We, like St Joseph, are called to protect all that is within our care, Pope Francis taught at his inauguration Mass, held on the solemnity of the foster father of Jesus and protector of the Church, St Joseph.
The call to be protectors of all creation is not just for Christians, but it is a call for the whole of humanity. Pope Francis explained that we need to protect the environment, and our brothers. Explaining what this means he said:
It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
He reminded us that when we fail to live up to our responsibilities to protect God’s gifts, then we open the door for hearts to be hardened. I imagine Pope Francis was reminding us that the culture of death prevails in society today because people who can, have failed in their duty to protect God’s gifts.
How are we to be protectors? The pointers, Pope Francis tells us can be found in St Joseph, who protected Mary and Jesus “discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand”; and “by being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.”
In order to be effective protectors of God’s gifts Pope Francis tells us that we need Christ at the core of our vocation. He also explained that:
To be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
How easy it is to let hatred, envy and pride take hold of our hearts. It becomes easier when we are doing “good work”. I believe pride in particular can take hold in our hearts when we are publicly working for God. Pride is a nasty sin which blinds us to the fact that it has entered our hearts. The only way to counter pride is to have a deep prayer life, frequent confession and a true ability to acknowledge the real victor in all our work is Jesus Christ.
Hatred and envy are more easily recognisable. In the pro-life movement, these things exist. We must root them out. We must work together. We must love one another. We must love those for whom we are trying to teach to embrace life in all of its fullness; whether they are pregnant mother’s, families struggling, homosexuals, disabled, sick, or elderly and afraid of being neglected and ultimately left to die alone. Only then will our work be fruitful. Only then, will we be able to fulfill our vocation to protect. In the words of our beloved Pope Francis “only those who serve with love are able to protect!”
Let us take up the call to protect with renewed vigor and faithfulness. Let us do so with great love, tenderness, humility and fidelity. May we be attentive to God’s will as we serve the most vulnerable in our society. May our humble efforts on this earth be pleasing to God, the creator and lover of life!