Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

The Pope Goes on 'Spiritual Pilgrimage' to the Family

by Pope Saint John Paul II


The Holy Father's homily on the feast of St. Joseph during his visit to the Archdiocese of Sorrento-Castellammare di Stabia were he celebrated Mass at an altar erected on a pier overlooking the Bay of Sorrento.

Larger Work

L'Osservatore Romano

Publisher & Date

Vatican, March, 1992

1. "I have made you father of many nations" (Rom 4:17). Today, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Church returns to the origins of God's saving covenant with humanity. In order to understand what Matthew's Gospel tells us about Joseph of Nazareth, it is necessary to pay attention to the words God once addressed to Abraham: "I have made you father of many nations." Abraham was the father of Isaac according to the flesh. Of him was born Jacob, whom he called Israel.

This human genealogy has great meaning in holy Scripture. More important, however, is the genealogy of faith. Through faith Abraham became the father of many nations. In fact, the promise was given him "in view of the justice that comes from faith", as St. Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans (4:13).

2. In this genealogy, this inheritance -- an inheritance through faith -- Joseph is inserted, the carpenter of Nazareth, the husband of Mary. Matthew's text shows us Joseph's faith at a crucial point in the history of salvation. As one time long before, Abraham had accepted in faith the message of God's saving promise, so too Joseph accepted the truth about that promise's fulfillment in Mary. He believed that she was "with child through the power of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:18). He believed as she herself, Mary, believed the angel's message at the moment of the Annunciation. He believed in God because for him nothing is impossible (cf. Lk 1:37). For him, the One who "restores the dead to life and calls into being those things which had not been" (Rom 4:17).

Thus Joseph believed and through this faith he not only entered into the great heritage of faith which has its origin in Abraham but, in the context of that heredity, fulfilled a call and mission which was totally exceptional, which was brought about around Mary and in her.

3. "Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child" (Mt 1:20).

At this moment a new reality is given to the words which the God of Israel had spoken many years before to David through the prophet Nathan: "I will raise up your heir after you . . . . I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me" (2 Sam 7:12, 14). "He shall say of me, 'You are my father' "(Ps 89 [88]:27).

Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit fulfilled this prophecy. He alone of all the sons of man, could cry out to God: "Abba," "Father!" Only the Son, the only-begotten, could cry out "Abba" to the Father. Jesus Christ taught us and even allows all of us to call God "Father," "our Father" (Mt 6:9).

The genealogy of Joseph of Nazareth indicates his Davidic origins: he was of the house and family of David (cf. Lk 1:27); however, it was not his genealogy according to the flesh but rather that of the spirit, which made him, like Abraham, the "father of many nations." Like Abraham, Joseph too had faith in God.

Jesus of Nazareth, who calls God "Abba," "Father," as the firstborn of many brothers and sisters (cf. Rom 8:29), through Joseph's faith also granted access to the divine fatherhood to all those who, together with him, call God "our Father."

The whole Church is built on the fatherhood of Joseph who in faith participates in a special manner in this spiritual genealogy: from the human point of view it is a putative fatherhood; from the viewpoint of the divine mystery, it is fatherhood in the Holy Spirit.

The whole Church venerates Joseph of Nazareth in a singular and extraordinary way.

4. It has become a well-established tradition for the Pope to make a pilgrimage on the feast of St. Joseph to visit different cities in Italy. Today he is in the Archdiocese of Sorrent-Castelianunare di Stabia together with St. Joseph on a pilgrimage to a special shrine, the shrine of the family and work. The origins of that shrine are described in the Gospel, especially in the accounts of Matthew and Luke, and find their first expression in the home of Nazareth and the workshop of the one who became "Redemptoris custos."

It is a shrine which integrally belongs to the mystery of the incarnation. It also belongs to the reality of the Church. It is the most common of all shrines, present everywhere in a certain sense: wherever human life is born and formed within the family and work community. Work has many forms, but it is there that we can rediscover the heritage of the home of Nazareth.

This shrine hides the divine mystery of the incarnation. He of whom the Father says, "You are my son, today I have begotten you" (Heb 5:5), as the Son of Mary, is its center.

Joseph is the guardian of this ineffable divine mystery. In him too the words which God once addressed to Abraham are fulfilled: "I have made you father of many nations."

Through faith Joseph is a father. Putting in focus the particular bond existing between the family and human work -- a sacred bond -- we have been granted to participate in the mystery of the holiness of God through what constitutes the foundation and content of the life of all people.

This shrine to which the Church goes on pilgrimage with her patron, Joseph of Nazareth, on 19 March each year is truly great, and extremely vast.

5. With these sentiments I express my joy at being here with you today and I think you for your warm welcome. I particularly greet the Pastor of your Archdiocese, Archbishop Felice Cece, the priests, religious and laity actively involved in the apostolate and the many members of the Christian family of Sorrento and Castellammare DI Stabia. I also greet the civil, military and political authorities present here. With affection I especially greet the families an d young people.

Dear families, there are many problems in your area, but there is a great wealth which you can count on: the profound, sacred sense of the family. A strong family can be the cure for many serious, threatening problems; founded on the rock of religious and moral principles, it is an anchor of salvation capable of saving from shipwreck the best of humanity's energies, putting them into play for the restructuring of the social fabric. Do not give in to the culture of death. Do not give in to the force of violence. Do not grow accustomed to watching helplessly as crime spreads, the crime which undermines the structures of your society. Trust in God's help and courageously fight together against evil.

Christian families, you should be the treasure and refuge of your society.

Strengthen your communion, giving it new life at the wellsprings of faith. Welcome children as the fruit and seal of love Every child who is born, with his or her unique identity, is a gift of the Lord and bears his image Be concerned for their moral and religious upbringing; set them off on their journey of faith with your words, and even more, with your example.

May your homes be both shrines of life and schools of persevering, selfless giving in the service of the needy: of the sick, the elderly, the marginalized, children.

May they be domestic churches where young people, looking to their parents, can discover the meaning of their own particular vocation. As the Holy Family was the cradle of the Church, so too every Christian family is called to be the cradle of lay vocations and those of special consecration.

Dear families, young people are looking for great, demanding ideals. Help them to dedicate themselves ceaselessly to the construction of the civilization of love.

6. And you, young people, be worthy of the best traditions of your Church, treasuring the great spiritual resources which characterize it.

Today you often feel forced to deal with an ambiguous, contradictory culture. Along with witnesses of love you see violence; your desire to build a better society, which the Gospel arouses in you, is countered by many consumeristic allurements which paralyze your every generous commitment.

You are called to make a choice, to choose what is perhaps the longer, more difficult path; however, it is the only one that leads to the heights of full humanity and holiness.

Christ is with you, let yourselves be led by him along his ways. Avoid the deceptive, dangerous shortcuts that lead to dissatisfaction of the heart and stifling of the spirit.

Young people, be truly young through and through. Draw back from the easy but tragic mirages of pleasure, money and power. God is youth and only the person who lives in him possesses the secret of youth.

7. Dear brothers and sisters, in the course of today's liturgy we are once again shown the design of Providence revealed in the shrine of Nazareth.

St. Joseph, spouse of the Virgin Mary, believed and, like Abraham, he hoped against all hope.

Dear St. Joseph, help us too to trust in God. Always.

Help us to believe in the fulfillment of the divine promises.

Help us too to say with him: "O Lord, you are faithful to your promises" (Resp. Psalm).

Click here for a compilation of documents, prayers and novenas for St. Joseph available on Petersnet.


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