.- Before a crowd of bishops, laity and leaders of other Christian faiths, Benedict XVI spoke on Wednesday evening at the Marie Reine des Apôtres Basilica, where he reminded the faithful to look to the example of St. Joseph and his "fatherhood in the daily tasks" of life.
At the basilica to celebrate Vespers or evening prayer, the Pope focused his remarks on the figure of St. Joseph, whose solemnity is March 19.
Explaining fatherhood, Benedict XVI reminded his audience, "To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth." He further connected Saint Joseph’s "great devotion" and willingness to "experience persecution, exile and poverty" to his vocation as a father, with his only reward being in Jesus’ presence.
St. Joseph’s example should spur priests to care for the faithful whom they have "spiritually begotten by Baptism and instruction," Pope Benedict said, calling on them to put "the celebration of the Eucharist" at the center of their lives.
He continued speaking to the priests saying they "cannot occupy center stage; [they are] a servant, a humble instrument pointing to Christ, who offers himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world." This, Benedict taught, is how Origen understood Joseph and Jesus’ relationship to be, "Joseph understood that Jesus was superior to him even as he submitted to him, and, knowing the superiority of his charge, he commanded him with respect and moderation."
Benedict XVI thanked the priests in attendance and acknowledged that "pastoral ministry demands many sacrifices," but is also a "source of great joy" which must be enriched by "trusting in your Bishops."
Calling the consecrated life "a radical imitation of Christ," Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude to the consecrated persons and those "in ecclesial movements" by describing their lives as "significant and indispensable for the life of the Church." He further encouraged them to also look to Saint Joseph who teaches "it is possible to love without possessing" and reminded them to continue to be attentive and "reveal the loving face of God to the poor" and through all the works that they perform.
Concluding his reflections on the vocation of "fatherhood" and the example of Saint Joseph, he taught that the saint "reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions."
We can further learn from Joseph’s fatherhood by reflecting upon how he "stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way."
"His example helps us to understand that it is only by complete submission to the will of God that we become effective workers in the service of his plan…"
The Holy Father then turned to non-Catholic Christians and spoke about the challenges of unity. In Christ, he said, "we are called to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father. During this year dedicated to the Apostle Paul, the great herald of Jesus Christ and the Apostle of the Nations, let us all turn towards him so as to hear and learn ‘the faith and truth’ which are the deepest reasons for the unity of Christ’s disciples."
In closing, the Holy Father offered a prayer to the "spouse of Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, "Queen of Apostles." "To her I commend the consecration which each of you has received, as well as your desire to respond ever more faithfully to your calling and to the mission entrusted to you. Finally, I invoke her intercession for your beautiful country."