POPE Francis has proclaimed 2021 will be the “Year of St Joseph”.
The announcement came on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which marked 150 years since Pope Pius IX declared St Joseph the patron of the universal Church.
In an apostolic letter, “Patris Corde” (“With a father’s heart”), Pope Francis said Christians could discover in St Joseph, who often went unnoticed, “an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble”.
“St Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation,” he said.
“A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
The letter explains that while little is written about St Joseph by the evangelists, much could be deduced.
“The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus,” Pope Francis said in Patris Corde.
“In this way, he placed himself, in the words of St John Chrysostom, “at the service of the entire plan of salvation”.”
The letter lays out the many qualities of St Joseph’s fatherhood – “a father in the shadows”; “a working father”; “a creatively courageous father”; “an accepting father”; “an obedient father”; “a tender loving father”; and, “a beloved father”.
“In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a ‘sign’ pointing to a greater fatherhood,” Pope Francis said.
“In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45).
“And a shadow that follows his Son.”
Pope Francis said the aim of his letter was to “increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal”.
The Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal that deals with matters of conscience, also issued a decree on December 8, which said plenary indulgences would be granted to Catholics not only through prayer and penance, but also through acts of justice, charity and piety dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.
Among the conditions for receiving an indulgence are a spirit detached from sin, receiving sacramental confession as soon as possible, receiving Communion as soon as possible and praying for the Holy Father’s intentions.
However, the decree also highlighted several ways to obtain the indulgence throughout the year, including to those who “meditate on the prayer of the ‘Our Father’ for at least 30 minutes or take part in a spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St Joseph”.
As a “just man,” the document continued, who guarded “the intimate secret that lies at the bottom of the heart and soul,” St Joseph practiced the virtue of justice in “full adherence to the divine law, which is the law of mercy.”
“Therefore, those who, following the example of St Joseph, will perform a corporal or spiritual work of mercy, will also be able to obtain the gift of the plenary indulgence,” the decree said.
Indulgences would also be granted to families and engaged couples who recite the rosary together and thus imitate the “same climate of communion, love and prayer lived in the Holy Family”.
Other acts of devotion included entrusting one’s daily activities and prayers for dignified employment to St Joseph, reciting the litany or any “legitimately approved” prayer to St Joseph.
During this time of pandemic, the Apostolic Penitentiary also decreed that special indulgences would be granted to the elderly, the sick and all those who “for legitimate reasons are prevented from leaving their home” by “reciting an act of piety in honour of St Joseph and committed to fulfilling the conditions as soon as possible”.