Benedict XVI's Reflection on St. Joseph

“He Too Is Called to Be a Disciple of Jesus”

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in the Vatican Gardens when he inaugurated and blessed a fountain dedicated to St. Joseph, a gift from the Governor’s Office of Vatican City State.

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Lords Cardinal,

Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,

It is a motive of great joy to me to inaugurate this fountain in the Vatican Gardens, in a natural context of singular beauty. It is a work that is going to enhance the artistic patrimony of this enchanting green space of Vatican City, rich in historic-artistic testimonies of various periods. In fact, not only the lawn, the flowers, the trees, but also the towers, the little houses, the pavilions, the fountains, the statues and the other constructions make of these gardens a fascinating unicum. They were for my predecessors, and are also for me, a vital space, a place that I often frequent to spend some time in prayer and in serene relaxation.

In addressing my cordial greeting to each one of you, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for this present, which you have given me, dedicating it to St. Joseph. Thank you for this kind and courteous thought! It was a committed enterprise, which witnessed the collaboration of many. I thank first of all the Lord Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo also for the words that he addressed to me and for the interesting presentation of the works carried out. With him I thank the archbishop, monsignor Carlo Maria Viganò and the bishop, monsignor Giorgio Corbellini, respectively secretary-general and vice secretary-general of the governorate. I express my intense appreciation to the Office of Technical Services, the planner and sculptor, the consultants and the work team, with a special thought to the Hintze spouses and to Mr. Castrignano, of London, who generously financed the work, as well as to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Kyoto. A word of gratitude to the Province of Trent, to the municipalities and to the Trent companies, for their contribution.

This fountain is dedicated to St. Joseph, beloved and close figure to the heart of the People of God and to my heart. The six bronze panels that embellish it evoke as many moments of his life. I wish to pause briefly on them. The first panel represents the espousals between Joseph and Mary; it is an episode of great importance. Joseph was of the royal line of David and, in virtue of his marriage to Mary, would confer on the Son of the Virgin — on God’s Son — the legal tile of “son of David,” thus fulfilling the prophecies. The espousals of Joseph and Mary are, because of this, a human event, but determinant in the history of humanity’s salvation, in the realization of the promises of God; because of this, it also has a supernatural connotation, which the two protagonists accept with humility and trust.

Very soon the moment of trial arrives for Joseph, a trial challenging for his faith.

Engaged to Mary, before going to live with her, he discovers her mysterious maternity and is disturbed. The Evangelist Matthew stresses that, being a just man, he was unwilling to repudiate her, and therefore decided to send her away quietly (cf. Matthew 1:19). But in his dreams — as he is represented in the second panel — the angel made him understand that what was happening in Mary was the work of the Holy Spirit; and Joseph, trusting in God, consents and cooperates in the plan of salvation. The divine intervention in his life could not but perturb his heart. To trust God does not mean to see everything clearly according to our criteria, it does not mean to carry out what we have planned; to trust God means to empty ourselves of ourselves and to deny ourselves, because only one who accepts losing himself for God can be “just” as St. Joseph, that is, can conform his own will to God’s and thus be fulfilled.

The Gospel, as we know, has not kept any word from Joseph, who carries out his activity in silence. It is the style that characterizes his whole existence, both before finding himself before the mystery of God’s action in his spouse, as well as  when — conscious of this mystery — he is with Mary in the Nativity — represented in the third image. On that holy night, in Bethlehem, with Mary and the Child, is Joseph, to whom the Heavenly Father entrusted the daily care of his Son on earth, a care carried out with humility and in silence.

The fourth panel reproduces the dramatic scene of the Flight into Egypt to escape the homicidal violence of Herod. Joseph is compelled to leave his land with his family, in haste: it is another mysterious moment of his life; another trial in which he is asked for full fidelity to God’s plan.

Later in the Gospel, Joseph appears in only one more episode, when he goes to Jerusalem and lives the anguish of losing the son Jesus. St. Luke describes the anxious search and the wonder at finding him in the Temple — as it appears in the fifth panel — but even greater is the astonishment at hearing the mysterious words: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). This twofold question of the Son of God helps us to understand the mystery of Joseph’s paternity. Reminding his own parents of the primacy of the One he calls “my Father,” Jesus affirms the primacy of the will of God over every other will, and reveals to Joseph the profound truth of his role: He too is called to be a disciple of Jesus, dedicating his existence to the service of the Son of God and of the Virgin Mother, in obedience to the Heavenly Father.

The sixth panel represents Joseph’s work in his shop in Nazareth. Jesus worked with him. The Son of God is hidden from men and only Mary and Joseph guard his mystery and live it each day: The Word Incarnate grows as man in the shadow of his parents, but, at the same time, they remain, in turn, hidden in Christ, in his mystery, living their vocation.

Dear brothers and sisters, this beautiful fountain dedicated to St. Joseph constitutes a symbolic reminder of the values of simplicity and humility in carrying out day by day the will of God, values that distinguished the silent but beautiful life of the Custodian of the Redeemer. To his intercession I entrust the hopes of the Church and of the world. May he, together with the Virgin Mary, his spouse, always guide my way and yours, so that we are able to be joyful instruments of peace and of salvation.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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