As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Pope Francis has designated this year to be a Year of St. Joseph, marking the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church by Blessed Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1870. To kick off the year, Pope Francis released a beautiful reflection on St. Joseph in his Apostolic Letter, Patris corde. I highly encourage you to read this relatively short letter, especially during this month dedicated to him.
There is a hidden nugget to be found in this letter that I did not discover when I first read it. That nugget is found not in the main text of the letter, but in the footnotes! The footnote is referenced by the following line in the text which seems rather insignificant. The Holy Father writes:
Every prayer book contains prayers to Saint Joseph. Special prayers are offered to him each Wednesday and especially during the month of March, which is traditionally dedicated to him.
Great. Thanks for the heads up, but who takes the time to jump to read every footnote? But reading this footnote is like finding gold, as it offers something very personal and beautiful about Pope Francis and his personal devotion to St. Joseph. Here is how the footnote reads:
Every day, for over forty years, following Lauds I have recited a prayer to Saint Joseph taken from a nineteenth-century French prayer book of the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. It expresses devotion and trust, and even poses a certain challenge to Saint Joseph: “Glorious Patriarch Saint Joseph, whose power makes the impossible possible, come to my aid in these times of anguish and difficulty. Take under your protection the serious and troubling situations that I commend to you, that they may have a happy outcome. 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.”
What a moving prayer that is! When we think of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, we might think that our own needs are so minor in comparison to all of the needs of the Church throughout the world. Does he really have time to listen to my prayers and struggles? Absolutely! Just as a good father has time and concern for the individual needs of each of his children, so too with St. Joseph, our father and lord (as St. Josemaria Escriva likes to call him). I think the above prayer prayed each day by our Holy Father is a witness to that reality. Perhaps you and I could adopt that same practice of turning to St. Joseph each day, asking for his help in bringing about a happy outcome to every struggle we entrust to his intercession.