By: Demetria Banda
His Holiness, Pope Francis has urged members of the Catholic Church especially the young people around the globe to follow the example of Saint Joseph in responding to various calls in the service of God.
Delivering His message ahead of 2021 World Day of Prayer for Vocations on Sunday 25 April 2021, His Holiness the Pope asked the young people to follow the example of Saint Joseph, whom God individually chose to be the father of Jesus, as a model for all Vocations.
According to His Holiness, Vocations are necessary urges in hard times such as these of Corona virus pandemic because they are meant to beget and renew everyday lives of Christians. The Pope expressed that the Lord focuses on the heart of each individual as he recognized a father in Saint Joseph which demonstrates that He desires to shape the hearts of fathers and mothers to ensure that they are open, capable of great initiatives, generous in self-giving, compassionate in comforting anxieties and steadfast in strengthening hopes.
“The priesthood and the consecrated life greatly need these qualities nowadays, in times marked by fragility but also by the sufferings due to the pandemic, which has spawned uncertainties and fears about the future and the very meaning of life. Saint Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way as one of the saints next door. At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey”, His Holiness explained.
December 8 2020, marked the one hundred fiftieth (150) anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church and also marked the beginning of a special year devoted to him. On his part, the Pope wrote the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, whose aim was to increase our love for this great saint.
His holiness called upon the Church to embrace the Gospel that teaches of four dreams given to Saint Joseph which were not easy to accept. He explained that after each dream, Joseph had to change his plans and take a risk, sacrificing his own plans in order to follow the mysterious designs of God, whom he trusted completely.
“The first of these upended his betrothal, but made him the father of the Messiah; the second caused him to flee to Egypt, but saved the life of his family. After the third, which foretold his return to his native land, a fourth dream made him change plans once again, bringing him to Nazareth, the place where Jesus would begin his preaching of the Kingdom of God. Amid all these upheavals, he found the courage to follow God’s will. So too in a vocation: God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk”, His Holiness emphasized.
The Pope emphasized the need for modern Christians to consider dedication and gift of self to the service of God not as a mere high ideal, but a rule for daily life.
He said, “Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice”.
The Pope also acknowledged that it is possible to implement the lessons from the life of Saint Joseph which may be relatable to most Christians because his journey is so close to our own human experiences and he managed to achieve God’s plans.
“He did not do astonishing things, he had no unique charisms, nor did he appear special in the eyes of those who met him. He was not famous or even noteworthy: the Gospels do not report even a single word of his. Still, through his ordinary life, he accomplished something extraordinary in the eyes of God”, said His Holiness.
Finally the Pope advised Catholics to never abandon their lives from pursuing God given dreams and wilt to fear in the midst of hard times of pandemic and temptation.
“Do not be afraid: This word the Lord also addresses to you, dear sister, and to you, dear brother, whenever you feel that, even amid uncertainty and hesitation, you can no longer delay your desire to give your life to him. He repeats these words when, perhaps amid trials and misunderstandings, you seek to follow his will every day, wherever you find yourself”, He concluded.
The Pope also called upon the church to embrace the example of Saint Joseph of not yielding to the temptation to act rashly and simply following random instincts or living for the moment. Instead, His Holiness advised the Church to ponder things patiently realizing that success in life is built on constant fidelity to important decisions. This was reflected in Saint Joseph’s perseverance in plying the trade of a humble carpenter, a quiet perseverance that made no news in his own time, yet has inspired the daily lives of countless fathers, laborers and Christians ever since.
Vocations Sunday is celebrated in the Catholic Church on the 4th Sunday of Easter and every parish community is expected to prepare and give space to the young people to participate actively and guide them on the type of life they should choose freely to serve God and society very well. In Malawi, the National Celebration will take place in the Diocese of Dedza at Mtendere Parish on 25 April 2021.