Earlier today, Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, commemorating the start of the Month of Mary and also the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. He spoke of the Holy Family, and of how Jesus learned from Joseph and Mary, whose full concentration was on him. He also spoke of the value and dignity of work, and the need to live in solidarity. As usual, the Holy Father’s address is packed with thought and inspiration.
Probably because my life has been so wildly hectic these days, one line caught me in particular: “To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, to perceive His constant presence in our lives; we have to stop and talk to Him, give Him space with prayer.” Pope Francis’ words keep going round and round in my head because I know from experience that fruitful prayer doesn’t just happen; we must make time and space for it.
I’m taking Pope Francis’ words to heart because they’re wise, but also because I need them. Lately, I’ve been spending a great deal of time speaking and writing about our Lord and his Mother – especially because of the launch of Imitating Mary, on radio, television, in publications, and online. I’ve been pouring myself into my apostolate, also in the aspect of teaching about Jesus and Mary. I’ve spent a ton of time and effort talking about them, but not nearly enough time talking to them. That’s going to change.
In honor of Mary’s month, I’m going to give her a month-long gift: I’m going to carve out time daily to focus completely on her Son, talking to, but more importantly listening to, him. Because Mary can never be separated from her Son, I know that she’ll be there, too. Of course, St. Joseph, the Holy Family’s protector, will be nearby also. With that, I’ll strive to contemplate and perceive their constant presence in my life.
What will you do for the Blessed Mother this month?
Here is the full text of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square today.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the 1st of May, we celebrate St. Joseph the Worker and begin the month traditionally dedicated to the Virgin Mary. During this encounter, I would thus like to reflect on these two important figures in the life of Jesus, of the Church and in our lives, with two brief thoughts: the first regarding work, the second on the contemplation of Jesus.
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, one of the times when Jesus returns to his native region, to Nazareth, and speaks in the synagogue, the Gospel underlines his fellow villagers’ astonishment at his wisdom, and the question they ask one another: is not this the Carpenter’s son?” (13:55). Jesus enters into our history, he comes into our midst, being born of Mary by the work of God, but with the presence of St. Joseph, the legal father who guards him and even teaches him his trade. Jesus was born and lived in a family, in the Holy Family, learning from St. Joseph the carpenter’s trade, in the workshop of Nazareth, sharing with him his commitment, hard work and satisfaction, as well as each day’s difficulties.
This calls to mind for us the dignity and importance of work. The Book of Genesis tells us that God created man and woman by entrusting to them the task of populating the Earth and subjugating it, which does not mean to exploit it, but to cultivate and guard it, to care for it with their own labour (cf. Gen 1:28; 2:15). The work is part of the plan of God’s love; we are called to cultivate and safeguard all the goods of creation and in this way we participate in the work of creation! The work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use an image, “anoints” us with dignity, it fills us with dignity; it makes us similar to God, who has worked and works still, He is always acting (cf. Jn 5:17); it gives the ability to maintain oneself, one’s family, to contribute to the growth of one’s nation. And here I am thinking of the difficulties which, in different countries, today’s world of work and enterprise are facing; I think about how many people, and not just young people, are unemployed, often because of an economic conception of society, which seeks selfish gain, outside of the parameters of social justice.
I would like to invite everyone to solidarity, and wish to encourage those in charge of public affairs to make every effort to give new impetus to employment; this means caring for the dignity of the person; but mostly I would say not to lose hope. St. Joseph also had difficult moments, but never lost confidence and was able to overcome them, in the certainty that God does not abandon us. And then I would like to address specifically the adolescents and you young people: get involved in your daily duty, in study, in work, in friendships, in helping others; your future depends also on your wisdom in living these precious years of life. Don’t be afraid of effort, of sacrifice and don’t look to the future with fear; keep hope alive: there’s always a light on the horizon.
I add a word about another particular work situation that bothers me: I am referring to what could be defined as “slave labor,” work that enslaves. How many people, worldwide, are victims of this kind of slavery, where the person is at the service of work, when it must be work that offers a service to persons so that they may have dignity. I would ask my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will to make a decisive choice against the trafficking of persons, within which falls the category of “slave labor.”
The second thought: in the silence of his daily activity, St. Joseph shared with Mary a single, common focal point of attention: Jesus. They accompany and guard, with dedication and tenderness, the growth of the Son of God made man for us, reflecting on everything that happens. In the Gospels, Luke points out twice the attitude of Mary, which is also that of St. Joseph: “She treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (2:19.51).
To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, to perceive His constant presence in our lives; we have to stop and talk to Him, give Him space with prayer. Every one of us, even you adolescent boys and girls, and young people, so numerous here this morning, should ask yourselves: how much space do I give the Lord? Do I stop to dialogue with Him? Ever since we were little, our parents have accustomed us to begin and end the day with a prayer, to teach us to feel that the friendship and the love of God accompany us. Let us remember the Lord more often in our days!
And in this month of May, I would like to recall the importance and the beauty of the prayer of the Holy Rosary. Reciting the Hail Mary, we are led to contemplate the mysteries of Jesus, to reflect, that is, on the central moments of his life, so that, as for Mary and for St. Joseph, He may be the center of our thoughts, our attention and our actions. It would be nice if, especially in this month of May, you would pray together as a family, with your friends, in the parish, the Holy Rosary or some prayer to Jesus and the Virgin Mary! Praying together is a precious moment for making family life and friendship even more stable! Let us learn to pray more in the family and as a family!
Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary to teach us to be faithful to our daily commitments, to live our faith in everyday actions and to give more space to the Lord in our lives, to stop to contemplate his face.”