By Alessandro Gisotti
St. Joseph is a timely and fruitful figure not only for all fathers, but for all the baptized. This is emphasized by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in an interview with Vatican media on the Special Year desired by Pope Francis on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. The Prefect of Propaganda Fide also dwells on the Letter Patris Corde and indicates in St. Joseph - in his choice to be the guardian of Jesus and Mary, even if this requires "changing paths" - a figure that can inspire the Church in the synodal process initiated by Pope Francis.
Cardinal Tagle, we are living the Special Year that Pope Francis has called for St. Joseph. What are the fruits that, in your opinion, all the baptized – all of us – can receive from this Special Year?
The figure of St. Joseph is rightly connected to fathers. I think you pointed out correctly that all of us baptized can benefit from this year. Especially in the following areas: like St. Joseph, I hope that every baptized person will be attentive to God’s voice and leading. Especially in the confusing moments of life. Also, that all the baptized will have the trust in God to pursue God’s project even when things are not always clear. Also, to be a good steward, a guardian, a custodian of the people that God entrusts to us.
Pope Francis in his letter Patris Corde emphasizes the relevance of St. Joseph for today’s fathers. What do you most appreciate about this document?
There are many, many things this document presents to us, especially to fathers. But one of the things that I really appreciate is, first, that he presents St. Joseph as someone who accepts reality. Accepting reality does not mean being passive or just being tolerant of something. He accepts reality as it is, he lives by that reality and as he accepts it. He sees what God wants him to do to transform that reality. Sometimes the temptation for us is that we do not accept reality. We are living in a past that we have idealized, or we are living in a utopia that does not yet exist. And so, we don’t know how to transform the present. But St. Joseph, according to the document, accepted reality and in that acceptance, heard the Word of God and courageously acted to transform that reality.
Regarding reality, today we are used to the fact that we are only right if we speak, if we have the last word in the conversation. But St. Joseph shows his strength, remaining in silence - in the shadows. What does this attitude teach us?
That’s true. When I was a seminarian, the name of our seminary was San José Seminary – St. Joseph seminary. This is one of the virtues of St. Joseph that was stressed to us. The Gospels do not record any of his words but he preserved the Word of God in his silence. It is Jesus, who is able to speak in his silence, He preserved the Word of God from those who wanted to kill him and to silence the Word of God. And so, this teaches us a lesson. First: our desire to speak, speak, speak. “Is it for myself or is it for the Word of God?” Secondly: sometimes silence is the most powerful speech. Jesus himself, when he was being tried by Pilate, at a certain point, he kept quiet. But in his silence, who was being judged? The corrupt system was exposed in the silence of Jesus. So, I think Jesus learned silence from St. Joseph.
St. Joseph is also the father who goes forth, goes out of his way to protect his family. What does his faith say to the Church, now engaged in the synodal process?
The synodal process is an invitation for us to walk together, to journey together. There is a walking that St. Joseph shows us. He walked dangerous paths with Mary and Jesus, guided by the direction of the angel of God. It is a walking that means protection, that means caring. We hope that during the synodal process, we may develop this capacity to love Jesus, to love the Church. And even if we have some observations that are not always positive, we must do so out of caring, out of loving, so that the name of Jesus will be proclaimed and preserved.
A final question, more personal for you. You are very devoted to St. Joseph. You have also declared this devotion on several occasions. What impresses you the most about this saint?
This devotion allows me to turn to him in different situations. Especially when there are difficult moments and I feel threatened and I say “I don’t know what to do”. Then, [I ask for] protection from St. Joseph. But most especially, the courage to be in the shadows. It requires courage, especially when you feel you have the right idea and you want to propose it. You think you have the right solution but then you purify your intentions and you say “wait a minute, am I promoting myself or am I seeking good?”. If it is not so much for the good of others, then it’s good to be in the shadows and let God and God’s angel work his wonders.