Our “Josephs” Not Playing Their Roles, South Africa’s Cardinal on Solemnity of St. Joseph

South Africa's Wilfrid Cardinal Napier of the Archdiocese of Durban during the Solemnity of St. Joseph Spouse of Mary Mother of God.

The Archbishop of South Africa’s Durban Archdiocese has said that the abuse in society can partly be blamed on men he refers to as the “modern Josephs” who, he further says, are not playing the role for which they were created.

In his homily on the occasion of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Friday, March 19, Wilfrid Cardinal Napier said that Pope Francis’ proclamation of the Year of St. Joseph last December pointed to the Holy Father’s desire “to renew the Church from its roots.”

“As soon as Pope Francis made the announcement of the Year of St. Joseph, my thoughts immediately went to what has become the driving vision of his pontificate to renew the Church from its roots upwards, reforming those roots where necessary; renewing but also reforming where necessary,” Cardinal Napier said in his March 19 homily.

He added, “I went down to think about the critical role that our modern Josephs need to play. By modern Josephs I mean the husbands, the fathers, the providers, the protectors of their families and their communities.”

The South African Cardinal said that it is at the point where men fail to perform their expected roles that society does not operate the way it is supposed to be operating.


“This is where breakdown is happening in our society today. Because our josephs are not playing their roles in the way that they should be playing them,” he underscored.

The Archbishop of Durban said that families would not witness cases of abuse and violence “if Joseph in each family was like the Joseph of the Holy family.”

The people of God under the pastoral care of the members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) celebrated the Solemnity of St. Joseph after completing a Novena in honor of the Saint.

Prayers were made in the three-nation Dioceses following a guide that was published daily on SACBC website, invoking the intercession of the saint described as the patron of a happy death, the friend of those who are suffering, the patron of workers and of families among other titles.

In his March 19 homily, Cardinal Napier described St. Joseph as the go-to person in all needs.

More in Africa

“If I was to sum up in just three words, the whole theme and the purpose of today as a church in Southern Africa, it would be these three words; Go to Joseph,” he said.

The Cardinal who turned 80 earlier this month compared the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Joseph of the Old Testament, saying that both were the source of refuge to those who sought their help.

He recounted that in the case of Joseph, Jacob’s beloved son in the Old Testament, the people of Israel who were suffering from famine back in their home country went to Egypt and when they needed to be directed to where they would get food, they were told to go to Joseph.

According to the Cardinal, the words “go to Joseph” have a redeeming effect.

“Today, the Church is saying, especially to our men, go to Joseph,” Cardinal Napier said.


He added, “This going to Joseph is much more than simply going for food relief; it isn’t just about physical survival. It extends to the entire range of our existence. It calls us to look intently therefore at our patron Joseph and what he can do for us.”

The member of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) said that through the words, “Go to Joseph”, the Church invites the people of God to examine the vocation given to men at creation.

“I am focusing on men today because that is why society is breaking down,” the Archbishop of Durban said, and added, “When Pope Francis says he wants the modern-day Josephs to take on the responsibility and the mission of working together with him to renew the marriage and to renew the family, we have to take that seriously.”

He urged the people of God to ensure that men understand their role in families and their relationship with St. Joseph.

“The Year of St. Joseph will be wasted if we don’t bring together all our Catholic men to Joseph,” Cardinal Napier said.

(Story continues below)

He added, “We don’t tell them go to Joseph but we bring them to Joseph so that together with them we make the hard decisions we need to make in regards to where and how to accept Jesus in our lives.”

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.