October 1, 2021

Pastoral Ministry / Brie Anne Varick

Like St. Joseph, we are called to protect the most vulnerable

Brie Anne VarickWe are in the midst of the “Year of St. Joseph,” which Pope Francis declared from Dec. 8, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021.

With this guidance from our Holy Father, the Respect Life theme for the 2021-2022 year is “St. Joseph, Defender of Life.”

Pope Francis shares reflections on St. Joseph in his apostolic letter “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”). Our Holy Father shares seven characteristics that are found in this powerful saint: a beloved father; a tender and loving father; an obedient father; an accepting father; a creatively courageous father; a working father; and a father in the shadows.

When I reflect on these seven characteristics in light of the ministries of the archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity and this year’s Respect Life theme, the one I am drawn to is “a creatively courageous father.”

It is a mystery that God chooses to act through people to bring about his will. We can see this clearly in the way God brings about salvation through the Holy Family.

Pope Francis says that “Joseph was the true ‘miracle’ by which God saved the child and his mother. God acted by trusting in Joseph’s creative courage.”

Even though there were difficulty and challenges, Joseph creatively worked out solutions to the many different obstacles put in front of him. He always strived first and foremost to carry out God’s will of protecting and providing for Jesus and Mary. Pope Francis challenges us to reflect on “whether we ourselves are protecting Jesus and Mary, for they are also mysteriously entrusted to our own responsibility, care and safekeeping.”

How can we protect Jesus and Mary? Jesus and Mary come to us in the vulnerable we serve. We see them especially in the unborn child, the mother needing resources to care for her child and the support to choose life, and the sick and dying needing comfort and care at the end of life.

Like St. Joseph, God has placed his trust in us. Our heavenly Father works through our gifts, our creativity, our passions and our courage. Like St. Joseph, we can be a “true miracle” to the vulnerable around us if we just say “yes” and let God work through us to carry out his will.

Let us always go to St. Joseph, who said “yes” to God in the face of uncertainty and difficulty. Let us pray for the creative courage of Joseph that we may always be willing to protect and love the vulnerable. It is in them that we are loving and protecting the “child and his mother.”

Prayer to St. Joseph – Defender of Life

Dearest St. Joseph
at the word of an angel,
you lovingly took Mary into your home.
As God’s humble servant, you guided
the Holy Family on the road to Bethlehem,
welcomed Jesus as your own son
in the shelter of a manger,
and fled far from your homeland
for the safety of both Mother and Child.
We praise God that as their faithful protector,
you never hesitated to sacrifice
for those entrusted to you.
May your example inspire us also
to welcome, cherish and safeguard
God’s most precious gift of life.
Help us to faithfully commit ourselves
to the service and defense of human life
—especially where it is vulnerable or threatened.
Obtain for us the grace
to do the will of God in all things.


(Brie Anne Varick is director of the archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity. For information and resources on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ respect life program, go to www.respectlife.org. To read the apostolic letter “Patris Corde,”go to cutt.ly/PatrisCorde.)

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