Pope Francis Explains "...it is so important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in personal prayer with God..." FULL TEXT Catechesis


in Paul VI Audience Hall - Wednesday, 19 January 2021

Catechesis on Saint Joseph: 8. Saint Joseph, father in tenderness

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, I would like to explore the figure of Saint Joseph as a father in tenderness.

In my Apostolic Letter Patris corde, (8 December 2020) I had the opportunity to reflect on this aspect of tenderness, an aspect of Saint Joseph's personality. In fact, although the Gospels do not give us any details about how he exercised his paternity, we can be sure that his being a "just" man also translated into the education he gave to Jesus.

“Joseph saw Jesus grow day by day ‘in wisdom and age and favour before God and man’” (Lk 2:52): so the Gospel says. As the Lord had done with Israel, so Joseph did with Jesus: “he taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him (cf. Hos 11:3-4).” (Patris corde, 2). It is beautiful, this definition in the Bible, that shows God’s relationship with the people of Israel. It is the same relationship, we think, that there was between Saint Joseph and Jesus.

The Gospels attest that Jesus always used the word "father" to speak of God and his love. Many parables have as their protagonist the figure of a father. One of the most famous is certainly that of the merciful Father, recounted by Luke the Evangelist (cf. Lk 15:11-32). This parable emphasizes not only the experience of sin and forgiveness, but also the way in which forgiveness reaches the person who has done wrong. The text says: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” (v. 20). The son was expecting a punishment, a justice that at most could have given him the place of one of the servants, but he finds himself wrapped in his father's embrace. Tenderness is something greater than the logic of the world. It is an unexpected way of doing justice. That is why we must never forget that God is not frightened by our sins: let us fix this clearly in our minds. God is not frightened by our sins, he is greater than our sins: he is the father, he is love, he is tender. He is not frightened by our sins, our mistakes, our slip-ups, but he is frightened by the closure of our hearts – this, yes, this makes him suffer – he is frightened by our lack of faith in his love. There is great tenderness in the experience of God's love. And it is beautiful to think that the first person to transmit this reality to Jesus was Joseph himself. For the things of God always come to us through the mediation of human experiences. Long ago – I don’t know if I have already told this story – a group of young people who did theatrical drama, a pop theatre group, ahead of the curve, were struck by this parable of the merciful father and decided to create a pop theatre production on this matter, with this story. And they did it well. And the story is that, at the end, a friend listens to a son who is estranged from his father, who wanted to return home but was afraid that his father would kick him out and punish him. And the friend, said, “Send a messenger to say that you want to return home, and if your father will receive you, to put a handkerchief in the window, the one you can see as soon as you take the last part of the path home”. And this was done. And the work, with singing and dancing, continues until the moment that the son turns onto the last stretch of the road and sees the house. And when he looks up, he sees the house full of white handkerchiefs: full of them. Not one, but three or four in every window. This is God’s mercy. He is not deterred by our past, by the bad things we have done; settling the accounts with God is a beautiful thing, because we begin to talk, and he embraces us. Tenderness!

So, we can ask ourselves if we ourselves have experienced this tenderness, and if we in turn have become its witnesses. For tenderness is not primarily an emotional or sentimental matter: it is the experience of feeling loved and welcomed precisely in our poverty and misery, and thus transformed by God's love.

God does not rely only on our talents, but also on our redeemed weakness. This, for example, makes Saint Paul say that there is also a plan for one’s fragility. In fact, he wrote to the community of Corinth: “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me...Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” (2 Cor 12:7-9). The Lord does not take away all our weaknesses, but helps us to walk on with our weaknesses, taking us by the hand. He takes our weaknesses by the hand and places himself by our side. And this is tenderness.

The experience of tenderness consists in seeing God's power pass through precisely that which makes us most fragile; on condition, however, that we are converted from the gaze of the Evil One who “makes us see and condemn our frailty”, while the Holy Spirit "brings it to light with tender love." (Patris corde, 2). “Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us. [...] Look how nurses touch the wounds of the sick: with tenderness, so as not to hurt the further. And this is how the Lord touches our wounds, with the same tenderness. That is why it is so important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in personal prayer with God, where we experience his truth and tenderness. Paradoxically, the evil one can also speak the truth to us: he is a liar, but he can arrange things so that he tells us the truth in order to tell us a lie, yet he does so only to condemn us. Instead, the Lord tells us the truth and reaches out his hand to save us. We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us.” (Patris corde, 2). God always forgives: keep this clearly in your head and your heart. God always forgives. We are the ones who tire of asking for forgiveness. But he always forgives, even the worst things.

It does us good, then, to mirror ourselves in Joseph's fatherhood, which is a mirror of God’s fatherhood, and to ask ourselves whether we allow the Lord to love us with his tenderness, transforming each one of us into men and women capable of loving in this way. Without this "revolution of tenderness" – there is a need for a revolution of tenderness! - we risk remaining imprisoned in a justice that does not allow us to rise easily and that confuses redemption with punishment. For this reason, today I want to remember in a special way our brothers and sisters who are in prison. It is right that those who have done wrong should pay for their mistake, but it is equally right that those who have done wrong should be able to redeem themselves from their mistake. They cannot be sentences without a window of hope. Any sentence must always have a window of hope. Let us think of our brothers and sisters in prison, and think of God’s tenderness for them, and let us pray for them, so they might find in that window of hope a way out towards a better life.

