For the past few months, Pope Francis has focused his weekly general audiences on different aspects of Joseph – Joseph as the foster father of Jesus, patron of a happy death, husband of Mary, and a hardworking carpenter, among many others. This week he concluded the series of catecheses with a final look at St. Joseph as a protector and patron of the Catholic Church.
What does it mean that Joseph is a patron of the Church? Pope Francis instructs us to look no further than the Gospels.
“At the end of every story in which Joseph is the protagonist, the Gospel notes that he takes the Child and His mother with him and does what God has ordered him to do,” said the Holy Father.
This is important because we know that Joseph’s primary task was to protect and look after Jesus and His mother. This treasure of Jesus and Mary, which in Patris corde Pope Francis calls “the most precious treasure of our faith”, is safeguarded by Joseph.
In this duty of St. Joseph, we also see our own calling as Christians.
“And here there is a very beautiful trace of the Christian vocation: to safeguard. To safeguard life, to safeguard human development, to safeguard the human mind, to safeguard the human heart, to safeguard human work,” explains Pope Francis.
By our love for Christ, His mother, and the Church, we too protect them as Joseph does.
As the Holy Father says, “To be a Christian is not only to receive the faith, to confess the faith, but to safeguard life, one’s own life, the life of others, the life of the Church.”
How do we accomplish this? The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are a clear and continual to-do list for us all. In safeguarding the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, the “least” among us, we care for and protect our brothers as sisters in Christ just as Joseph does.
Protecting the Church
But how can we—a single person in a vast universe—protect the universal Catholic Church? It begins with our words, our attitude, and our service. Pope Francis asks each of us to reflect on whether or not we love the Church as she is—not perfect but striving to serve and love the Heavenly Father.
“Nowadays it is common, it is an everyday occurrence, to criticize the Church, to point out its inconsistencies—there are many—to point out its sins, which in reality are our inconsistencies, our sins, because the Church has always been a people of sinners who encounter God’s mercy,” he said.
In safeguarding the Church, we not only speak the truth and work to repair what is broken, but we also acknowledge “all the goodness and holiness that are present in the Church.”
In the darkest and most difficult moments of the Church’s history—scandal, abuses, persecution, division—the Holy Father calls on us to call upon Joseph, the patron of the Church for protection:
Hail, guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted His only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself to be a father,
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.