On Thursday, February 11, 2021, different groups of students from various classes at St. Margaret College Secondary School, Verdala, Cospicua reflected upon the value of Christian care during the year dedicated to St. Joseph. Pope Francis has proclaimed a “Year of St. Joseph” from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021 and thus Senior Religion teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc felt the need to launch this exercise at school. As this year marks the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron saint of the Universal (Catholic) Church by Pope Pius IX, Pope Francis issued a new apostolic letter entitled “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”) inviting all Christians and people of good will to reflect upon Saint Joseph as a loving father with a tender heart always obedient to God’s will.
In “Patris Corde”, Pope Francis is inviting us to see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence” and like him exercise patience and offer hope to others every day. Pope Francis says that in Saint Joseph, “Jesus saw the tender love of God” and so we are called to imitate the tender heart of this Saint because “Only tender love will save us from the snares of the accuser”. Therefore, this year is an invitation to all Christians and people of good will to experience the tender love and mercy of God, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation because “we know that God’s truth does not condemn us, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us”.
So while focussing on the tender heart of St. Joseph, St. Margaret College students were invited by teacher Martin Azzopardi sdc to reflect upon the importance of Christian care for others in need. The following are some of the students’ reflections about the Christian sense of care:
“Caring for my parents at home is very important as charity begins at home. We also need to remember our grandparents. Christian care and charity is to be exercised with everyone we happen to see in need even if they belong to another race” by student Matt Camilleri Lagana;
“The sense of Christian care is needed with those who have no money or end up homeless. At school I can share my lunch with those students who have no lunch. We can also express a sense of care by just uttering a little compliment or by sharing our school notes with those students who are sick or not attending school due to the Covid-19 pandemic” by student Leonella Galea;
“Caring means being present with others in need of support especially when they feel lonely. Showing care means offering company to my mum if she ends up eating alone at home. Caring means feeling and empathizing with others especially in difficult times” by student Aiden Higgans;
“I can express a Christian sense of care by helping a classmate or a friend who is undergoing a difficult situation at home” by student Dashanne Vella;
“A Christian sense of care entails helping and defending others who get bullied. On the other hand I can also express a sense of caring by praying for others, even for my enemies” by student Shania Duncan;
“Expressing a sense of care means that we become sensitive to others in need of help” by student Amy Schembri;
“Loneliness is a daily issue in today’s world and we need to express more sense of care to people who feel lonely or isolated in life” by student Chereen Buhagiar;
“Helping the poor should remain our main aim as Christians. We need to express a sense of care when situations in our families get hard” by student Rosaya Vella;
“Words are not enough to express our sense of care but we also need to take action” by student Raisa Abela;
“Doing your utmost to make others smile is an act of Christian care” by student Jasmine Saliba Rodo.
Teacher Martin said that “It is very important to present Christian saints as role models to our youths, and helping them to reflect upon their Christian virtues is highly necessary in religious education.”
Pope Francis says that “A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child.” Unfortunately, in today’s society, children and youths “often seem orphans, lacking fathers” who are able to introduce them “to life and reality.” So in the footsteps of St. Joseph our children and youths need fathers who will not try to dominate them, but instead raise them to be “capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities.”
This is the sense in which St Joseph is described as a “most chaste” father, which is the opposite of domineering possessiveness. Pope Francis says that St. Joseph “knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.”
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