Q: Archbishop J, what is the special grace of March 19?
The special grace that I pray for during this time of St Joseph is to call men back to God. We have had a wonderful opportunity—thousands of men have been participating in the 33-day challenge. There is an excitement and enthusiasm in the air. God is doing something amongst our men.
We reflected on attributes of St Joseph for 33 days. Each day we heard another attribute of the saint. Each attribute of the saint opens a way for us to see ourselves, in our poverty and shame. How far we are from the ideal, from the saint!
For me, the morning reflection opened a way of seeing my need to grow. It elicited in me a desire to move just one step further in my journey to Christ. When I am attentive, I know that I cannot do this, cannot, on my own, bring about the growth that is being called forth from me.
The gap between St Joseph, the ideal, and me simply grows. To be honest, I understand St Paul when he says: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Rom 7: 24).
St Paul speaking to the Corinthians names reconciliation as the core of Christian ministry. He says: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20–21).
This special grace of the Church’s year of St Joseph is for our salvation. It is for us a special gift that opens the way to reconciliation with God. St Paul says, “you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13). I pray that many people may experience the grace of conversion of heart and receive the grace of Christ calling us to Him.
Renewal of manhood
Caribbean manhood has been in a very challenging place for a long while. Every man who returns to God and finds their vocation and lives it with generosity of heart contributes to the life of the Church.
When we look at the rise of domestic violence, the infidelity, irresponsible fathers, use of pornography, sexual crimes etc., we know we have gone far from what God has asked of us as men. I pray for the grace of the renewal of saintly masculinity, for us men to see the clear path to becoming men of God. St Joseph is certainly a great guide here.
The truth is, we need every help we can possibly get. Popular culture, including television and the movie industry, are all stacked against God’s plan for healthy saintly men. To live this in our time will require a serious grace from God and the Church. Do not allow this time to be in vain.
To give us courage and hope, the Church gives us plenary indulgences. We need to see them in line with the Church’s ministry of reconciliation. They are not magic, requiring that we do the right formula, the right actions and by the right person and, presto, the magic happens.
They present an opportunity to go deep and ask for mercy in the most profound way. Seek the conversion of heart that has always eluded you. Beg God for the grace to listen to your vocation and to live it fully. Face the stubborn sins that do not yield easily to God and stay there asking God for the grace of conversion of heart.
In this context, the plenary indulgence makes sense. It is the complete remission of sin. The wiping of the slate free. You know in your computer you delete something and a few days later it is still in your trash bin. A plenary indulgence is both the delete and the wiping of the trash bin clean. No trace of the document can be found—It is wiped from all records or memory.
The Church gives us this aid, as a ministry of hope, to assist us in our journey to Christ; to give us courage along the way and the help necessary to know—to really know—that God’s grace is always sufficient.
Remember St Paul to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8–9).
A plenary indulgence is a gift of the Church to give us encouragement and hope, that through God’s infinite mercy we could be saved through grace. This is why there are conditions.
It is required that those seeking the indulgence (1) go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and make a firm amendment of purpose to move away from their sins; (2) receive the Eucharist; and (3) pray for the Holy Father. These three could be done within seven days of the feast. We need to make every effort to do this.
If you have a loved one who has died, you could ask St Joseph to intercede for the sake of your loved one, as you fulfil these conditions. The keys of Peter guarantee that your loved one will receive full pardon for any earthly or heavenly penalty of sin. Your part is to do the deep interior work of conversion of heart.
It is my desire that through the celebration of this feast of St Joseph, the 30th anniversary of my priesthood, God will give us a boon of saintly masculinity in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. I pray that men will be called back to Christ in deep and profound ways.
God has offered us an opportunity of grace to return to Him. Use this season of grace wisely.
Within seven days of the feast of St Joseph, make a firm amendment to live for Christ, ask God pardon for all your sins and make a true and humble confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father and receive communion.
2 Cor 5:16–6:2