And we conclude with this prayer:

St Joseph, father in tenderness,
teach us to accept that we are loved precisely in that which is weakest in us.
Grant that we may place no obstacle
between our poverty and the greatness of God's love.
Stir in us the desire to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
that we may be forgiven and also made capable of loving tenderly
our brothers and sisters in their poverty.
Be close to those who have done wrong and are paying the price for it;
Help them to find not only justice but also tenderness so that they can start again.
And teach them that the first way to begin again
is to sincerely ask for forgiveness, to feel the Father’s caress.

FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va -Official Translation + Screenshot Image

Special Greetings

Je salue cordialment les personnes de langue française présentes aujourd'hui. Ce matin, prions tout particulièrement pour ceux qui sont en prison. Que la tendresse de Dieu les rejoigne dans leur chemin de réparation et de réinsertion dans la société, et qu'elle arouses en chacun d'entre nous a grand desir de conversion. Que Dieu vous bénisse!

I cordially greet the French-speaking people present today. his morning we pray especially for those in prison. May God's tenderness reach them on their path of reparation and return to society, and arouse in each of us a great desire for conversion. God bless you! ]

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from the United States of America. I also greet the priests of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education of the Pontifical North American College. In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us pray that all of Christ's followers will persevere on the path towards unity. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!

Ich grüße die Gläubigen deutscher Sprache. Wir alle bedürfen der Barmherzigkeit Gottes und unserer Mitmenschen. Deshalb sollen auch wir barmherzig sein und bereit zu verzeihen. Der heilige Josef lehre euch als liebevoller Vater diese Haltung der Barmherzigkeit und stehe euch mit seiner Fürsprache bei.

I greet the German-speaking faithful. We all need the mercy of God and others. We too, therefore, are called to be merciful and ready to forgive. May Saint Joseph, father in tenderness, teach you this attitude of mercy and accompany you with his intercession .]

I cordially greet los fieles de lengua española. The invitation to acercarse an actitud de Reconciliación para experimentar la misericordia y la ternura de Dios, que nos ayuda a superar nuestras caídas, a levantarnos ya aprender a amar según la medida de su Corazón paternal. Que el Señor los bendiga. Muchas gracias.

Com sentimentos de fraterna estima, saúdo-vos, queridos irmãos e irmãs que professais, em português, a fé no único Senhor de todos os povos e línguas. Encorajo-vos a que, banindo qualquer aparência de indiferentismo, confusão and odious rivalidade, can be colaborar com all os cristãos por amor de Cristo. Unamo-nos todos sob o seu Nome! Também eu, em seu nome, vos abençoo desejando-vos que frutifiqueis abundantemente na paz, cooperação e unidade entre os vossos familiares e conterrâneos.

With sentiments of fraternal esteem, I greet you dear brothers and sisters who profess, in Portuguese, faith in the one Lord of every people and every language. I encourage you that, by banishing all forms of indifference, confusion and hateful rivalry, you collaborate with all Christians for the love of Christ. Let us all unite in his Name! I too, in his name, bless you, wishing you to bear much fruit in the peace, cooperation and unity between your family members and your fellow countrymen. ]

أُحَيِّي المؤمِنينَ الناطِقينَ باللغَةِ العربِيَّة. لنسأل القديس يوسف, أبا الحنان, أن يشعل فينا الرغبة في أن نقترب من سر المصالحة, حتى ننال الغفران ونكون قادرين أن نحب إخوتنا وأخواتنا في فقرهم, وأن نكون قريبين من الذين أخطأوا, فيعلموا أن الطريقة الأولى للبدء من جديد هي أن يطلبوا الغفران صادقين. باركَكُم الرّبُّ جَميعًا وحَماكُم دائِمًا مِن كُلِّ شَرّ!

I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. We ask St. Joseph, father in tenderness, to arouse in us the desire to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to be forgiven, and made capable of loving our brothers and sisters in their poverty, and to be close to those who have wrong, teaching them that the first way to start over is to sincerely ask for forgiveness. The Lord bless you all and always protect you from all evil! ]

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich Polaków. Wczoraj rozpoczęliśmy Tydzień Modlitw or Jedność Chrześcijan. Zadaniem każdego ochrzczonego jest troska o to czego pragnął Jezus: aby wszyscy byli jedno. Zapraszam Was, abyście się modlili, by wszyscy chrześcijanie, odkrywając czułą miłość Bożą, miłowali się wzajemnie. Z serca Wam błogosławię!

I cordially greet all Poles. Yesterday we started the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is the duty of every baptized person to commit himself to what Jesus desired: that all be one. I invite you to pray that all Christians, discovering the tenderness of God's love, will love each other. I heartily bless you! ]


My thoughts go out to the people of the islands of Tonga, who have been affected in recent days by the eruption of the underwater volcano, which has caused enormous material damage. I am spiritually close to all the afflicted people, imploring God for relief for their suffering. I invite everyone to join me in praying for these brothers and sisters.


I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the participants in the General Chapter of the Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Ravasco Institute), the Sisters of the Mother of God, who came from Romania, the students of the Inspectors and Superintendents of the Guardia di Finanza of L'Aquila, and members of the “Davida” Foundation of Leinì (Turin). I urge you all to be, following the example of Saint Joseph, witnesses of the tenderness and mercy of the Lord.

Then I greet the workers of the AirItaly airline, and I hope that their working situation can find a positive solution, respecting the rights of all, especially families.

Finally, my thoughts go in a special way to the elderly, young people, the sick and newlyweds. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which began yesterday, invites us to ask the Lord with insistence for the gift of full communion among believers.

My blessing to all.

 FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va + Image Screenshot