December 10, 2021

Editorial

Lessons of ‘Year of St. Joseph’ include trusting in God’s plan

It came as a surprise to many when Pope Francis last year declared Dec. 8, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021, as a time to mark the “Year of St. Joseph.”

The pope’s apostolic letter that announced the year, titled “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”) marked the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church. To celebrate the anniversary, Pope Francis proclaimed the special year “to “encourage us to implore [Joseph’s] intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.”

We learned much about the Blessed Mother’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father during the celebration, which was providential for people of faith because St. Joseph was a man who never spoke a word in Scripture.

During his weekly audiences in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, Pope Francis featured a series of talks on St. Joseph. His most recent reflection spoke about his role as a just man and husband of Mary, and what he can teach all engaged couples and newlyweds.

St. Joseph, the pope said, teaches people to learn to take life as it comes and to accept what God has in mind.

Speaking about how Joseph reacted to Mary being pregnant while they were still engaged, the pope explained why St. Joseph “gives us an important lesson: He chooses Mary with ‘his eyes open,’ ” and “with all the risks” that came with it.

“They had probably cultivated dreams and expectations regarding their life and their future,” the pope said during his weekly general audience on Dec. 1. But then, “out of the blue, God seems to have inserted himself into their lives and, even if at first it was difficult for them, both of them opened their hearts wide to the reality that was placed before them.”

For many of us, opening our hearts wide to God’s will is not easy. After all, it should always be about me, shouldn’t it? That way of thinking is among the constant sentiments fed by our secular culture to us. These days, we are inundated by messages on television and umpteen forms of social media, telling us to put ourselves first and not worry about others. Faith is for the weak-minded, some tell us. And speaking of religion, keep it inside your place of worship and out of the public square, others warn us.

But a steadfast faith is at the heart of many people’s witness—past and present—St. Joseph included.

He was pious and subject to observing the religious laws of the time, the pope said, which called for stoning a woman accused of adultery or—with later interpretations—a formal repudiation that had civil and criminal consequences for the woman, the pope said. But Joseph’s “love for Mary and his trust in her suggested a way he could remain in observance of the law and save the honor of his bride. He decided to repudiate her in secret, without making noise, without subjecting her to public humiliation.”

“How holy Joseph was,” the Holy Father continued. In contrast, “we, as soon as we have a bit of gossip, something scandalous about someone else, we go around talking about it right away!”

We are called, Pope Francis reminds us, “to cultivate a just life and, at the same time, to always feel the need for God’s help to broaden our horizons and to consider the circumstances of life from an always different, larger perspective,” the pope said.

Christian couples who are engaged are called to witness to a kind of love that “has the courage to move from the logic of falling in love to that of mature love,” the pope said. Mature love, he noted, moves from infatuation and imagination to taking “responsibility for one’s life as it comes.”

It is demanding, but it will strengthen their love “so that it endures when faced with the trials of time,” the pope added.

A year later, we better understand why Pope Francis declared a special “Year of St. Joseph.”

As the Holy Father showed us, St. Joseph was a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who was creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows, a beloved husband, a disciple who trusted God’s plan, a witness of faith and much more.

May we have the courage to follow this great saint’s example as we live out our vocations, God willing, on our journey to our heavenly home.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

—Mike Krokos

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