Happy St Joseph Day! Don’t eat too many zeppole today.
As I was preparing for Mass this morning, I was thinking about St Joseph. Not much is really known about him. He is faithful when it comes to adhering to the Word of God; Joseph doesn’t question the Angel, he simply takes Mary into his home as his wife. We know that Jesus is recognized in the Gospel as “the son of the carpenter” so presumably, Joseph was a skilled tradesman who used his hands to create and build. Outside of that, not much else is known. There is an important correlation, I believe, between who St Joseph is and the job that Pope Francis has ahead of him. As Joseph built using his hands, Pope Francis who was installed as the Bishop of Rome earlier today has the daunting task of helping to rebuild a fractured church. A church in which exists division and discord; a church that has seemingly forgotten her most fundamental roots of loving our neighbor and serving those who are in need. The example that has been exhibited by Pope Francis these last 5 1/2 days during his infant papacy have already given the Faithful and indeed the entire world the understanding that he is ready to build and rebuild. As this humble Argentine begins to lead us as Pope, may we pray for his good health; may he continue to exude the love of Jesus who came to serve and not to be served.
Yesterday was a typical Sunday. Morning Masses; baptisms; rounds at the hospital and then an evening Mass….with a bit of work on the bulletin notes that I need to get ready EARLY for Palm Sunday and Easter. When I returned from the hospital I was curious to see how Pope Francis made out at his first Sunday Angelus, which I predicted would bring out large crowds into la piazza di San Pietro….by some accounts, 300,000+ persons were present to hear the compassionate message of this humble man who has the heart of a kindly pastor. All that is well and good but I searched for information about his successes of the day something caught my eye…surely it was not so but yes, it actually happened: Pope Francis decided to celebrate Sunday Mass at the Parish of Sant’Anna which is a small parish church located inside of the walls of Vatican City. I could not believe my eyes. His 6 minute homily preached sans text was to the point and gave the congregation something to take with them as left and returned to their homes but what happened after is what really prompted this blog post. After he imparted his blessing, Pope Francis left the church and began to greet the faithful as many parish priests do each and every Sunday, taking the time to greet and embrace all who came his way….to the shagrin of his security detail….he is a Head of State folks…..! He looked so comfortable; so at ease; so normal. As small children approached him, he blessed their heads and kissed them. “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.” I was floored. Tears streamed down my face as I watched this kindly pastor be just that; a shepherd with the heart of Jesus who wants Jesus to be made real. Watching Pope Francis greet the faithful gave me a renewed sense of hope. On Sundays, that “face-time” is when people feel a connection with their priest. The warm embrace; the smile; the handshake….these are the moments when parishioners tend to feel “connected” with and to their priest. Here at St Mary’s, after Communion, the children are always invited forward to come and receive a blessing. When I first began this practice early on in my tenure as pastor it was slow-going….now, the lines are long and the children know that they are truly welcome. Jesus wants us all to feel welcome. Pope Francis is reminding us of this and he has done so relatively quickly in his pontificate. My words here today might seem more of a string of rambling thoughts and I agree….perhaps that is what happens when one feels as if the Spirit is blowing things around in the Church! Stay tuned, I think that we are in for a great ride!