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A Year to Honor of St. Joseph

Pope Francis proclaimed the year between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021 to be the Year of Saint Joseph in the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde issued this past Tuesday on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This date marks the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as the Patron of the Catholic Church. In establishing a year of special study, reflection, and prayer, the Holy Father wishes to strengthen the Church’s resolve to turn to Saint Joseph as an example of holiness and virtue, an intercessor in times of distress, and a sure guide to an encounter with Jesus Christ.

Stained glass of Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus in the workshop from Visitation Church, Vienna, MO
The Child Jesus with Saint Joseph in the Workshop, Visitation Church, Vienna, MO

Dedicating an entire twelve months as a jubilee for the faith reminds us that true time belongs to the Lord God alone, and human measures and epochs in the light of eternity come and go like the grass of the field (Psalm 90). Jubilees of gratitude and mercy are rooted in the Old Covenant but have found an expression throughout the history of the Church in many forms. The Holy Years celebrated every 25 years have been the most consistent celebrations and time for renewal tied to calendar years. But Popes have dedicated year-long jubilees to particular aspects of the faith not necessarily congruent with calendar years.

One such extra-ordinary jubilee was in the year of the Mother of the Redeemer in 1988-89. Saint Pope John Paul II embraced his pontificate as an essential bridge to the Third Millennium of our redemption. The Holy Father’s understanding of time as the opportunity to know the sacred was stated beautifully in the Apostolic Exhortation proclaiming that Holy Year. This ‘fullness [of time]’ marks the moment when, with the entrance of the eternal into time, time itself is redeemed, and being filled with the mystery of Christ becomes definitively ‘salvation time.’”

Pope Francis acknowledges that although all generations need Saint Joseph to safeguard them, this past year and has brought particular trials to the people all over the world in the form of a pandemic that continues to bring suffering upon us. Saint Joseph as the earthly father of Jesus Christ and as the beloved husband of the Mother of God exemplifies the extra-ordinary holiness and virtue which is required to safeguard families from all harm. Indeed as we have all sought refuge in our homes with our families, the necessity of the domestic church is more evident than ever.

These trying times call for heroic virtue, not of the flamboyant and self-serving spectacle found in the world of entertainment, business and politics, but the quiet, self-giving virtue of the humble worker who with chaste discipline and loving care protected Jesus and the Blessed Mother. Pope Francis writes, “Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”

Saint Joseph is great teacher on fatherhood and the role of husband. The world has darkened the image of the true manhood so much it is no wonder that the sacred unity of the family is so broken. Technology without regard for the human person, economics without regard for the common good, and selfish indulgence without regard for human dignity, have ruptured the two essential ends of marriage:  the mutual communion of spouses and the generation of children.

In the Mystery of the Divine Plan, it took a man willing to renounce the two greatest earthly goods in order to fulfill them according to God’s will so all may know the meaning of a Holy Family.  Redemptoris Custos of Saint Pope John Paul II is one of many documents regarding Saint Joseph in the Magisterium which the Apostolic Letter quotes. “All this makes it clear that ‘Saint Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood’ and that in this way, ‘he cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation and is truly a minister of salvation.’”

The way of prayer is the surest road to belief. Personal devotion to Saint Joseph has been essential to the spirituality of the saints and to the popes. As reported in Vatican News, Popes Pius X (Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto), John XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli), John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyla), Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) all had Joseph as part of their baptismal names. Pope Francis said his first Mass on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, and has included a prayer to Saint Joseph in his daily prayers for the past forty years.

The Letter concludes with the endorsement of a prayer to Saint Joseph. It is my fervent wish as the spiritual father of the people of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church that all of us remain faithful to praying this prayer or another suitable prayer each day.

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.

In the coming weeks and months, there will be more opportunities for our parish to grow in our devotion to Saint Joseph especially in fulfilling the conditions of gaining the plenary indulgence which the Church offers for the faithful. I look forward to growing more in love with this great saint, and therefore more in love with his spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Child, the Divine Son of God. I hope that everyone can read carefully and reflect on the Apostolic Letter throughout the coming year. We have learned much from this past year that there is no easy “one and done” solution to suffering. Spending a year reflecting on the mysterious life of Saint Joseph will teach us that salvation did not come to us in one isolated instant, but happened in time according to the plan of God and required the cooperation and fidelity of the saints for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.