Pope Francis: There is an urgent need for ‘spiritual fatherhood’ today

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA


Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on May 1, 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2022 / 07:35 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has said in a new interview that there is a great need for “spiritual fatherhood” today.

“The faith we have received is always found through a relationship with someone,” the pope said in an interview published in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, on Jan. 13.

“There is a great urgency, in this historical moment, for meaningful relationships that we could define as spiritual fatherhood,” he said.

Pope Francis underlined that a “spiritual relationship is one of those relationships that we have to rediscover with renewed effort,” noting that it is distinct from a “psychological or therapeutic” program.

The pope said that at this time in history, many young people have “the inability to make big life decisions” and are “afraid to decide, to choose, to take a risk.”

He added that it is not only up to priests to provide much-needed spiritual accompaniment, but that there are many good lay men and women with valuable experiences to share.

“Christian faith is not something that can be learned from books or by simple reasoning. Instead, it is an existential journey that passes through our relationships. Our experience of faith thus always arises from somebody’s witness,” the pope said.

Pointing to St. Joseph as a model for fatherhood, Pope Francis reflected that Joseph had a remarkable “ability to know how to listen to God speaking to his heart.”

“I am convinced that the fatherly relationship that Joseph had with Jesus influenced his life so much that Jesus’ future preaching is filled with images and references taken precisely from paternal imagery,” the pope said.

“For example, Jesus says that God is Father and this statement cannot leave us indifferent, especially when we think about his personal human experience of fatherhood.”

“This means that Joseph was such a good father that Jesus found in this man’s love and paternity the most beautiful reference he could give to God,” he said.

Pope Francis, who began his pontificate on the feast of St. Joseph in 2013, said that he was always “nurtured a special devotion to St. Joseph” because he “represents what Christian faith should be for each of us, in a beautiful and simple way.”

“I always considered it a kindness from heaven to be able to begin my Petrine Ministry on March 19,” he reflected.

“I think that in some way St. Joseph wanted to tell me that he would continue to help me, to be beside me, and I would be able to continue to think of him as a friend I could turn to, whom I could trust, whom I could ask to intercede and pray for me.”

In November 2021, the pope began a new cycle of catechesis at his Wednesday general audiences dedicated to Jesus’ foster father. He presented the seventh installment in the series on Jan. 12.

The Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis officially came to an end last month. The pope said he hoped that the year helped “many Christians rediscover the profound value of the communion of saints which is not an abstract communion, but a concrete communion that expresses itself in a concrete relationship and has concrete consequences.”

“The time in which we are living is a difficult time, marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Many people are suffering, many families are facing difficulties, many people are hounded by the anxiety of death, of an uncertain future,” he said.

“I felt that precisely in this time that is so difficult, we needed someone who could encourage us, help us, inspire us, in order to understand which is the right way to know how to face these dark moments. Joseph is a bright witness in dark times. This is why it was right to make room for him at this time, in order to find our way again.”

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1 Comment

  1. As bishops around the world tailor synodality (the Preparatory Document and the vanedecum) to their local flocks, perhaps they can add fathers, mothers and the traditional family to the litany of those to whom they, as “facilitators” (?), are committed to listening! Launched in the year of St. Joseph, one would have expected as much.

    Instead, from the Vanedecum (synodal guidelines): “…women, the handicapped, refugees, migrants, the elderly, people who live in poverty, Catholics who rarely or never practice their faith, etc. [and then] children and youth [….] people who have left the practice of the faith, people of other faith traditions, people of no religious belief, etc.”

    And, while we’re at it, as part of the Church’s outreach to those with homosexual inclinations, perhaps a history of absentee or remote fathers can be noted as a cause to be addressed by an evangelizing Church–rather than muddling or overturning the moral law, papering things over by blessing gay “marriages,” and pronouncing infallibly that it is “God [who] made you that way.” (And, in fairness, have we ever seen any data on how many sexually abusive priests were themselves victims and actually abused as children?)

    So, yes to fatherhood and family. Spiritually, and really. Beginning perhaps with a less exclusive synodality.

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