"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

St Joseph: "Patris Corde, Cor Mariti" (Homily delivered at the Immaculate Conception Church of Xavier Ateneo in Cagayan de Oro City)

ope Francis outlined in his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde: WITH A FATHER’S HEART St Joseph’s main qualities as a father. It was written to commemorate 150 years since the Proclamation of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Blessed Pius IX back in 2021. But let me highlight the three qualities that stand out.

First, St Joseph is a beloved protector. “With a father’s heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus.” This is Pope Francis’ inspiring opening to the Apostolic Letter. Indeed Joseph loved Jesus by guarding him with his life. There is a natural gift for men to lead, to oversee, and to protect. Do not get me wrong though. Let us not just confine these gifts to maleness. Women are as gifted as their counterparts, albeit in a different way. We call St Joseph a father who is beloved protector because that is the basis of any father's identity. He did not sire or cause the birth of Jesus biologically, but he became father through his way of loving. Fatherhood could be biological, psychological and spiritual but the common denominator is love—the building block of fatherly identity.

Being a parent is not confined to just siring children. It is observed in each culture that women and children feel courageous and strong if there is a man protecting them in their midst. When men find themselves in the role of protector especially of the weak then they are doing what a man naturally does. Again, a huge part of that role as protector belongs to the father. In our world today, the vocation of protectors is so in demand. This is why all men must be ready to be called to be fathers sooner or later not in a single mould but in diverse ways. But despite the diversity, one will be able to distinguish who among the crowd are the beloved fathers and husbands because they always share common qualities. Almost all of these these qualities are found in the person of St Joseph.

In the modern world, there is more and more a necessity to recover a healthy sense of fatherhood as protector. This is important in the institutional church and in the domestic church which is the family. A healthy self-regard leads to a grounded self-identity but those with low self-regard and self-worth are more prone to temptations of abuse. St Joseph is a model for all to define his or her true identity and one's specific role. Low self regard is the root cause of narcissistic dirorders or a bloated valuing of the self. The self-abrosbed and narcissist lose their capacity to protect and to be a loving father.

Second, St Joseph is a quiet worker. There is a quote from Edmund Burke that says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” In the same vein, Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Thank God Joseph was not one of those who did nothing, Evangelists Matthew and Luke tell us very little about who Joseph was yet that does not mean he did less. Before Jesus could save a single soul, he needed saving and protecting himself. He needed to be saved from Herod who wanted Jesus dead even while still being a helpless child. But above all those that Joseph did, he taught our Saviour by working quietly, day in day out. The longest stage in the life of Jesus are what we call the hidden life because the four gospels are quiet about what happened to Jesus from the age twelve to thirty. But hidden does not mean, nothing happened. The events, if they were all written down, perhaps our bible would be so thick. The shelves of the library would not be enough, no to mention all the books of the world. Joseph did not say a word but it was through his quiet manual labors of Joseph that Jesus, our Savior, first learned by doing. Just like in any human relationship between parents and their children, there is a strong bond that started from a person's childhood—the bond between parent and child that was forged by doing things together while growing up. For Jesus it was not his Father in heaven whom he first addressed as Abba or 'Daddy' in Aramaic—it was Joseph. By virtue of this fact it was Joseph who first gave that loving and merciful Father image to the child Jesus when he was growing up.

There are many Josephs in our midst. They are those whom we do not normally hear from, people who are not in the news, people selling different sorts of items along the road to provide food for their families, and people behind the scenes. I have to say they are the most courageous among all of us especially during the time of the pandemic. There were more people saved by their quiet, gentle work than by the vaccines. We are alive now because of their courage in going to work everyday despite the risks.

Third and final quality, St Joseph is a loving husband to Mary. Pope Francis said “The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself ‘at the service of the entire plan of salvation’.” Patris Corde (With a father’s heart) also means Cor Mariti (With a husband’s heart). These are inseparable. Joseph was never alone, he was with Mary as a thinking partner. It is said “thinking has a deeply social element in it.” Our ideas came only after having talked with somebody. It is often said that the greatness of every man is a woman. They cannot accomplish something if there is only one of them. We would not have Jesus if there was no Joseph and Mary who were Jesus's "school of the heart" through thick and thin, in light and in darkness, in joy and in pain. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