Clear dreams are love from God
MESSAGE FROM POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE 58TH WORLD PRAYER DAY FOR SPIRITUAL VOCATIONS
Saint Joseph - the dream of the vocation
Dear brothers and sisters!
On December 8th, a year especially dedicated to him began on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the elevation of Saint Joseph to the patron saint of the whole Church (cf. Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, December 8, 2020). I have the Apostolic Letter myself Patris corde Written to "promote the love of this great Saint" (Apostolic Letter Patris corde, Enough). He is indeed an extraordinary figure who at the same time "is so humanly so close to each of us" (ibid., Introduction). Saint Joseph did not cause a stir, he was not endowed with certain charisms, he was not a special appearance in the eyes of those who met him. He wasn't famous or even noticed: the Gospels don't tell a single word about him. But through his ordinary life he achieved extraordinary things in God's eyes.
God sees the heart (cf. 1 sat 16: 7), and in St. Joseph he recognized a fatherly heart that was able to give and produce life in everyday life. This is what vocations tend to be: to bring forth and restore life every day. The Lord wants to shape fatherly hearts, motherly hearts - open hearts capable of full swing, generous to give themselves, compassionate to comfort fears, and firm to raise hopes. The priesthood and the consecrated life need this, especially today, in times of fragility and suffering, also because of the pandemic, which has created uncertainties and fears about the future and the meaning of life itself. Saint Joseph comes to meet us with his gentleness, as a saint from next door; at the same time, his strong testimony can guide us on our journey.
Saint Joseph offers us three key words for the calling of each of us. The first is dream. Everyone dreams of realizing themselves in life. And it is right to have high hopes, high expectations, which ephemeral goals - such as success, money and pleasure - fail to satisfy. Indeed, if we asked people to express the dream of life in one word, it would not be difficult to imagine the answer: "love". It is love that gives meaning to life because it reveals its secret. The living Has you only if you gives, you only really own it if you give yourself completely. Saint Joseph has a lot to tell us in this regard, because through the dreams God gave him, he made his life a gift.
The Gospels tell of four dreams (cf. Mt 1.20; 184.108.40.206). They were divine calls, but they were not easy to accept. After each dream, Joseph had to change his plans and get involved, but sacrifice his own plans in order to fulfill God's mysterious plans. He trusted utterly. But we may ask ourselves: "What was a nightly dream that you could put so much trust in it?" However much attention was paid to a dream in the old days, it was still less than the actual reality of life. However, Saint Joseph did not hesitate to be guided by dreams. Why? Because his heart was focused on God, was already ready for him. A small hint was enough for his watchful “inner ear” to recognize God's voice. This also applies to our vocations: God does not love to reveal himself in spectacular ways and thus violate our freedom. He cautiously transmits his plans to us; he does not blind us with radiant visions, but rather sensitively addresses our inner being, he makes himself familiar to us and speaks to us through our thoughts and feelings. And just as he did with Saint Joseph, he offers us high and surprising goals.
Indeed, the dreams brought Joseph on adventures he could never have imagined. The first dream unbalanced his engagement but made him the father of the Messiah; the second let him flee to Egypt, but saved the life of his family. After the return home was announced in the third dream, the fourth made him change his plans again and led him back to Nazareth, exactly to the place where Jesus was to begin the proclamation of the kingdom of God. In all these constant changes, the courage to follow the will of God proved to be successful. This is how it happens with calling: the divine call always urges one to go out, to surrender to oneself, to go further. There is no faith without risk. Only when you confidently surrender yourself to grace and put your own plans and conveniences aside will you really say “yes” to God. And every "yes" bears fruit, since it agrees to a larger plan, of which we only perceive parts, but which the divine artist knows and carries on in order to make every life a masterpiece. In this sense, St. Joseph is a prime example of accepting God's plans. But he is a active acceptance: He never gives up or surrenders, he »is not a passively resigned man. He is a courageous and strong protagonist ”(Apostolic Letter Patris corde, 4). May He help everyone, especially young people, in their choices, to realize the dreams God has for them; may he awaken the brave enterprising spirit to say “yes” to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints!
A second word marks the path of St. Joseph and his calling: service. The Gospels show how he lived entirely for others and never for himself. The holy people of God call him chaste groom and thereby reveals his ability to love without keeping anything to himself. By liberating love from every form of possession, he opened himself up to an even more fruitful service: his loving care extends over the generations, his attentive care made him the patron saint of the church. He is also the patron saint of a good death because he knew how to embody the selflessness of life. His service and his sacrifices, however, were only possible because they were borne by a greater love: “Every true calling comes from the gift of self, which is the more mature form of mere sacrifice. This type of maturity is also required in the priesthood and consecrated life. Where a conjugal, celibate or virgin vocation does not reach the maturity of the bestowal and only stops at the logic of sacrifice, it will hardly become a sign of the beauty and joy of love, but rather the impression of unhappiness, sadness and arouse frustration "(ibid., 7).
Service, a concrete expression of self-giving, was not only a sublime ideal for St. Joseph, it was part of daily life. He tried to find a place for the birth of Jesus and to arrange it accordingly; he did everything to protect him from Herod's anger and organized a timely trip to Egypt; he immediately returned to Jerusalem to look for the lost Jesus; he supported his family through his work in a foreign country. In a word, he adapted himself to different circumstances with the attitude of a person who does not become discouraged when life does not go as he wishes it to standby of, the lives to serve. In this spirit Joseph undertook the numerous and often unforeseen journeys of his life: from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, then to Egypt and again to Nazareth and year after year to Jerusalem - each time willing to encounter new circumstances without complaining about it what happened and ready to lend a hand to straighten things out. You could say he's the outstretched hand Heavenly Father was on earth to his Son. So he can only be a role model for all vocations that are called to zealous hands of the father to be for his sons and daughters.
So I like to think of St. Joseph, the protector of Jesus and the Church, as him Guardian of the Vocations. For his willingness to serve stems from his Care in guarding here. "Then Joseph got up and fled that night with the child and his mother" (Mt 2:14) says the gospel, indicating his willingness and dedication to the family. He wasted no time getting upset about what was wrong so as not to neglect those entrusted to him. This alert and attentive care is the sign of a successful vocation. It is the testimony of a life touched by the love of God. What a beautiful example of a Christian life we offer if we do not pursue our ambitions doggedly and do not allow ourselves to be paralyzed by our longing for earlier times, but instead take care of what the Lord has entrusted to us through the Church! Then God pours out his spirit, his creative power, on us and works miracles like Joseph did.
Next to the call of God - our greatest dreams met - and our response - which is im willing service and realized in attentive care - there is a third aspect that runs through the life of St. Joseph and the Christian vocation and shapes their everyday life: the loyalty. Joseph is "just" (Mt 1:19), in the busy silence of each day he perseveres in adhering to God and his plans. At a particularly difficult moment he begins to “think about everything” (cf. v. 20). He ponders, ponders: He doesn't let the rush dominate him; he does not give in to the temptation to make hasty decisions; he does not act impulsively and does not live according to the moment. He does everything with patience. He knows that existence can only be built on constant clinging to big decisions. This corresponds to the patient and constant diligence with which he exercised the humble profession of carpenter (cf. Mt 13.55). He did not fill the chronicles of his time with it, but influenced the everyday life of every father, every worker, every Christian through the centuries. For, like life, the vocation only matures in the faithfulness of each day.
How is this fidelity nurtured? - In the light of God's faithfulness. The first words that St. Joseph heard in a dream consisted in the invitation not to be afraid, for God is true to his promises: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid" (Mt 1,20). Do not be afraid: The Lord directs these words to you too, dear sister, and to you, dear brother, when, despite your insecurities and your hesitation, you feel that you can no longer postpone the wish to give your life to him. He says these words to you over and over again when, where you are, perhaps in the midst of trials and misunderstandings, you struggle every day to do his will. You will rediscover these words when you return to your first love on the path of the call. Like a refrain, these words accompany all those who, like St. Joseph, say yes to God with their lives: in the faithfulness of every day.
This fidelity is the secret of joy. In the house of Nazareth, according to a liturgical hymn, there was “a clear joy”. It was the daily and honest joy of simplicity, the joy of those who keep what counts: the faithful closeness to God and to one's neighbor. How nice it would be if the same simple and radiant, simple and hopeful atmosphere permeated our seminars, our religious institutes, our rectories! I wish you this joy, dear brothers and sisters, whom you generously to God dream of your life made to him in the brothers and sisters entrusted to your care, to serve, and all in one loyaltywhich in and of itself is a testimony, and in a time marked by fleeting decisions and feelings that fade without leaving any joy. May Saint Joseph, the guardian of vocations, accompany you with a fatherly heart!
Rome, St. John Lateran, March 19, 2021, Solemnity of St. Joseph
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