December 20, 2020

You may have seen the news on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, that Pope Francis declared a Year of St. Joseph. This year, honoring the patron saint of our parish, will conclude on December 8, 2021. Along with his declaration, the Holy Father issued an Apostolic Letter reflecting on St. Joseph.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph to be the patron saint of the universal Church. It is the occasion of that anniversary which prompted Pope Francis to designate this year of St. Joseph.

His Apostolic Letter, entitled With a Father’s Heart (Patris Corde in Latin), is a beautiful reflection on the life of St. Joseph and what he can teach us today. I encourage you to take some time to read the letter. It is not that long and can be accessed through the Vatican website (www.vatican.va ).

CRUX, a Catholic news source that I read regularly, published a helpful summary of the letter. Here are some highlights from the letter as reported by CRUX.

In a tribute to all the ordinary and hidden people who have helped us through this time of pandemic, the pope reflects on how obscure St. Joseph is in the Bible, but what a profound impact his life had on the history of salvation.

The Pope noted how all of Joseph’s plans were upended by the unexpected pregnancy of Mary. Noting how most people react with disappointment and rebellion when things don’t go their way, Joseph embraced the new reality. He said we can learn from his example and “set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage.”

If we are able to do this, Francis says that “our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground.”

Joseph faced another crisis after the birth of Jesus and again responded with courage and faith. When Herod sought to kill the newborn child, Joseph followed the direction of the angel and took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt. The connection to the contemporary situation of so many fleeing persecution makes Joseph a strong intercessor for migrants and refugees who are forced to flee their country “because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.”

St. Joseph is also known under the title of “St. Joseph the Worker,” the title under which our parish is founded. The pope said that the dire situation workers find themselves in today because of the pandemic makes Joseph a particularly important source of support and “should serve as a summons to review our priorities.”

Francis also reflected on Joseph’s role as a father and noted that fathers are “not born but made,” by taking on the responsibility of caring for the children under their protection. “Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person,” he said, insisting that genuine fatherhood is not possessive or overprotective, but allows children to develop in freedom.

“Our world today needs fathers,” he said, insisting there is “no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction.”

Joseph “found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust,” the pope said, noting that every vocation, including the priesthood and religious life, “require this kind of maturity.”

The Holy Father concludes his Apostolic Letter with this prayer to St. Joseph. As we go into this last Sunday of Advent and look forward to the great celebrations of Christmas next week, may St. Joseph accompany us:

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.

Blessings on all of you during these last days of Advent and the coming days of Christmas.

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni