A Year of St. Joseph

On December 8, 2020 the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis surprised the Church by issuing a letter, Patris Corde, declaring that the next year was to be a “Year of St. Joseph” dedicated to the earthly father of Jesus, husband of Mary, and Patron of the Universal Church. The reason for this declaration, he said, was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX naming St. Joseph as Patron of the Catholic Church. The Pope’s desire to proclaim this was also strengthened through the experience of the pandemic. This particular experience has made us more acutely aware of our interconnectedness and of the importance of so many who, like St. Joseph, work quietly behind the scenes every day. While this announcement may have come as a surprise, it appears to be precisely what the Church needs right now.

What does the dedication to St. Joseph mean?

It is common in the Catholic Church to dedicate a year to reflection on a certain topic or event from the life of the Church. The purpose is to help Catholics throughout the world discover the richness, grace, truth and beauty behind certain aspects of our life with God, and to gain special graces to help us along the way. For example, A few years ago, in 2016, we celebrated a jubilee “Year of Mercy” in which there were special graces and indulgences given. During this year, Mercy was highlighted through a greater collective focus on the sacrament of Confession and the loving Mercy that God is longing for us to receive. 

This year of St. Joseph is so needed right now, as we sort through the turmoil, confusion, insecurity, and fear in our world. We desire greater hope and healing. We need reassurance that God is still in control, and that we can continue to journey onward in His care. We seek the care, wisdom, and guidance of a good father.

St. Joseph is this father, and we can learn many lessons from him. As Pope Francis says in his letter, “each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble”.

“Go to Joseph”

Pope Francis lists a number of lessons we can learn from St. Joseph in 2021, and he encourages all of the Church to reflect on them. First, St. Joseph is a beloved, loving, and tender father. We can imagine that Jesus learned His tenderness and kindness from the man He called His earthly father. Our world needs this tenderness of Joseph and Jesus; a tenderness which is capable of seeing and supporting others in their weakness and need. Pope Francis says, “tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us. Pointing fingers and judging others are frequently signs of an inability to accept our own weaknesses, our own frailty.”

Additionally, St. Joseph can teach us how to trust God, even when things seem bleak or out of our control. He accepted the reality of life as it was, following the voice and will of God in what lay before him, without complaint. Whether it was taking Mary as his wife, fleeing to Egypt, or trusting that it was safe to return home, he accepted his frailty, recognized his dependence on God, and walked in trust. 

This past year has been very difficult, and at times it may seem uncertain that this year will be much different. Nevertheless, God is present in our reality and is calling us to greater trust. Pope Francis writes, “unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.” In all of this, St. Joseph teaches us to continually walk forward in hope, obedience and trust. We just need to “go to Joseph”, and let him be our guide.

How to celebrate this year with your Family

There are a number of extra graces available to you and your family this year in honor of St. Joseph, including special opportunities to obtain plenary indulgences through devotion to St. Joseph. Some of these ways include:

  1. Praying a rosary together as a family. 
  2. Meditate for 30 minutes on the Our Father, or entrust your work daily to the protection of St. Joseph. 
  3. Read the Pope’s letter together with your spouse or family, and pick a different aspect of St. Joseph that you can reflect on together: his obedience, silence, tenderness, etc.. 
  4. Some great books by Dr. Greg Bottaro and Jennifer Settle, as well as Fr. Donald Calloway can help guide you through a consecration to St. Joseph, similar to making a consecration to Mary. 
  5. The Diocese of Charlotte has set up a wonderful website with great resources, prayers and devotions that can help you expand your relationship with St. Joseph. 

In the end, the best way to grow this year is to imitate St. Joseph himself: Trust in God, and listen to Him. As Pope Francis includes in his letter, “Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course.”