“With a Father’s Heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus.”
So begins Pope Francis’ Dec. 8, 2020, apostolic letter “Patris Corde” opening the Year of St. Joseph and marking the 150th anniversary of the proclamation declaring him the patron of the Universal Church.
The apostolic letter, at just 14 printed 8.5-by-11-inch pages, is easy to read and understand. And it’s worth reading, particularly for mothers and fathers who may need to be reminded that there’s a higher calling behind the minutiae of the everyday grind.
Before he delves into Joseph the man, Pope Francis explains why he decided to reflect on Joseph, “this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience.”
“My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how ‘our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history,’ ” he wrote, listing a host of examples.
Among them, he listed health care workers, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transportation workers, essential and public safety workers, as well as volunteers, priests, and men and women religious.
“ ‘They understood that no one is saved alone,’ ” he wrote.
“Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
Pope Francis’ reflection on St. Joseph is reminiscent of his concept of the saints next door, which he described in his 2018 apostolic exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate.” He signed the document, a call to holiness, on the solemnity of St. Joseph that year.
A saint next door, as he described it, is an ordinary person striving for holiness in his or her daily life.
He wrote in the exhortation, “I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile.
“In their daily perseverance, I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness.’ ”
We might call him Eric Talley, though he may be called more than a saint next door now. By all accounts, the Catholic father of seven fit that description before he stepped into an active-shooter situation in Boulder, Colo., on March 22. He and nine others were killed by a gunman.
The 51-year-old left a career in IT to become a police officer at age 40. He often stopped in at St. Martin de Porres Church, the Catholic Church across the street from the supermarket where he died. It wasn’t his parish, but he often took part in its activities.
According to those who knew him, that’s the kind of man he was.
National news media have reported that his father Homer Talley said, “He would lay down his life for any of the officers that he worked with.”
Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold told reporters March 22 that he “loved this community and he’s everything that policing deserves and needs. … He cared about his family and he was willing to die to protect others.”
These characteristics sound in some ways like those the Holy Father used to describe Joseph — a human father on a mission from God.
He writes in the document’s subsections that Joseph was beloved, tender, loving, obedient, accepting, creatively courageous, as well as a working father and a father in the shadows.
“Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift.”