Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy in the Office of Formation for Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Toronto.
On December 8, 2020, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, issued an apostolic letter, Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church. In the letter, Pope Francis offers his “personal reflections” on St. Joseph. Pope Francis reflects on how, especially now during the pandemic, we see that people who often go unnoticed in their life and work are actually “praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all.”
“St. Joseph,” the Holy Father remarks, “reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
The majority of the letter consists of the Pope reflecting on the various aspects of the fatherhood of St. Joseph. Each paragraph of the letter could provide some wonderful readings for personal or group reflection.
Also on December 8, it was decreed that the faithful would have the ability to obtain a plenary indulgence. One of the conditions listed is that the faithful participate in the Year of St. Joseph on those occasions and manners indicated by the apostolic penitentiary (you can find more information on those occasions and manners here).
One of the ways to be granted the indulgence is to recite any legitimately approved prayer or act of piety in honour of St. Joseph on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Feast of the Holy Family falls on the Sunday after Christmas, this year that is Sunday, December 27, 2020. On that feast day, we often reflect on the role and importance of the family, but this year, in a special way, we are given the chance to contemplate the role and importance of St. Joseph and to ask for his intercession.
St. Joseph’s intercession is often sought for workers, those without work, refugees, migrants, the sick and the dying. In other words, we look to St. Joseph as someone who intercedes for those who often go unnoticed in our world but who nevertheless play an important role in the history of salvation – much like St. Joseph himself.
During this time of uncertainty, of heartache, of hardship and of struggle for many, we are given the great gift of St. Joseph and his prayers are a reminder that even those who struggle while hidden away from our view are important.
As we pray to St. Joseph and implore his protection and guidance, we can remember in some practical ways those with whom St. Joseph has a special care:
Pope Francis ends his apostolic letter with a prayer to St. Joseph. On the Feast of the Holy Family and throughout the Year of St. Joseph, perhaps we can all make this prayer part of our prayer life:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.