In an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis highlighted the need for “spiritual fatherhood” today.

“We received our faith always through a relationship with someone. There is a great urgency in this moment in history, of meaningful relationships that we could define as spiritual fatherhood.”

Pope Francis said these we must rediscover spiritual relationships “without ever confusing it with other paths of a psychological or therapeutic nature.”

While we often think of the Church as a mother, the Church also has to rediscover a paternal aspect according to Pope Francis, to place “children in the condition to take on their responsibilities, to exercise their freedom, to make choices.”

“If, on the one hand, mercy heals us, cures us, comforts us, encourages us; on the other, God’s love is not limited simply to forgiving and healing, but rather, God’s love spurs us to make decisions, to go out to sea.”

Why must the Church paternally instill confidence? Because “this time in history is a period marked by the inability to make big decisions in one’s life, our young people are often afraid to decide, to choose, to take a risk.”

“Our young people are often afraid to decide, to choose, to take a risk. A Church is such not only when she says yes or no, but above all when she encourages and makes big choices possible. And every choice always has some consequences and some risks, but sometimes due to fear of consequences and risks, we are paralyzed and we cannot do anything or make any choices. A true father does not tell you that everything will always go well, but rather that even if you may find yourself in a situation in which things are not going well, you will be able to face and live with dignity even those moments, those failures.”

Pope Francis began his papacy on the feast day of Saint Joseph, and offered him as a model for fatherhood.

“I am convinced that the relationship of paternity that Joseph had with Jesus influenced his life so much, to the point that Jesus’ future preaching is filled with images and references taken precisely from paternal imagery. For example, Jesus says that God is Father and this statement cannot leave us indifferent, especially when we think about his personal human experience of paternity. This means that Joseph was such a good father that Jesus found in this man’s love and paternity the most beautiful reference he could give to God.” 

He ended his interview addressing fathers, mothers, and families experiencing difficulty especially due to the pandemic.

“May these fathers turn with trust to Saint Joseph, knowing that as a father, he too had the same experience. And I would like to say to all of them and to their families, do not feel alone! The Pope remembers them always and as far as it is possible, will continue to give them a voice and will not forget them.” 

Pray below Pope Francis’ prayer from his apostolic letter that declared the Year of Saint Joseph:

Hail, Guardian of the
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted
his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace,
mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil.

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