Patris Corde: Sacrificial Service of the Ordinary
The Apostolic Letter titled, ‘Patris Corde,’ which means ‘With a Father’s Love’ by Pope Francis recognizes the invaluable contribution made by the ordinary people. This letter comes after Pope Francis meditates as to how in the current times the heroes all over the world were ordinary people.
Whose names perhaps do not appear as headlines in any magazines, newspapers, or television shows; doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, etc. These ordinary people are compared to St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus who in the life of Jesus and Mary played an important role but always remained hidden.
St. Joseph, the beloved father of Jesus, sacrificed all of his preoccupations to be preoccupied with the will of God. The pandemic showed us who sacrificed everything and served humanity despite their personal lives. The letter focuses on seven important characteristics of St. Joseph and identifies him as an example to be followed. The Church celebrates the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as the patron of the Universal Church.
St. Joseph as a beloved father had the Holy Family's legal responsibility. He could just abandon Mary with whom he was just betrothed. But he didn’t, he took care of both equally well. He gave up his own vocation and his domestic life to adopt and conform to the will of God. He sacrificed his abilities, his heart, and ultimately himself.
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Fratelli Tutti by Pope Francis
As a tender loving father, He was at the back and call of everything Jesus did. He saw Jesus grow. And for thirty years Jesus was being trained under the supervision of St. Joseph. Therefore one can notice that Jesus sees the tender love of God the Father in the person of St. Joseph. If Jesus is able to relate to God the Father that He is ready to do His will. It is because St. Joseph has guided Him well. St. Joseph has proved to be a tender and exceptional father.
St. Joseph was an obedient individual. So much so, he obeyed the angels who appeared in his dreams, not just once but four times. He did what they said even if it meant shifting from one place to another, without uttering a word of disagreement or hatred. He was obedient and he taught obedience to his son, Jesus. Thus, we see Jesus obedient to the will of the Heavenly Father. Jesus’ obedience makes him surrender his will and submit it into the hands of His Divine Father, emptying Himself in totality.
St. Joseph was respectful and a sensitive man. He accepted Mary as she is although we are sure that he did not understand the bigger picture, which was in the mind of God. He became an accepting father and husband. He accepted her unconditionally and therefore was ready to protect her dignity, her name, and her life. St. Joseph embraced a different spiritual path of acceptance rather than explanation. He embraced God, took the responsibility for the situation, and made it part of his life, everything done in silent acceptance.
But he wasn’t a complacent father. Since God is supporting him at every moment he didn’t stop thinking. He tried to cooperate with God. He became a creatively courageous father. He looked for ways to creatively display one’s faith. He looked for opportunities to creatively overcome and deal with difficulties.
When problems come our attitude sometimes is to give up. But he teaches us to turn a problem into a possibility because he believes that God works in every event of our lives. And He has purpose and plan in every circumstance good or bad, He has placed us in.
St. Joseph had to suffer like the migrants who endure persecution and hatred day in and day out because they are forced to leave their native lands due to war and poverty. He too had to displace himself from one end to the other. He too had to look for a job and fend for the needs of Mary and Jesus.
In the letter, Pope Francis states, “In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it.”
St. Joseph was a dedicated working father. In his creative freedom and courage, he never gave up. He rested his faith in God.
When Peace Meets War
Towards the end of the letter, the following is said, “Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice.”
St. Joseph found happiness and joy in self-gift. He was more than elated to be the father in the shadows. He is truly a shining example for us to do everything for God without asking for a reward, to just be the shadow of the Heavenly Father.
Aren’t the ordinary people, the frontline workers, and the others who are doing their job without even asking for recognition the shadows of God? Their names may not appear in the book of records but their work to date has been record-breaking.
Pope Francis recognizes this fact and while reflecting on the life of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus realizes that we need to honour the ordinary people doing an extraordinary job in the world today.
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