A couple of weeks ago, on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis declared that 2021 would be a year dedicated to St. Joseph. Since 1870, St. Joseph has been venerated as the Universal Patron of the Church, and the Holy Father decided that this is a fitting moment in history to “go to Joseph” (Gen 41:55). St. Joseph, of course, is the husband of the Virgin Mary and the foster father of the Lord Jesus. He is described as a “righteous man” in the scriptures, but nothing of his voice has been recorded in the sacred texts. He is, instead, a man who listens to the Word of God and acts upon it (Luke 11:28). It fell to Joseph to be the guardian and protector of the Holy Family. At the direction of the angel, Joseph had compassion on Mary and the unborn Jesus, and took them into his home and kept them safe from those who would do them harm, even though it meant suffering for himself.
The spiritual writer and mystic, Caryll Houselander, writes: “The grey-bearded statues of [St. Joseph] that we are used to, and drugged by, quite misrepresent his character. He was one who did violence to himself, who accepted hardship and danger, and renounced self to protect the little and the weak…. He, like all those who cherish the life of an infant, had to give up all that he had in order to give himself.” These, dare I say, manly virtues of St. Joseph are desperately needed today. Joseph of Nazareth put his strength in service of weakness, at great personal cost. He entrusted his life to God’s will, accepting his role in the unfolding of Divine Providence. St. Joseph’s character reflects authentic justice. “Justice,” Houselander explains, “is the defense of the defenseless. It protects the weak, and restores to little ones those things of which they have been robbed by force.” St. Joseph, as the patron saint of fathers, is the defender of those who are vulnerable to exploitation – those who have been unjustly deprived of their human dignity, of their right to innocence and purity of heart, of their right to know the truth, of their ability to provide for their families through honest work. According to Houselander, “Justice is both the tenderest and the sternest expression of God’s Fatherhood: it is the inflexible logic of Divine Love.”
It is my hope that we will take advantage of the upcoming year to grow in our devotion as a parish to St. Joseph. He will help us to be better fathers and sons and husbands, and protect our families from harm – including our parish family and our family of the Church. To encourage us in this, Pope Francis has provided us with opportunities to obtain indulgences through the cultivation of devotion to St. Joseph, including the recitation of the rosary by families and engaged couples, prayers made through the intercession of St. Joseph on behalf of those seeking work, and the recitation of the Litany of St. Joseph to protect the Church and its members from any type of persecution. At both of our parish churches we have beautiful statues of St. Joseph. By going to those shrines often and lighting a candle and entrusting our cares to him, may we find refuge under his patronage and be inspired by his example to defend the weak and promote authentic justice in our homes, in our nation, in the Church, and throughout the world.