Updated: Mar 9
Friday Book Pick: Patris Corde / With a Father’s Heart by Pope Francis
Well, it’s an Apostolic Letter not a book, but perhaps that makes it all the more likely to be read (it’s only 14 pages and you can download it for free)! By now, I am sure you have heard that our Holy Father has declared this the Year of Saint Joseph. (From December 8, 2020 until December 8, 2021 the Holy Father intends the worldwide Church to specially honor Saint Joseph and seek his intercession.) Pope Francis chose this particular timing, in part, because December 8, 2020 marked the 150-year anniversary of Pope Pius IX declaring St. Joseph the patron of the Catholic Church.
If you are not in the habit of reading letters, documents, and the texts of homilies that come forth from the Holy See, might I encourage you to consider it? We are so blessed in the Catholic Church to be united as a worldwide body of believers with the Vicar of Christ at the helm to lead us, and unlike times of old, his words are speedily translated and available to anyone who is interested.
Perhaps you share with me a long-held interest in what the Pope has to say. For me it started when I was a college student. The latest encyclical was eagerly anticipated by the student body and faculty alike. (Now, this was the Franciscan University of Steubenville, so you are probably not surprised by the papal enthusiasm.) The teachings of the Holy Father—Pope John Paul II at that time—provided food for conversation, for study, and for prayer and pondering as well.
These days, the words of the Pope are even more accessible than ever. Even the Holy Father’s Wednesday audiences and Sunday Angelus addresses are available online. Currently, with so much speculation, analysis, and commentary on the Pope and his ideas and intentions, I personally find it refreshing and important to avail myself of his actual words. The best chance at cutting through sensational stories and speculation is to go straight to the source. My recommendation is: Don’t read analysis on the Pope, read the Pope. Don’t follow media outlets, follow the man.
That said, I hope you will take some time this month, traditionally dedicated to St. Joseph, to read and ponder the Holy Father’s Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde. It is brief and beautiful.
The Holy Father highlights St. Joseph as a man “in the shadows,” a man not of prominence and prestige, and yet entrusted by God the Father with a task of monumental importance for the whole world. “Each of us can discover in Joseph, the man who goes unnoticed, a daily discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and guide in times of trouble,” Pope Francis writes. Yet this is the man that God the Father chose to be the human father for Jesus. Joseph is the father chosen by The Father for His only beloved Son. A staggering honor and it must have been a daunting revelation.
The Holy Father holds up St. Joseph as a man we can relate to and imitate. Especially because he didn’t always know what to do, which path to take, and yet he was ready to trust and obey once he received clarity from God. Discovering that Mary, his betrothed, was with child was a serious problem that Joseph did not know how to handle. And when he started to move toward dismissing her gently, “quietly” as the Scripture says, God redirected him. The Holy Father uses this example to remind us that we do not have to be perfect for God’s will to be accomplished. No, God is quite capable of accomplishing His will, not in spite of our flaws but through our very weaknesses. “All too often we think that God works only through our better parts, yet more of our plans are realized in and in spite of our frailty.” Pope Francis reminds us that “faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, or frailties and our weaknesses.”
Pope Francis didn’t write this as a Lenten message per se, but what a great Lenten encouragement it is! It’s a reminder that God’s hopes and dreams for me are not “ruined” by my weaknesses and failures—no—God can work with all of this, all of me, as He did so beautifully with Joseph.
Mother Clare, CFR