MANILA - Pope Francis on Tuesday declared a Year of Saint Joseph to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the declaration of the saint as patron of the Universal Church.
The yearlong commemoration started on Tuesday, December 8, 2020, which coincided with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and will end on the same feast in 2021.
In his apostolic letter "Patris corde" (With a father's heart), Francis urged Catholics to emulate Joseph, whom he described as obedient, accepting, courageous, and a tender and loving father.
The pontiff added that the declaration was also inspired by his reflections on the current pandemic due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, which already killed over 1.5 million people across the world.
Francis likened Joseph to medical workers and other frontliners who are working quietly by serving others in times of trouble.
"They understood that no one is saved alone . . . How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility," the pope said.
"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.
"Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them."
The pope also expounded on the role of Joseph as the protector of Mary and Jesus, adding that the saint's sacrifice, patience, and trust in being an instrument to God's plans.
"Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust," the pope said.
"Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction."
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has shown an affinity to Joseph.
The inaugural mass signaling the start of his Petrine ministry in 2013 was held on the Feast of Saint Joseph. His official coat of arms also includes a spikenard which has long been a symbol for the saint.
In the Philippines, Joseph has been highly venerated by devotees, with many churches and institutions named after the foster father of Jesus.
This was further ignited during Francis's apostolic visit to the Philippines in 2015 where he shared a special image of Joseph which he always kept.
Speaking during an encounter with Filipino families, the pontiff said on his desk at his office is an image of Joseph sleeping.
"Whenever I have problems, I write it on a piece of paper and put it underneath the statue so he can dream about it," the pope said.
In the Scriptures, God often communicated to Joseph through his dreams, starting from the revelation that it was through the Holy Spirit that Mary got pregnant with the Messiah, up to the need for their family to flee to Egypt and escape the wrath of King Herod.
After that encounter, the statue of the sleeping Joseph became popular in the Philippines and in other countries as well.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis also shared a prayer for the intercession of Saint Joseph. Below is the full text of the prayer:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed 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 a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.