St. Joseph and the Christ Child, by Guido Reni / Public domain

Vatican City, Mar 19, 2022 / 08:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has written a letter urging a congregation of priests to follow St. Joseph’s example by living out the high calling of spiritual fatherhood.

On the feast of St. Joseph, the Vatican published the pope’s letter written to the religious superior of the Congregation of Saint Joseph, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding.

“In your ministry, let yourselves be guided by the meek and concrete example of Saint Joseph; like him, never cease to wonder at God’s marvelous gifts; like him, who, working for Jesus and Mary, made of his own life a ‘sign’ of a higher fatherhood, that of the heavenly Father, welcome the great call to be dedicated fathers for the youth of today,” Pope Francis wrote.

The Congregation of Saint Joseph is a religious institute, dedicated to the education and moral formation of poor and at-risk youth, active in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

The congregation was founded in the 19th century by Saint Leonard Murialdo, a friend of Saint John Bosco in Turin, Italy.

Pope Francis said that Saint Leonard Murialdo “knew how to read the era in which he lived, grasp the problems present in Turin in the second half of the 19th century, and how to offer effective remedies, in step with the times.”

“He took poor and abandoned youth to heart, helping many young people not only to face immediate needs, but to prepare for a dignified future through education and learning a profession,” he said.

The pope added: “He did so by letting himself be guided by an ancient and ever-present wisdom, that of St. Joseph.”

“Inspired by him, he busied himself in humility and charity, exhorting every congregate to be a friend, brother and father of young people in need, drawing strength from the conviction that God loves each one with a tender, provident and merciful predilection.”

Pope Francis’ letter was addressed to Father Tullio Locatelli, the father general of the Congregation of Saint Joseph, and was signed on March 2.

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the pope met with a youth choir from the northern Italian city of Bologna.

Pope Francis meets with the Little Choir of Antoniano at the Vatican on March 19, 2022. Vatican Media

In the audience at the Vatican, the pope spoke to the children about St. Joseph.

“Joseph of Nazareth, the husband of the Virgin Mary, was the man who linked Jesus to his people, the people God had chosen to bring blessing to all humanity,” Pope Francis told the choir.

“Jesus did not come out of nowhere; he did not come from heaven like an extraterrestrial, no, Jesus was born of a woman of God’s people. What was the name of Jesus’ mother?” the pope asked the kids.

“Mary!” the children replied.

“And he had a dad here on earth, what was his name?” he asked.

“Joseph!” they said.

“And this father brought him up according to the law of the Lord. He gave him the example of what it means to do the will of God. And the Gospel, says only one thing about Joseph, which is beautiful: he was a just man, a good man. This is lovely,” Pope Francis said.