Rome (Italy). On 19 March 2023, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph is celebrated, a liturgical feast strongly felt by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, who received him from Don Bosco as patron of the Institute. Usually, we turn to him to entrust him with travel, the economic needs of the works, the difficulties associated with relations with civil institutions, and also the interior life and the last moments of the earthly pilgrimage.
In this time in which the Church is experiencing the journey of the Synod on synodality, St. Joseph is a model of authority and paternity for the Communities engaged in this process of reflection and transformation.
Pope Francis, in the Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde”, published on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church, citing St. Paul VI notes that his paternity was concretely expressed “in having made his life a service, a sacrifice, to the mystery of the incarnation and to the redemptive mission associated with it; in having used the legal authority which belonged to him over the Holy Family, to give it a total gift of himself, of his life, of his work; in having converted his human vocation to domestic love into the superhuman offering of himself, of his heart, and of every ability, in the love placed at the service of the Messiah germinated in his home.”
He is therefore first of all a “beloved father” because he is a silent and luminous example of authority that welcomes the Life generated by the Holy Spirit in Mary and takes care of it, in the logic of gradual withdrawal to make room for the Other. Joseph does not give up his role in the face of the unexpected mystery that falls into his life, but creatively reinterprets it in the light of Faith. He was the first to allow himself to be transformed by the Word which, through the angel, reached him in a dream at night. He seizes an opportunity in the unpredictable to live the task of husband and father in an unprecedented way, courageously giving up customary models recognized as valid by common opinion.
Pope Francis underlines again, “Joseph’s happiness is not in the logic of self-sacrifice, but of self-giving. You never perceive frustration in this man, but only trust. His persistent silence does not contemplate complaints but always concrete gestures of trust. The world needs fathers, it rejects masters, that is, it rejects those who want to use the possession of the other to fill their emptiness. He rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, confrontation with oppression, charity with welfarism, force with destruction. Every true vocation is born of self-giving, which is the maturation of simple sacrifice. This type of maturity is also required in the priesthood and consecrated life. Where a vocation, be it marriage, celibacy or virginal, does not reach the maturation of the gift of self by stopping only at the logic of sacrifice, then instead of being a sign of the beauty and joy of love, it risks expressing unhappiness, sadness, and frustration.”
As we know, the word ‘authority’ in its etymology is associated with the Latin verb ‘augere’ which means “to make grow”. Only those who make the other more authentic, free, and creative exercise authority. Anyone who does not know how to withdraw, renouncing self in the evangelical sense, exercises power. Because it belongs to power to divide, oppose, isolate. There is no good power.
Synodal communities, therefore, are not those without authority and government, but those in which each one, renouncing any temptation to power, freely, responsibly, creatively lives his or her task, rendering it a service in the style of presence and care.