“Faith makes us know that God is at our side”

Pope Francis delivers a reflection at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on September 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis delivers a reflection at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on September 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

When Saint John XIII was canonized just last year, October 11 was chosen as his feast day because it is the date that marks his opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. While this year the memorial is superseded because it falls on a Sunday, still we remember how this beloved pastor’s legacy continues to resound today.

Saint John was a man of great inspiration not only for his desire to renew the pastoral life of the Church but also for his humility and love of people. It was noted soon after his election that he returned to the practice of popes visiting prisoners, visiting those who were hospitalized, and moving among the people. He was described as a “people’s pope.” More recently, this was also the headline much of the media used to talk about Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. In many ways, Pope Francis is exercising his ministry is a way reminiscent of Pope John.

Both are known for their deep devotion to Saint Joseph and we gained a beautiful insight into this devotion during Pope Francis’ visit to Catholic Charities and in his talk to our clients and staff at Saint Patrick’s Church in Washington. Our Holy Father said about Saint Joseph, “He has been a support and an inspiration. He is the one I go to whenever I am ‘in a fix.’” Then the Pope added, “You make me think of Saint Joseph. Your faces remind me of his.”

Like those at this gathering, our Holy Father explained, “Joseph had to face some difficult situations in his life.” Among those difficulties, he said, were the fact that just when Mary was about to give birth, there was no room for them in the inn – the Son of God came into the world with no place to stay.

Yet, as with Mary, God chose Joseph for an essential role in salvation history. Joseph is a man of great faith, and this is what Pope Francis wanted to share with those who are homeless, who are struggling to stabilize their family’s situation with regard to housing and food – “In the face of unjust and painful situations, faith brings us the light which scatters the darkness.”

Our Holy Father said, “Faith gave Joseph the power to find light just at the moment when everything seemed dark. Faith sustained him amid the troubles of life. Thanks to faith, Joseph was able to press forward when everything seemed to be holding him back.” Then he spoke to all of us when he went on the say, “As it did for Joseph, faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation. God is present in every one of you, in each one of us.”

This presence of God is not only a source of comfort but also a call to action, it spurs us to charity. As we move from celebrating the visit of Pope Francis to acting on his call to expand the boundaries of our ministry, to reach out, as he did so beautifully to those at the periphery of our communities, we are reminded that we are most inspired by our Holy Father’s ability to be the face of Christ to all he meets.

Pope John’s intention in calling the Council was in part to address how the Church could preach and teach the Gospel in a rapidly changing modern world, saying in his opening address that with Christ and his Church, men and women “enjoy the blessings of light and joy, right order and peace.” However, without Christ, there is darkness that comes to the human spirit. This continues to be the concern and mission of Pope Francis and the whole Church in the New Evangelization.

If you have not already visited WalkwithFrancis.org, please do so. Well over 100,000 people in our community have already made their commitment to pray, serve and act. By journeying together in this way with Pope Francis and Saint John XXIII and the rest of our family of faith, we can make visible the face of Christ and bring light, joy, order and peace to all corners of our community.

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One Response to ““Faith makes us know that God is at our side””

  1. Jeff says:

    Thank you, Your Eminence, for your thoughtful words and for calling to mind the teaching and example of this saintly pope.

    I have found St. John XXIII’s writings to be gems and his teaching on marriage and the family to be prophetic, from his first encyclical (Ad Petri Cathedram, nn. 50-58) to his last (Pacem in Terris, n. 16).

    As a child of divorce and as a schoolteacher who has witnessed the profound suffering that many students have experienced as their parents divorce and find new partners, I pray that St. John XXIII’s prophetic teaching might somehow find an echo in the deliberations and texts of the Synod of Bishops. You and all the synod fathers are in our thoughts and prayers.