Joseph, the husband of Mary, assumed the role of father for her Son though he was not biologically his own.
In his first general audience of the new year, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on St. Joseph. He focused specifically on his role as the foster father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This aspect of Joseph, says the Holy Father, allows us to reflect on fatherhood and motherhood.
“We live in an age of notorious orphanhood, don’t we? It is curious: our civilization is something of an orphan, and this orphanhood can be felt,” said Pope Francis.
This is a huge problem in our society. Children being conceived and then abandoned, or even worse yet, destroyed. Parents neglecting their responsibilities to their own children.
Quoting his Apostolic Letter Patris corde, the Holy Father said, “Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.”
He spoke admiringly of adoptive parents who take on the care and love of a child not biologically their own. He encourages families to not be afraid to share their family’s love with more children through the gift of adoption.
“St. Joseph shows that adoption is not based on secondary type of bond with a child, but it exemplifies a high form of love,” Relevant Radio Rome Correspondent Ashley Noronha explained during her Relevant in Rome segment on Morning Air.
Conversely, there is a “selfishness”, said Pope Francis, among many who are not open to sharing life and love. This is particularly a problem in Italy, reported Noronha, where there is sadly a negative birth rate.
“And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one – but they have two dogs, two cats… Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality. And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity,” Pope Francis said.
He pointed to just a few of the problems that arise from this: an aging population with no family to take care of them and not enough young people to support the economy.
Pope Francis called upon St. Joseph’s intercession to inspire married couples to be open to life and welcoming God’s gift of children, through birth and adoption. He called the denial of fatherhood and motherhood a greater risk than that of having a child.
“Fatherhood and motherhood are the fullness of the life of a person,” he said.
Praying for all orphans and those who wish to have a child of their own, he asked for St. Joseph’s intercession with this prayer:
you who loved Jesus with fatherly love,
be close to the many children who have no family
and who long for a daddy and mommy.
Support the couples who are unable to have children,
help them to discover, through this suffering, a greater plan.
Make sure that no one lacks a home, a bond,
a person to take care of him or her;
and heal the selfishness of those who close themselves off from life,
that they may open their hearts to love.
Listen to the Relevant in Rome podcast for more from Ashley Noronha about this week’s general audience. Find a new episode weekly on the Relevant Radio app!