Detail of Christ Crowning Saint Joseph by Francisco de Zurbarán (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Yesterday, the Vatican announced that this year (December 8, 2020 - December 8, 2021) would be a year dedicated to St. Joseph, husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus Christ.
The announcement coincides with the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX with the document Quemadmodum Deus on December 8, 1870.
But a celebration of St. Joseph and a call to focus on his patronage is particularly relevant in this time of universal turmoil when so many are having difficulty finding employment, when we are becoming more aware of how much we owe to so many ordinary, hardworking people, and when our human frailty and mortality are so much in our minds and in the news. The Church reminds us that we have a powerful ally in Heaven who, having lived and worked so long in the shadows like so many unsung heroes, is both Patron of Workers and Patron of a Happy Death.
You can read the decree here, though it is currently only in Latin and Italian.
A good way to begin this special year, especially during this season of Advent, could be to read Pope Francis' apostolic letter, also released yesterday, reflecting on the fatherhood of Joseph: Patris Corde (With a Father's Heart).
As an extra special blessing to accompany this celebration, the Church offers a plenary indulgence to all the Catholic faithful, under the usual conditions (Confession, Communion, and praying for the pope's intentions), if they participate in the Year of St. Joseph.
(For details on the usual conditions for a plenary indulgence and to learn more about indulgences in general, read Deacon-structing Indulgences.)Participation in the Year of St. Joseph includes
meditation on the Our Father for at least 30 minutes, or participation in a spiritual retreat of at least one day which includes a meditation on St. Joseph,
performing a corporal or spiritual work of mercy,
recitation of the Holy Rosary as a family or engaged couple,
entrusting your activities every day to the protection of St. Joseph, or invoking his intercession so that those seeking employment may find work and that all may have dignified work,
recitation of the Litany of St. Joseph (for those belonging to the Latin tradition), or the Akathistos of St. Joseph - in whole or in part (for those belonging to the Byzantine tradition), or some other prayer to St. Joseph (for those belonging to other liturgical traditions) for the persecuted Church and for the relief of all Christians suffering all forms of persecution, and
recitation of any legitimately approved prayer or act of piety in honour of St. Joseph, especially on these particular days: March 19, May 1, the feast of the Holy Family (December 27, this year), St. Joseph's Sunday (Byzantine tradition), the 19th day of each month, and every Wednesday.
The Church particularly extends the gift of this indulgence to "the elderly, the sick, the dying and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave the house" in this time of pandemic, as long as they are detached from sin and intend to fulfill the usual conditions as soon as possible, if they "recite an act of piety in honour of St. Joseph, comfort of the sick and patron of a happy death, offering with trust in God the pains and discomforts of their lives." And it encourages priests to make themselves more available for the dispensing of the sacraments to the sick.
Resources for the Year of St. Joseph
Be sure to check back with us in the coming weeks and months as we offer you resources to accompany you through this special year.
Today, I leave you with a prayer from Pope Francis' new apostolic letter and a short video reflection on Joseph's role in the Christmas story.
Happy Year of St. Joseph!
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.