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Pope Francis and ‘St. Joseph fever’

Filed under: Features |

MANILA, Feb. 7, 2015—Almost a month after Pope Francis’ record-shattering visit to the country, many Filipinos are still in cloud nine, not getting enough of their split-second close encounter with the Petrine kind.

Mainstream media notwithstanding, the Holy Father’s Philippine trip had more to it than the cute responsorial psalmist at the Cathedral and his meal of pontifical “dinuguan”.

The “Paean to St. Joseph” His Holiness pulled out of thin air during the Meeting with the Families at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena on Jan. 16 has since spawned a renewed interest in the foster father and “dreamer” par excellence, especially among Catholic artists, inspiring them to offer their talents to him.

Marian namesake

A true-blue Marian, Jovi Atanacio credits to St. Joseph the protective way with which he defends the Blessed Virgin from people who have a deep-seated hatred of her and who take every opportunity to malign her.

“St. Joseph is my dad’s primary patron. He named me after him. This also explains why I am such a staunch Marian defender … in imitation of him … And since the fathers of my three nephews are not around, I’m like a foster father to them,” he told CBCP News in an interview.

To honor St. Joseph, Atanacio, whose given names are Joseph Vincent, made his own version of the image of “San José Dormido” whom Pope Francis praised so eloquently.

Silent but acting saint

Part of Pope Francis’ MOA Arena impromptu speech reads: “I have great love for St. Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of St. Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church! Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath St. Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him: pray for this problem!”

Family = God’s gift

Talking to thousands in the audience, the Holy Father reminded them of the gift of the family and its place in the Divine plan, comparing it with how God entrusted the Holy Family to the carpenter St. Joseph.

“Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to St. Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us. Like St. Joseph. The gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to St. Joseph so that he could care for it,” he said.

“Each of you, each of us – for I too am part of a family – is charged with caring for God’s plan. The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth. So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm,” the pontiff added.

Evangelizing through art

An accomplished visual artist, Atanacio has been crafting clay figures of Catholic saints, mostly of those known as “Incorruptibles,” since the early 2000s out of pure love and devotion to the holy men and women who had given heroic witness to the faith.

The mini images are between seven and eight inches in size.

For his part, the resourceful Darwin Beceril, a catechist from the Diocese of Novaliches’ Ina ng Laging Saklolo Parish, had a printout of an existing Sleeping Joseph icon plastered on a wood block, making it look as good as the original.

Keep dreaming’

In his speech, Pope Francis also noted the few Scripture verses that speak of St. Joseph are of him resting, “as an angel reveals God’s will to him in his dreams”.

According to him, one cannot have a family without dreams, telling the gathered families not to lose the capacity to dream.

“When you lose the capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love. And this energy to love is lost. So I ask you each evening, when you make your examination of conscience, to also ask yourselves this question: Today did I dream about my children’s future? Today did I dream about the love of my husband, my wife? Did I dream about my parents and grandparents who have gone before me? Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream!” the Holy Father said. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)

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