Today is a day that will be filled with symbolism and celebration for Catholics and people of faith all over the world.
As I pondered what I should write in my column, I kept coming back to the excitement of the new pope and that his installation Mass would be celebrated today, the feast day of St. Joseph.
A feast day is a dayset aside to honor some-one who led a holy life. St. Joseph, according to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, was the earthly father of Jesus. In fact, March 19 is "Father's Day" in Italy.
One of the affectionate names that people call out in St. Peter's Square when the pope appears in his window is: Papa!
The word pope comes from the Latin word papa and from the Greek word pappas.
It also comes from the word "abba," an ancient term of affection for one's father that comes to us from Biblical times.
All of these terms are words that express a loving relationship with one's dad.
A father has the responsibility to teach, nurture, support and care for his children and his family.
A father who is involved with his family makes a real difference to the development of the child. When a mother has to be both mother and father it is difficult and challenging.
Fathers who feel successful in their role show affection freely to their children, stay connected with their children when they have to be separated, teach their children skills, connect with their children on all levels, but most of all, they honor the mother of their child.
St. Joseph did all of these things for the baby and child Jesus. Joseph also honored and respected Jesus' mother, Mary.
For Catholics, the pope is the head of our church family. He is our papa.
The Second Vatican Council describes the pope in this way: "The Roman Pontiff, as successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole body of the faithful."
As the Bishop of Rome, he is the successor of St. Peter, who is always mentioned first in the lists of the Apostles. Peter, also known as the "Rock," is the one to whom Jesus entrusted his church.
When we celebratethe pope, our "Papa," we are celebrating, treasuring and honoring our continuous connection to Peter, Apostle of Jesus, and the church he was entrusted to build.
Some of my friends who are not Catholic are curious and at the same time confused about our reverence for the pope.
We are not "worshipping" him. Rather, weare a family of faithfulbelievers that respectsthe role of the pope,who is held in high regard because his ministryrepresents the long history of the Holy Spirit guiding our church.
So it is very fittingthat today, on the feast day of the earthly "father" of Jesus, our new pope takes on his role as the new "papa" of the Catholic Church.
As the song we sing when we worship says: let us rejoice and be glad (Psalm 118:24).
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at email@example.com.