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Papal Inauguration: The Humility of St. Joseph and the Humility of Pope Francis

By Deacon Keith Fournier
March 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Lord is looking for men like Joseph who will work in the workshop of the world that He created in order to recreate it anew in His Son. He has found one in the Pope named Francis and we blessed to be alive during this pontificate. In an age that has lost its way, given over to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure, Joseph should again be lifted up as a model, particularly to men who desire to follow Jesus Christ.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On March 19, 2013, the Feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis was officially installed as the successor of the Apostle Peter. I suggest it is no accident that the installation occurred on the Feast of Joseph, the Husband of Mary.

The overriding experience we have had of Pope Francis since his selection is humility. Humility is the virtue which characterizes St. Joseph. The readings for the Feast were used for the installation Liturgy. The Gospel account is most telling.(Matt 1: 16, 18-21, 24 A) It records what can be called Joseph's Annunciation.

 An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to prepare him for the significant role He would play in God's saving plan. He was invited to exercise his human freedom, to give his assent to the Lord's invitation - and he did. He said yes by his actions. His response reminds us that actions speak louder than words:

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly."

"But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins". When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him." (Matthew 1:18 - 24)

From antiquity, Christians have cherished Joseph as a model of manly virtue. We use an expression to refer to men who are comfortable in their skin. We say of such a man "He is a man's man". That is how I have experienced this Pope named Francis. He is comfortable in his skin. Joseph was a man of few words who spoke through his actions; doing as the angel of the Lord commanded.  In just a week, we have seen a similar pattern of response in Pope Francis.

The Scriptures say little about Joseph. That absence speaks volumes. Why? Because to Joseph, he was not the one who was important, others were. He loved God first. He loved Mary above himself. He was prepared to do the right thing when she was found to be with child. He could have chosen otherwise. In just a week, we have seen a similar pattern of response in Pope Francis. As the stories emerge of his life of service to the poor we see that he is a man for others.

Joseph was a man of faith and courage. He had a close, intimate personal relationship with the God of His Fathers. He was the last Patriarch, completing the lineage. Through his response of faith, he was privileged to hold in His arms the One that His fathers had only longed to see. He was a man of deep prayer which fueled the living faith which is needed to be used by the Lord. Pope Francis is known to be a man of deep prayer. It is evident in his simplicity and Gospel joy.  

There was not an ounce of false bravado or machismo in Joseph. Named after the great Patriarch who was sold into slavery in Egypt; he bore the name with similar humility. As the Old Testament Joseph embraced his lot, rejecting the temptation to bitterness or victim-hood and actually came to rule Egypt, forgiving the brothers who had sold him into slavery; so too this son of the Covenant embraced the One who would establish the New Covenant on the altar of Calvary.

Joseph emptied himself of self - and became filled with the love and life of God. He gave himself fully to God through accepting his unique and specific vocation as a guardian of the Redeemer. The child Jesus, God in the flesh, was given to Joseph. A Carpenter, Joseph taught this child how to work with wood. That was, after all, what he had to give. During these hidden years, Jesus was with Joseph and Joseph was with Jesus. This same Jesus who learned to work with wood from the hands of Joseph would save the world through the wood of the Cross.

Joseph uniquely participated in the mystery of Gods plan of redemption through simply being the man he was called to be. How challenging in an age of narcissism and inordinate self-love. Since the fourteenth century there has been a specific day set aside in the Roman calendar to honor Joseph.  He is viewed as the Patron of the universal Church, of all husbands and of social justice.

He has also been designated as the patron of all workers, this Carpenter who taught the Word Incarnate, the Child Jesus, how to work with wood. This man was the foster father of the Incarnate Word of God and he loved Jesus with an exemplary love which is a model for all men who bear the name Christian.

In an age that has lost its way, given over to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure, Joseph should again be lifted up as a model, particularly to men who desire to follow Jesus Christ. In just a week we have witnessed the character of this Pope named Francis and I am taken with how much he reminds me of Joseph. How we need his witness.

Over two millennia, the mission of Jesus has continued through His Body on earth, His Church. He has entrusted the work of that mission to all who accept the invitation to empty themselves in order to be filled with the very life and love of God and then be used in His redemptive mission for the world.

Through the Fount of living water called Baptism, he invites each one of us into His new family, the Body of His Son, the Church. He still gives His message to men who, like Joseph, cultivate ears to hear and then choose to exercise authentic manly virtue and act out of courage. He still invites men to turn the ordinary into extraordinary through cooperation and participation.

The Lord is looking for men like Joseph who will work in the workshop of the world that He created in order to recreate it anew in His Son. He has found one in the Pope named Francis and we blessed to be alive during this pontificate.

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