Today as Pope Francis entered into his ministry — on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church — he noted its significant coincidence as someone he has always had a great devotion to and that it is also the patron Saint of Pope Benedict, whom he referred to as his ‘venerable predecessor:’
In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Acknowledging that as he begins his ministry as the new Bishop of Rome, there is a certain power, and that the central aspect of that power is service. As the Successor of Peter there is a sacred duty that the Holy Father has:
He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison
As his motto, Pope Francis kept the one he had previously selected as Archbishop, a phrase taken from commentary of the Venerable Bede, on the Gospel of Matthew:
M I S E R A N D O A T Q U E E L I G E N D O
From the Latin, ‘by having mercy, by choosing him’ which has a special meaning for Pope Francis, since he had entered the Society of Jesus on the Feast of Saint Matthew in 1953.
The star on the field of blue commemorates the Blessed Mother and with a spikenard plant that grows in the higher altitudes of China, India and Nepal, and used often in Roman Catholic iconography in association with St. Joseph, since it was associated historically with Judaism. At the center is the symbol of the Society of Jesus – a brilliant sun above the letters I H S, for the first 3 letters of the name of Jesus in Greek (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ). Above the crest, is found the Papal mitre and the Keys of St. Peter.
The Holy Father also seemed to be alluding to the significance of the Jesuit practice of ‘discernment’ taught by St. Ignatius, not only through an honest examination of conscience each day, but through cultivating the recognition of good and evil, and discerning whether one is influenced in the ordinary trials of life by what is good and is of God, which brings a peace, and calm-abiding, rather than being constantly subject to the emotions of lust and anger, swayed by the same subtle and influential serpent who roamed in the biblical Garden of Eden and who continues to hold sway today, in the world of human bondage, bringing short-sightedness and chaos.
Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me!
For the full text, visit the Holy See.