“With a father’s heart […] Joseph loved Jesus”: so begins the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, which commemorates 150 years since Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph “Patron of the Universal Church” on December 8, 1870, to emphasize “his central role in the history of salvation.”
Pope Francis speaks from “the abundance of his heart.” In this time of crisis and pandemic, our lives are sustained by ordinary people who do not appear in the headlines yet mark our lives: “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, and so very many others. They understand that no one is saved alone. […] How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer.” All the people who work, pray and suffer for the common good “can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. […] A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
In the course of the Letter, the pope shares with us how important the saint is to him each day. In fact, beginning 40 years ago, he has concluded the recitation of Morning Prayer every day with this intercession: “Glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph, whose power makes the impossible possible, come to my aid in these times of anguish and difficulty. […] My beloved father, all my trust is in you. Let it not be said that I invoked you in vain, and since you can do everything with Jesus and Mary, show me that your goodness is as great as your power. Amen.”
The prayer expresses confidence, but also a certain challenge to Saint Joseph, who can ask even the impossible of Jesus and Mary. We also know about Francis’ devotion from other sources: first as a bishop, then as a cardinal, and finally as a pontiff, he included in his coat of arms the spikenard flower, symbol of St. Joseph. He began his Petrine ministry precisely on March 19, 2013, the day of the solemnity; and on his desk he has a statue of the saint asleep, under which he tucks notes with any difficult problems to be faced, invoking his help. Finally, albeit at the behest of Benedict XVI, next to that of Mary, he added the name of “Joseph, her spouse” in the Eucharistic prayers of the Missal, as was already present for some time in the Roman Canon.