On Dec. 8, the church worldwide closed a year-long celebration of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church.
Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, is also the patron of the Archdiocese of Louisville. Its first cathedral, the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., bears his name.
And for the past 15 years, the archdiocese has been led by a modern-day Joseph, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.
Precisely two months after the Year of St. Joseph concluded, the archdiocese learned on Feb. 8 that another Joseph will be its next leader — Archbishop Shelton Joseph Fabre from the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in south Louisiana.
If you haven’t asked for St. Joseph’s intercession in your prayers by now, this may be the time to start.
Pope Francis suggested we do just that yesterday, Feb. 16, as he concluded his catechesis on St. Joseph. He has offered these lessons about the saint during his general audiences since Nov. 17.
“I encourage you to ask for the intercession of St. Joseph precisely at the most difficult times in the life of you and of your communities,” he said. “Where our mistakes become a scandal, let us ask St. Joseph to give us the courage to speak the truth, ask for forgiveness, and humbly begin again.”
In yesterday’s catechesis, he discussed St. Joseph as “guardian of the church” — the protector of the Holy Family. Pope Francis urged Christians to be inspired by Joseph’s example and to love and protect the church — the body of Christ — with the same dedication with which he loved and protected the Christ child and Mary, the first disciple.
“The Christian — we could say — is like St. Joseph: he must safeguard. To be a Christian is not only to receive the faith, to confess the faith, but to safeguard life, one’s own life, the life of others, the life of the Church,” said Pope Francis. “The Son of the Most High came into the world in a condition of great weakness: Jesus was born like this, weak, weak. He wanted to be defended, protected, cared for.”
Today, it’s up to us — Christ’s followers — to care for his church and his people.
- When someone is hurting, where will we be?
- When someone is lost, where will we be?
- When someone is excluded, where will we be?
- When someone takes the church off course, which can happen because we are the church and we are sinners, where will we be?
Will we be St. Joseph for them, like a father, ready to safeguard and care?
“We must safeguard, because with this we safeguard Jesus, as Joseph did,” said Pope Francis.
And it must be done with love — love for all.
“Only love makes us capable of speaking the truth fully, in a non-partisan way; of saying what is wrong, but also of recognizing all the goodness and holiness that are present in the Church, starting precisely with Jesus and Mary,” he explained. “Loving the Church, safeguarding the Church and walking with the Church.”
He added a caution: “But the Church is not that little group that is close to the priest and commands everyone, no. The Church is everyone, everyone. On the journey. Safeguarding one another, looking out for each other.”
Pope Francis concluded with a prayer seeking the intercession of St. Joseph:
Hail, guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the 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 to be a father,
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.