Q: Archbishop J, why a year of St Joseph?
Pope Francis, in this time of pandemic, called for a year dedicated to St Joseph. From December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021, the Church will pay special attention to this just and righteous man who was entrusted to be the father of God’s Son.
In the apostolic letter Patris corde (PC) ‘With a Father’s Heart’, which proclaims the year, the Holy Father says:
Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God Himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters and has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work! (6)
By associating the experience of the pandemic with St Joseph, the Holy Father puts in focus the role of the Church in these challenging times.
As God cared for Joseph, so did Joseph care for Jesus. And so, too, the Church is called to care for those who have suffered greatly through the fallout of COVID-19, not the least of which is the loss of jobs. Following the example of St Joseph, we need to build a culture of care.
December 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church. This title puts the whole Church under the paternal protection of St Joseph. It also means that each Catholic is under his protection and is invited to build a filial relationship with him.
Pope Francis’ reminder: After Mary, the Mother of God, no saint is mentioned more frequently in the papal magisterium than Joseph, her spouse. My predecessors reflected on the message contained in the limited information handed down by the gospels in order to appreciate more fully his central role in the history of salvation. Blessed Pius IX declared him “Patron of the Catholic Church”, Venerable Pius XII proposed him as “Patron of Workers” and Saint John Paul II as “Guardian of the Redeemer”. St Joseph is universally invoked as the “patron of a happy death” (PC, Introduction).
From obscurity in the gospel, St Joseph has emerged to prominence in the Church over the last 150 years. This is very important as it signals a movement to reconsider the vital importance of fatherhood in Church and in society.
As the book of Genesis says: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). The complementarity of male and female is vital if we are to have the equilibrium of a just society.
Pope Francis says: “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. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
In our contemporary Church and society, where we witness the disappearance of men and the emergence of gifted women, we can turn to St Joseph as a model for manhood and a role model for fathers. In his text, Pope Francis gave seven titles to St Joseph.
St John Chrysostom has said that St Joseph placed himself “at the service of the entire plan of salvation”. This generosity of heart is the model for every man and father. We are called to serve those under our care and those who are most in need.
By making his life “a sacrificial service to the mystery of the incarnation and its redemptive purpose”, Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood.
Paul VI says, “He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work. He turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home” (March 19, 1966).
A beloved father is a father who serves. Men, this is our call.
The other titles—’tender and loving father’, ‘obedient father’, ‘accepting father’, ‘creatively courageous father’, ‘working father’, ‘father in the shadows’—also call us to deep inner conversion. Each one invites us to explore that dimension of fatherhood and to ask St Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, to pray for us.
We are facing a crisis of masculinity. We have accepted models of masculinity that are self-referential and self-serving. Turning fatherhood in on itself has caused great harm to the family, the spouse, and the children. It is against the very nature of masculinity.
Men produce life outside of themselves, this appreciation is essential for models of masculinity that are fruitful and generative. Under the protection of St Joseph, we are called to become a different type of father, a different type of man.
During this special year, let us all ask St Joseph to intercede for our men, our priests, our sons, and our fathers. I pray for a generation of men who will be fathers after the heart of God.
St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, is a model and guide for all fathers. During this year, let us ask his intercession for all fathers—all men—that through the invitation of the Son we may be fathers like St Joseph.
Prayerfully read Pope Francis’s apostolic letter With a Father’s Heart. Allow the meditation to invite you to become the man that God is calling you to become. Women pray for us during this year that we may hear and understand God’s call to be fathers after the heart of God.