For Pope Francis, Saint Joseph is the model for and protector of each vocation
The papal message for the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations is centred on “Saint Joseph: The Dream of Vocation”. The “Gospels do not report even a single word of his. Still, through his ordinary life, he accomplished something extraordinary in the eyes of God.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis released a message for the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, titled “Saint Joseph: The Dream of Vocation”, which will be celebrated on 25 April 2021.
In it, the pontiff urges all religious and clergy to look to Saint Joseph as a model of fidelity and docility to God’s design, “a model for all vocations” to which one may feel called because of his capacity to give himself and to welcome, in a spirit of service.
Saint Joseph, writes the Pope, “had no unique charisms, nor did he appear special in the eyes of those who met him. He was not famous or even noteworthy: the Gospels do not report even a single word of his. Still, through his ordinary life, he accomplished something extraordinary in the eyes of God.
“God looks on the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7), and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines. Vocations have this same goal: to beget and renew lives every day. The Lord desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers: hearts that are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes. The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic, which has spawned uncertainties and fears about the future and the very meaning of life. Saint Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of ‘the saints next door’. At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey.”
For Francis, “Saint Joseph suggests to us three key words for each individual’s vocation. The first is dream.” And love is the word for a dream of a lifetime. “It is love that gives meaning to life, because it reveals life’s mystery. Indeed, we only have life if we give it; we truly possess it only if we generously give it away. Saint Joseph has much to tell us in this regard, because, through the dreams that God inspired in him, he made of his life a gift.”
In fact, he followed what God suggested to him in a dream, he had confidence and the courage to follow God's will. This choice proved right. “So too in a vocation: God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk. Only by abandoning ourselves confidently to grace, setting aside our own programmes and comforts, can we truly say ‘yes’ to God.”
“In this regard, Saint Joseph is an outstanding example of acceptance of God’s plans. Yet his was an active acceptance: never reluctant or resigned. Joseph was ‘certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive’ (Patris Corde, 4). May he help everyone, especially young people who are discerning, to make God’s dreams for them come true. May he inspire in them the courage to say ‘yes’ to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints.”
A second word marks Saint Joseph’s life and vocation: service. “The Gospels show how Joseph lived entirely for others and never for himself. [. . .] For Saint Joseph, service – as a concrete expression of the gift of self – did not remain simply a high ideal, but became a rule for daily life. He strove to find and prepare a place where Jesus could be born; he did his utmost to protect him from Herod’s wrath by arranging a hasty journey into Egypt; he immediately returned to Jerusalem when Jesus was lost; he supported his family by his work, even in a foreign land. In short, he adapted to different circumstances with the attitude of those who do not grow discouraged when life does not turn out as they wished; he showed the willingness typical of those who live to serve.”
“Each time he was willing to face new circumstances without complaining, ever ready to give a hand to help resolve situations. We could say that this was the outstretched hand of our heavenly Father reaching out to his Son on earth. Joseph cannot fail to be a model for all vocations, called to be the ever-active hands of the Father, outstretched to his children.”
The third aspect of Saint Joseph’s life that Francis highlights is fidelity. “Joseph is the ‘righteous man’ (Mt 1:19) who daily perseveres in quietly serving God and his plans.” This fidelity is nurtured “In the light of God’s own faithfulness.” God spoke to Joseph for the first time saying: “do Not be afraid.”
“[T]hese words the Lord also addresses to you, dear sister, and to you, dear brother, whenever you feel that, even amid uncertainty and hesitation, you can no longer delay your desire to give your life to him. He repeats these words when, perhaps amid trials and misunderstandings, you seek to follow his will every day, wherever you find yourself. They are words you will hear anew, at every step of your vocation, as you return to your first love. They are a refrain accompanying all those who – like Saint Joseph – say yes to God with their lives, through their fidelity each day.
“This fidelity is the secret of joy. A hymn in the liturgy speaks of the ‘transparent joy’ present in the home of Nazareth. It the joy of simplicity, the joy experienced daily by those who care for what truly matters: faithful closeness to God and to our neighbour. How good it would be if the same atmosphere, simple and radiant, sober and hopeful, were to pervade our seminaries, religious houses and presbyteries! I pray that you will experience this same joy, dear brothers and sisters who have generously made God the dream of your lives, serving him in your brothers and sisters through a fidelity that is a powerful testimony in an age of ephemeral choices and emotions that bring no lasting joy. May Saint Joseph, protector of vocations, accompany you with his fatherly heart!”