In Blessed Pope Pius IX through his Decree Quemadmodum Deus, published on December 8th, 1870 proclaimed St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church. The Latin word ‘Quemadmodum’ can be loosely translated as: ‘as, just as, to the extent that, in what way, how’. This rich word explains to us the Fatherhood of Joseph just like that of God the Father, Deus meaning God.
In commemoration of this solemn declaration, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”) has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from 8th December to 8th December 2021 (the day being the Feast of Immaculate Conception). Now, we clearly see a correlation between the two writings of the Popes, explaining to us that St. Joseph shares that Fatherhood of God; St. Joseph is a manifestation of God’s own Fatherhood. Just as he was the foster-father of Christ Jesus here on earth, he continues to be an exemplary father to the Church and to each one of us.
In his Apostolic Letter, Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows. The first two paragraphs of the letter bring out clearly the theme of the proclamation. We know that Joseph was a lowly carpenter, betrothed to Mary. He was a “just man”, ever ready to carry out God’s will as revealed to him in the Law and through four dreams.
After a long and tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, he beheld the birth of the Messiah in a stable, since “there was no place for them” elsewhere. He witnessed the adoration of the shepherds and the Magi, who represented respectively the people of Israel and the pagan peoples.Joseph had the courage to become the legal father of Jesus, to whom he gave the name revealed by the angel: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) As we know, for ancient peoples, to give a name to a person or a thing, as Adam did in the account in the Book of Genesis, was to establish a relationship.
The Holy Father wrote ‘Patris corde’ against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which, he says, has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day. In this, they resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
Pope Francis Quoting his predecessor St. Pope Paul VI writes, “A beloved, tender, obedient father Saint Joseph, in fact, “concretely expressed his fatherhood” by making an offering of himself in love “a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home…”
St. Joseph remains a perennial source of example and model for sanctity to the church, faithful Christians and in a special way to the fathers of Christian families. Highlighting Joseph’s virtues, the Pontiff writes, “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.”
Holy Father reminds his flock that Joseph is venerated as the Father as the salvation history unfolds in the New Testament. He writes, “In him, “Jesus saw the tender love of God,” the one that helps us accept our weakness, because “it is through” and despite “our fears, our frailties, and our weakness” that most divine designs are realized. “Only tender love will save us from the snares of the accuser,” emphasizes the Pontiff, and it is by encountering God’s mercy especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we “experience His truth and tenderness,” – because “we know that God’s truth does not condemn us, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us” (# 2).
In venerating St. Joseph, we cannot forget his deep spousal love and relationship with his betrothed Mary, Mother of his foster son Jesus. Holy Father writes, “Joseph is also a father in obedience to God: with his ‘fiat’ he protects Mary and Jesus and teaches his Son to “do the will of the Father.” Called by God to serve the mission of Jesus, he “cooperated… in the great mystery of Redemption,” as St John Paul II said, “and is truly a minister of salvation” (# 3). In the world today, all our thoughts and preoccupations are centred around Coronavirus epidemic.
Universally, we are affected by this great viral infection by which we have already lost hundreds and thousands of people and all aspects of our normal life has been disrupted. Through his proclamation of this Year of St. Joseph, the Holy Father wants to encourage us in our faith. He intends to make this coming year a year of grace and consolation.
“In the current context of the health emergency, the gift of the plenary indulgence is particularly extended to the elderly, the sick, those close to death and all those who for legitimate reasons find it impossible to leave their homes,” the decree states, suggesting such persons can obtain the indulgence by having an intention to fulfil the requirements “as soon as it is possible.”
May we take this great opportunity to receive plenary indulgence during this year of St. Joseph and in a special way get physical, emotional and spiritual strength during this period of Coronavirus epidemic.
By Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB
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