Pope Francis stayed at St. Joseph Seminary during the first stage of his Canada visit. Before leaving, he gave them St. Joseph.
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Pope Francis concluded the first stage of his Canada trip on July 27, leaving Edmonton for Quebec. He blessed a statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, which he gave to the St. Joseph’s Seminary where he had stayed, saying, “I am leaving you my dearest friend.”
This sweet moment was reported on the Facebook page of Vatican News:
Pope Francis has a very deep-seated devotion to St. Joseph, as he has shown in assorted ways throughout his pontificate, even declaring a Year of St. Joseph.
While his general audience series and apostolic letter have given him a chance to reflect about St. Joseph more at length, he uses other occasions to guide the faithful with Joseph’s example. For example, in 2021, he dedicated his annual message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations to St. Joseph.
Kindness from heaven
Still, perhaps the purest insight into the pope’s devotion comes from offhand comments like the one made in Canada.
For example, in early 2022 in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis noted how he began his Petrine Ministry on Joseph’s feast.
The pope said he has always considered that a “kindness from heaven.”
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.
In that same interview, Francis explained that he’s loved Joseph since he was a child.
“I have never hidden the closeness I feel towards St. Joseph,” he said. “I think that it comes from my childhood, from my formation.”
It was, after all, in the church of St. Joseph in Buenos Aires where, in 1953, the 17-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio discovered his vocation and declared his desire to dedicate his life to God and humanity.
He sleeps on a pillow of papers!
The pope has the habit of placing under the statue of the sleeping St. Joseph a list containing the problems, petitions, and prayers of the faithful. It’s as if he is inviting St. Joseph to “sleep on it,” and to place before God the difficult situations of those in need. Of course, a “sleeping St. Joseph” reminds us of the saint’s particular power, because it was in his sleep (in his dreams) that St. Joseph conversed with God in the Bible.
“If there’s a problem, I write a message to St. Joseph on a piece of paper and I put it under the statue of him I have in my room,” Pope Francis explained in 2017 in an interview with Corriere della Sera. “It is a statue of St. Joseph asleep. And now he sleeps on a pillow of little papers!”
With so many signs of mutual affection between Joseph and Pope Francis, we know that for many decades now, the pope’s love has manifested itself in his constant prayer to Jesus’ father.