poor, the least. Jesus always goes toward the peripheries. And this should bring us great trust because the Lord knows the peripheries of our heart, the peripheries of our soul, the peripheries of our society, of our city, of our family...

In this respect, the society of that time is not very different from ours. Today, too, there is a center and a periphery. And the Church knows that she is called to proclaim the Good News starting from the peripheries. Joseph, who is a carpenter from Nazareth and who trusts in God’s plan for his young fiancée and for himself, reminds the Church to fix her gaze on what the world deliberately ignores. ... He reminds each of us to give importance to what others discard. In this sense he is truly a master of the essential: he reminds us that what truly matters does not attract our attention, but requires patient discernment to be discovered and appreciated. To discover what matters. Let us ask him to intercede so that the whole Church may recover this insight, this ability to discern, this ability to evaluate what is essential. Let us start again from Bethlehem, let us start again from Nazareth.

Today I would like to send a message to all the men and women who live in the most forgotten geographical peripheries of the world, or who experience situations of existential marginality. May you find in St. Joseph the witness and protector to look to. We can turn to him with this prayer, a “home-made” prayer, but one that comes from the heart:

St. Joseph,

you who have always trusted God,

and have made your choices

guided by his providence

teach us not to count so much on our own plans

but on his plan of love.

You who come from the peripheries

help us to convert our gaze

and to prefer what the world discards and marginalises.

Comfort those who feel alone

and support those who work silently

to defend life and human dignity. Amen.

-- Pope Francis

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