Pop quiz! How many times do the Gospels tell of God speaking to St. Joseph in a dream?
The answer is four times. Dreams appear to be God’s preferred method of communicating with the foster father of Jesus, at least as far as we see in Scripture.
In his general audience this week, Pope Francis spoke of these dreams of Joseph in which God gave him instructions, warnings, and calmed his fears. These are the four dreams from the Gospels:
- The angel tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife and to help her raise the Son of God.
- He is instructed to flee to Egypt when Herod is seeking to kill the baby Jesus.
- Joseph learns that Herod has died and is told to return home.
- On the way home, when Herod’s son is ruling over the land, he is warned in a dream and told to go to Galilee.
The moments during which God spoke to Joseph in dreams were filled with fear and uncertainty. But through these conversations with God, Joseph is able to find guidance and reassurance. We, too, should approach God in moments of fear.
“Fear is also part of life and it too needs our prayer. God does not promise us that we will never have fear, but that, with His help, it will not be the criterion for our decisions. Joseph experiences fear, but God also guides him through it. The power of prayer brings light into situations of darkness,” explained Pope Francis.
The Holy Father spoke about those who are void of hope and can’t find the strength to pray. He asked that the example of St. Joseph might inspire them “to open themselves to dialogue with God in order to find light, strength, and peace.”
As a parent to the Son of God, Joseph surely felt the weight of his responsibility to care for and protect Jesus, even as some attempted to destroy him. Parents today can find in St. Joseph the strength and peace that is necessary to overcome the most difficult moments of parenthood.
Pope Francis spoke about parents who face very difficult situations with their children—severe illnesses, disabilities, addictions, crime. He implored parents to not give up on their children—not if they have strayed far away, are imprisoned, or living lives contrary to the Faith.
The Holy Father asks parents to find compassion rather than condemnation when things get really tough. In these moments, children need guidance and love in order to find their way back.
He said, “To these parents I say: don’t be scared. Yes, there is pain. A lot. But think of the Lord, think about how Joseph solved the problems, and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.”
From St. Joseph, we can find what is needed to make it through a difficult journey of parenthood—virtue, courage, prayer, compassion, love, and unwavering trust in God.
St. Joseph, pray for us!