When it comes to patron saints and intercessors, Pope Francis has no shame playing favorites. He has made it clear in various audiences, such as his 2015 meeting with families in the Philippines, that St. Joseph is at the top of his list.
From this report it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to guess that Pope Francis keeps a St. Joseph statue in his office. However, the image that sits on his desk is no ordinary St. Joseph image with his carpenter tools, or a blossoming staff, or even with the Child Jesus.
No. In this statue, St. Joseph is…sleeping!
Pope Francis explains why he particularly loves this image of Jesus’ foster father during his 2015 visit to the Philippines:
"I have great love for Saint Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of Saint Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church!"
God speaks to Joseph in a particular way when he is the most silent, meaning, when he sleeps. In dreams God tells Joseph to take Mary as his wife, to flee to Egypt in order to escape Herod, and then to return to Nazareth when the threat ceased.
2 Lessons the Sleeping St. Joseph Can Teach Us
"Joseph's rest revealed God's will to him. In this moment of rest in the Lord, as we pause from our many daily obligations and activities, God is also speaking to us...But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God's voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act." -Pope Francis to families in the Philippines
Based on this reflection, the Sleeping St. Joseph devotion teaches us 2 valuable lessons:
- While God doesn’t normally speak to us so directly and dramatically, He very often speaks in times when we silence both our outer and inner worlds.
- After Joseph’s three dreams, he immediately got up each time and acted (even if it meant fleeing the country in the middle of the night!) While we certainly should strive to quiet ourselves to hear those whispers of God in our hearts, we also need to act on what God tells us in the silence.
This is much easier said than done, but there’s no need for discouragement precisely because we can ask THE man of silence and serenity for his intercession.
How Pope Francis Uses the Sleeping St. Joseph Statue
In his 2015 meeting in the Philippines, Pope Francis also explains how he converses with St. Joseph on a practical level:
"When I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath Saint Joseph, so that he can dream about it! In other words I tell him: pray for this problem!"
Pope Francis said he can sleep peacefully at the end of the day after he entrusts these special intentions to St. Joseph, and happily told a conference of religious superiors that now St. Joseph “sleeps on a mattress of notes!”
Whether we need help silencing ourselves outwardly and inwardly so we can hear God’s voice; help getting up and going when the time comes to take action; or simply feel weighed down by suffering and stress, let us ask for the intercession of St. Joseph, and perhaps slip a note under his sleeping statue so the intention stays especially close to his heart.
If you'd like to join Pope Francis in this special devotion to St. Joseph, you can purchase your own Sleeping St. Joseph Statue by clicking here.
A Pitfall to Avoid
When we place ourselves in a state of listening, it can be tempting to think, Oh! I think God is asking _____ of me. But I’m not sure, so I’m just going to keep listening, so I can be certain before I act... Then we wait, and wait. And wait some more. But we never actually take the leap of faith that must accompany God’s invitation.
Of course, we must act prudently and prayerfully, and perhaps ask advice from a trusted friend or spiritual director before making an important decision. Nevertheless, there comes a point when we know God insists Arise! Get up and go. And we must decide how we will respond, with St. Joseph to guide us in a special way.
A Quick Fun Fact
It seems that St. Joseph made a friendly suggestion to God about the timing of Pope Francis’s election back in 2013. His inaugural Mass took place on March 19th–St. Joseph’s feast day. Now that's a special relationship with a saint!