The Year of St. Joseph
By: Cole Hamilton
Reminder: it is currently the Year of St. Joseph. I remember talking to plenty of hyped-up, excited Catholics when 2021 was officially dedicated to St. Joseph. I of course joined in this excitement, but over the past few months, there have been several times when my joining the Church in honoring this incredible saint has become like a forgotten New Year’s resolution. How can we, as members of the Catholic Church, continue to recognize the importance of this declaration and encourage others to do the same?
The year 2020 will surely be remembered for the rest of our lives. The coronavirus pandemic completely changed the way we live as human beings and it continues to affect our lives even today. Pope Francis added another historical moment to this past year in announcing the Year of St. Joseph on December 8. This declaration came exactly 150 years after Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph to be the patron of the Universal Church on December 8, 1870, an event that consecrated the Church to the humble saint in a profound way. While seeking to honor this momentous anniversary, the pope’s dedication of the current year to St. Joseph comes also during a time of strife and brokenness throughout the entire world. With people making unnoticed sacrifices to help the elderly and sick during the pandemic, millions unable to find work, and families struggling to be led by true fathers, the Holy Father continues to urge the Church to turn to St. Joseph for support and guidance; what a beautiful way to face the uncertainties of this year.
Pope Francis’s realization of the necessity of St. Joseph is something that all the faithful should study and bring to prayer. Joseph’s willingness to serve the Holy Family, openness to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and protection of the mystical Body of Christ provide amazing examples of how we can become more like him in virtue and charity. In each of these services, St. Joseph teaches complete humility; he played an integral part in Salvation History yet only willed others to know the glory of Jesus Christ.
In addition to reflecting on the life of Joseph, Head of the Family, the Church provides concrete ways to join her this year in gaining special graces. A plenary indulgence, or the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, can be received through specific acts in addition to sacramental confession, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, and prayer for the pope’s intentions. In expanding upon the literal definition of indulgences, St. Pope John Paul II describes them as an aid for the real conversion that leads to happiness, essentially restoring and repairing the consequences of our sin without the suffering that would normally accompany it. During this year, actions such as praying for the unemployed, reciting the Litany of St. Joseph for persecuted Christians, entrusting daily work to St. Joseph the Worker, praying the rosary with our families, or honoring Joseph with an act of piety/approved prayer on Wednesdays are all relatively simple ways for us to partake in the indulgences the Church provides.
Let us strive to honor St. Joseph and pray for his intercession this entire year. As our spiritual father, he longs to adopt us as his children and help us. Yes, the year 2021 may also be marred with struggles and fears, but we should take confidence in knowing that we all can turn to St. Joseph for strength.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Decree of The Apostolic Plenary Indulgence: