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Pope John Paul II gave this homily at the Shrine of Saint Joseph, in Kalisz, Poland, on June 4, 1997.

Defender of Life

"O happy man, Saint Joseph!" How glad I am to celebrate this Eucharistic Sacrifice in the Shrine of Saint Joseph! For it has a special place in the history of the Church and of the nation. While we listen to the Gospel which recounts for us the flight into Egypt, there comes to mind the words contained in the liturgical preparation for Holy Mass: "O happy man, Saint Joseph, whose privilege it was not only to see and hear that God whom many a long has longed to see, yet saw not, longed to hear, yet heard not (cf. Mt 13:17); but also to carry him in your arms and kiss him, to clothe him and watch over him!" In this prayer St. Joseph appears as the guardian of the Son of God. The prayer continues with the following petition: "God, who has conferred upon us a royal priesthood, we pray to you to give us grace to minister at your holy altars with hearts as clean and lives as blameless as that blessed Joseph who was found to hold in his arms and with all reverence to carry your only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary. Enable us this day to receive worthily the sacred Body and Blood of your Son, and fit us to win an everlasting reward in the world to come."

It is a beautiful prayer! I say it everyday before Holy Mass and certainly many priests around the world do so. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary the foster father of the Son of God, was not a priest, but shared in the common priesthood of the faithful. Since as father and guardian of Jesus he could hold him and carry him in his arms, priests turn to St. Joseph with the fervent request to be able to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice with the same veneration and the same love with which he carried out his mission as the foster father of the Son of God. These words are very eloquent. The hands which touch the Eucharistic Body of Christ wish to ask from St. Joseph the grace of a chastity and devotion equal to that which the carpenter of Nazareth showed to his adopted Son. Therefore, it is fitting that in the itinerary of the pilgrimage connected with the Eucharistic Congress of Wroclaw there is also this visit to the Shrine of St. Joseph in Kalisz.

"Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt" (Mt 2:13). Joseph heard these words in his sleep. The angel had warned him to flee with the Child, because he was threatened by mortal danger. From the Gospel we learn about those who were threatening the Child's life. In the first place Herod, but then also all his followers. In this way the liturgy of the word guides our thought towards the problem of life and its defense. Joseph of Nazareth, who saved Jesus from the cruelty of Herod, is shown to us in this moment as a great supporter of the cause of the defense of human life, from the first moment of conception to natural death. In this place, therefore, we wish to commend human life to Divine Providence and to St. Joseph, especially the life of children not yet born, in our homeland and throughout the world. Life has an inviolable value and an unrepeatable dignity especially because, as we read today in the liturgy, every person is called to share in God's life. Saint John writes: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!" (IJn 3:1).

With the eyes of faith, we can see with particular clarity the infinite value of every human being. The Gospel, by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, announces also the Good News of man, of his great dignity, and teaches sensitivity concerning man, because every man, insofar as he has a spiritual soul, is "capable of God." The Church, in defending the right to life, is making a broader appeal, a universal one which obliges all men and women. The right to life is not a question of ideology, not only a religious right; it is a human right. The most fundamental human right! God says: "You shall not loll!" (Ex 20:13). This commandment is at one and the same time a basic principle and a norm of the moral code written in the conscience of every human being.

The measure of civilization, a universal and permanent measure which includes all cultures, is its relationship with life. A civilization which rejected the defenseless would deserve to be called a barbarian civilization, even though it had great success in the field of economics, technology, art and science. The Church, faithful to the mission received from Christ, despite the weaknesses and infidelities of many of her sons and daughters, has consistently brought into human history the great truth of love of neighbor, has reduced social divisions, overcome racial and ethnic differences, cared for the sick and the orphaned, the old, the handicapped and the homeless. She has taught with words and deeds that no one can be excluded from the great human family, that no one can be pushed to the edges of society. Defense of the life of children not yet born is the consequence of this mission of the Church.

Here in Kalisz, where St. Joseph, this great defender and careful guardian of Jesus' life, is venerated in a special way, I wish to remind you of the words that Mother Teresa of Calcutta addressed to those who took part in the International Congress on "Population and Development" called by the United Nations Organization in Cairo in 1994: "I speak today to you from my heart — to each person in all the nations of the world, to all the mothers, fathers and children in the cities, towns and villages. Each one of us is here today because we have been loved by God, who created us, and by our parents, who accepted and cared enough to give us life. Life is the most beautiful gift of God. That is why it so painful to see what is happening today in so many places around the world: life is being deliberately destroyed by war, by violence, by abortion. We have been created by God for greater things — to love and be loved. I have said often, and I am sure of it, that the greatest destroyer of peace in the world today is abortion. If a mother can kill her own child, what is there to stop you and me from lolling each other? The only one who has the right to take life is the One who has created it. Nobody else has the right: not the mother, not the father, not the doctor; no agency, no conference, no government. It frightens me to think of all the people who kill their consciences so that they can perform an abortion.... The child is the most beautiful gift of God to a family, to a nation. Let us never refuse this gift of God."

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the sacrament which unites you to each other, unites you in Christ! It unites you with Christ! "This mystery is a profound one!" (Eph 5:32). God "has given you his love." He comes to you and is present in your midst and dwells in your souls. In your families! In your homes! Saint Joseph was well aware of this. For this reason he did not hesitate to entrust himself and his family to God. By virtue of this trust, he completely fulfilled his mission, entrusted to him by God for the sake of Mary and his Son. Supported by the example and protection of Saint Joseph, offer a constant witness of devotion and generosity. Protect and show concern for the life of your children, of every person — especially the sick, the weak and the disabled. Bear witness to your love for life and share it generously.

Idźcie do Józefa...

 Idźcie do Józefa...

Pope John Paul II

 Pope John Paul II