Pope Francis has said in a new interview that there is a great need for “spiritual fatherhood” today.
“There is a great urgency, in this historical moment, for meaningful relationships that we could define as spiritual fatherhood,” he said.
Pope Francis underlined that a “spiritual relationship is one of those relationships that we have to rediscover with renewed effort,” noting that it is distinct from a “psychological or therapeutic” program.
The pope said that at this time in history, many young people have “the inability to make big life decisions” and are “afraid to decide, to choose, to take a risk.”
He added that it is not only up to priests to provide much-needed spiritual accompaniment, but that there are many good lay men and women with valuable experiences to share.
“Christian faith is not something that can be learned from books or by simple reasoning. Instead, it is an existential journey that passes through our relationships. Our experience of faith thus always arises from somebody’s witness,” the pope said.
Pointing to St. Joseph as a model for fatherhood, Pope Francis reflected that Joseph had a remarkable “ability to know how to listen to God speaking to his heart.”
“I am convinced that the fatherly relationship that Joseph had with Jesus influenced his life so much that Jesus’ future preaching is filled with images and references taken precisely from paternal imagery,” the pope said.
“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 fatherhood.”
“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 said.
Pope Francis, who began his pontificate on the feast of St. Joseph in 2013, said that he was always “nurtured a special devotion to St. Joseph” because he “represents what Christian faith should be for each of us, in a beautiful and simple way.”
“I always considered it a kindness from heaven to be able to begin my Petrine Ministry on March 19,” he reflected.
“I think that in some way St. Joseph wanted to tell me that he would continue to help me, to be beside me, and I would be able to continue to think of him as a friend I could turn to, whom I could trust, whom I could ask to intercede and pray for me.”
The Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis officially came to an end last month. The pope said he hoped that the year helped “many Christians rediscover the profound value of the communion of saints which is not an abstract communion, but a concrete communion that expresses itself in a concrete relationship and has concrete consequences.”
“The time in which we are living is a difficult time, marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Many people are suffering, many families are facing difficulties, many people are hounded by the anxiety of death, of an uncertain future,” he said.
“I felt that precisely in this time that is so difficult, we needed someone who could encourage us, help us, inspire us, in order to understand which is the right way to know how to face these dark moments. Joseph is a bright witness in dark times. This is why it was right to make room for him at this time, in order to find our way again.”