Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA
Pope Francis on Tuesday when the Church marked the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, issued a decree announcing a special year dedicated to St. Joseph the spouse of the Virgin Mary and foster Father of Jesus Christ.
The year-long celebration that begins December 8, 2020 and concludes December 8, 2021 coincides with the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph’s declaration as patron of the Catholic Church, an announcement made on December 8, 1870, by Pope Pius IX when he issued the decree “Quemadmodum Deus.”
In the Tuesday document signed by the leadership of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza and the Regent, Msgr. Christopher Nykiel, the special year is to help the Christian faithful “strengthen their way of life and faith in following St. Joseph’s examples.”
Through St. Joseph, the decree reads in part, “all the faithful have the opportunity to commit themselves through prayer and good works to obtain comfort and relief from the severe human suffering being experienced in our world today.”
The decree has further disclosed that the Pontiff has granted indulgence to the faithful to mark the year of St. Joseph.
“The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful under the usual conditions which include the Sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff,” reads the Tuesday decree.
Additionally, the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary states, “Plenary indulgence will be available to those who meditate the prayer of our Father for at least half an hour or join in spiritual retreat of at least one day which includes the mediation of Saint Joseph,” and to those “who perform a corporal or spiritual works of mercy.”
Besides, the plenary Indulgence will also be granted to “families who recite the rosary together,” to “those who entrust their daily work to St. Joseph and ask him to intercede for the unemployed,” and to the faithful who recite “any legitimately approved prayer or act of piety in honor of St. Joseph,” with an encouragement to do so on the feasts of St. Joseph (March 19 and May 1), the Feast of the Holy Family, the Byzantine celebration of St. Joseph’s Sunday, and on the 19th of every month and on every Wednesday, which has been dedicated to St. Joseph in the Latin rite.
“The elderly, the sick, the dying and those legitimately unable to leave the house, who recite an act of piety to St. Joseph under his title of Comfort of the Sick and Patron of a happy death, provided they offer their discomfort to God and fulfill the conditions for the indulgence “as soon as possible” will also receive the special indulgence according to the document.
In addition to the decree, the Pope also issued an Apostolic Letter on Tuesday, December 8, reflecting on the qualities of Saint Joseph, describing him as a “a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father and a working father” among other traits.
According to Pope Francis, “Fathers are not born but made,” and that “a man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.”
He highlights further that, “children today often seem orphans, lacking fathers. The Church too needs fathers.”
“Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities,” the Pope underscores.
Pope Francis emphasized that the aim of the Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for Saint Joseph, and to encourage all people to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.