St. Joseph helps us understand our Catholic values
By Father Frank Almade
Pope Francis has declared 2021 the Year of Saint Joseph, a man of powerful faith who did his good works in silence. The husband of Mary gives us a much-needed lesson in humility, kindness and courage.
The Year of Saint Joseph, which continues until Dec. 8, 2021, marks 150 years since Pope Pius XI declared him patron of the universal Church. Pope Francis announced the year in an apostolic letter, Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), written against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global crisis, he wrote, has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people, who are far from the limelight but exercise patience and serve their neighbors every day. In this they resemble Saint Joseph, the unnoticed, discreet and dutiful worker.
Pope Francis describes him as a tender father whose love is placed at the service of the Messiah. He is a father in obedience to God, protecting Mary and Jesus, and teaching the Son in his care. He is an accepting father, embracing Mary unconditionally as his wife. He is a father full of hope, who accepts life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments. The carpenter of Nazareth lived with creative courage, turning problems into possibilities by trusting in divine providence.
Saint Joseph is a special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution or poverty. From Saint Joseph, writes Pope Francis, we must learn to love the Church and the poor.
Saint Joseph earned an honest living to provide for his family. He teaches the value, dignity and joy of fruitful labor. Since 1955, the Church has celebrated the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, in the words of Pope Pius XII, “with the intent that the dignity of work be recognized by all, and that it inspires social life and laws, based on the fair distribution of rights and duties” and promotion of the common good.
Pope Francis affirms Catholic social teaching on the meaning of work and support of all workers. In labor, we join in the work of salvation, developing our God-given talents and abilities to hasten God’s coming reign on earth. Especially in light of rising unemployment due to the pandemic, the pope calls nations to review their priorities and to declare that no young person or anyone with dependents should be without work.
Borrowing an image from a Polish theologian, Pope Francis describes Joseph’s paternal role as “the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father.”
The pope writes that, “Fathers are not born but made” because “[a] man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking on the responsibility to care for that child.”
In affirming Saint Joseph as “a most chaste father,” he indicates that it means the opposite of domineering possessiveness. Saint Joseph lived and loved with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the center of things, but focused on the lives of Mary and Jesus.
As we entrust out daily activities to the protection of Saint Joseph, Pope Francis encourages us to offer this prayer:
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.
During the Year of Saint Joseph, Pope Francis invites all who have devotion to him to receive a plenary indulgence. The usual conditions necessary are sacramental confession, reception of Holy Communion, and prayer for the pope’s intentions.
Pope Francis has also expanded the conditions for those who are prevented from going to Mass. One may meditate for at least 30 minutes on Saint Joseph and his many titles and virtues. The indulgence can also be obtained by those who, following Saint Joseph’s example, perform a spiritual or corporal work of mercy. Praying the Rosary is encouraged in families and among engaged couples.
We are all tempted to tell others of our good works. In the spirit of the Saint Joseph, who is silent in the gospels and does his good works in Nazareth behind the scenes, during this year of prayer let us do many new acts of charity, justice and prayer without attention or publicity. Saint Joseph, pray for us!