• Account of Year of St. Joseph
• Road to indulgence
By Rev. Fr. Michael Odubela, OSJ, Rome
The proclamation of a “Year of St. Joseph” was the icing on the cake on the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception this year. A wind had blown a day before the feast that such a feat might take place the following day, so I was curious to hear the proclamation directly from the “horse’s mouth” but that never happened. I returned from my 11a.m Mass at the actual timing of 12pm to pray the Angelus with the Holy Father and to listen to the greetings and information that usually follow full of expectation. When the Angelus and greetings had finished without a single reference to St. Joseph, I felt immediately like one who had just received an upper cut and wondered if the sound of the wind was anything to hold on to in the first place. As I left miserably from the TV room I met the Secretary of the General Council, and like the bereaved Mary of Bethany who expressed disappointment at the late coming of the Lord, I said “non ha detto niente” (meaning, he said nothing). He immediately said: “yes, he said nothing at the Angelus but there is already a publication issued” at the very time of the Angelus.
He showed me on his phone and like the Disciples of Emmaus I went in a hurry to the Mass of the closure of the year of St. Joseph, already programmed months before, being celebrated along with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, to hear the announcement made directly from the mouth of the Superior General presiding over the Mass and awaiting confirmation from his secretary. I waited, and at the hour the news was broken a thunderous applause filled the Church of St. Joseph, and what was initially thought was going to be a Mass of conclusion of the already lived year of St. Joseph in the Congregation now became a Gaudete experience, signaling a mid way journey, since a new year is a journey of another cycle of the liturgical calendar, a “kairos” experience for all devotees of St. Joseph and the Universal Church that honour St. Joseph as Patron. Indeed, for us “the Lord has added another” (Joseph) year and we rejoice and are glad. The idea of a year of St. Joseph was birthed at the last General Chapter of the Oblates of St. Joseph, in August 2018.
The idea to organize a year of St. Joseph followed the announcement by the out-going Superior General that the year 2020 will mark the 150 years of the proclamation of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church. The Chapter members agreed to dedicate a year to St. Joseph, to be lived throughout the Congregation. They also agreed to make a formal request to the Holy Father to consider a similar declaration for the Universal Church. The appeal was made to the Holy Father when the Chapter members visited him on the last but one day of the Chapter’s conclusion, presenting in a formal way the request of the Chapter members. With this initiative, several other devotees of St. Joseph, Congregations with name and spirit uality of St. Joseph and Conferences of Bishops and individual Bishops, among others, with whom we have shared our resolution, also expressed in writing the appeal to the Holy Father. The Holy Father, having considered positively, the appeal of these persons, institutions and bodies and coupled with his personal love and devotion to St. Joseph, issued a decree inaugurating a special year dedicated to St. Joseph, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius IX via a document Quemadmodum Deus in 1870.
The decree states that the year will run from Dec. 8, 2020, day of proclamation, until Dec. 8, 2021. The proclamation was also accompanied by an Encyclical Letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), hailing St. Joseph as a model of fatherhood and a key intercessor for the Church and the world. With the Encyclical Letter is also a Decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary granting indulgences that will last the course of the year of the anniversary and attached to devotions carried out in honour of the Patron of the Universal Church. The Decree, signed by the head of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, is “to perpetuate the entrustment of the whole Church to the powerful patronage of the Custodian of Jesus.” During the period, the faithful will have the opportunity to commit themselves “with prayer and good works, to obtain, with the help of St. Joseph, head of the heavenly Family of Nazareth, comfort and relief from the serious human and social tribulations that besiege the contemporary world today.” It would also be an opportunity for the faithful to follow St. Joseph’s example and “daily strengthen their life of faith in full fulfillment of God’s will.” The Decree outlined several instances in which the faithful will be able to obtain a plenary indulgence, provided they meet the required conditions stated below.
Conditions for the plenary indulgence
The plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the Pope’s intentions) to Christians who, with a spirit detached from any sin, participate in the Year of St. Joseph on these occasions and manners indicated by the Apostolic Penitentiary: – The plenary indulgence is granted to those who will meditate for at least 30 minutes on the Lord’s Prayer, or take part in a Spiritual Retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph. “St. Joseph, an authentic man of faith, invites us”, the decree reads, “to rediscover our filial relationship with the Father, to renew fidelity to prayer, to listen and correspond with profound discernment to God’s will.” – The indulgence can also be obtained by those who, following St. Joseph’s example, will perform a spiritual or corporal work of mercy. St. Joseph “encourages us to rediscover the value of silence, prudence and loyalty in carrying out our duties,” the decree notes. – The recitation of the Holy Rosary in families and among engaged couples is another way of obtaining indulgences, in order that “all Christian families may be stimulated to recreate the same atmosphere of intimate communion, love and prayer that was in the Holy Family.” – Everyone who entrusts their daily activity to the protection of St. Joseph, and every faithful who invokes the intercession of St. Joseph so that those seeking work can find dignifying work can also obtain the plenary indulgence.
On May 1, 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph “with the intent that the dignity of work be recognized by all, and that it inspires social life and laws, based on the fair distribution of rights and duties.” – The plenary indulgence is also granted to the faithful who will recite the Litany to St. Joseph (for the Latin tradition), or the Akathistos to St. Joseph (for the Byzantine tradition), or any other prayer to St. Joseph proper to the other liturgical traditions, for the persecuted Church ad intra and ad extra, and for the relief of all Christians suffering all forms of persecution. Because, the decree notes, “the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt shows us that God is there where man is in danger, where man suffers, where he runs away, where he experiences rejection and abandonment.”
A universal saint
In addition to these, the Apostolic Penitentiary grants a plenary indulgence to the faithful who will recite any legitimately approved prayer or act of piety in honour of St. Joseph, for example, “To you, O blessed Joseph” especially on “19th March, on 1st May, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, on St. Joseph’s Sunday (according to the Byzantine tradition) on the 19th of each month and every Wednesday, a day dedicated to the memory of the saint according to the Latin tradition.” The decree recalls the universality of St. Joseph’s patronage of the Church, noting that St. Teresa of Ávila recognized him as “a protector for all the circumstances of life”. Pope St. John Paul II also said that St. Joseph has “a renewed relevance for the Church of our time, in relation to the new Christian millennium.”
For the sick
Amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis, the gift of the plenary indulgence is also extended to the sick, the elderly, the dying and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave their homes. They too can obtain the plenary indulgences if they are detached from any sin and have the intention of fulfilling, as soon as possible, the three usual conditions and recite an act of piety in honour of St. Joseph, offering to God the pains and hardships of their lives.
The role of Priests
The Apostolic Penitentiary encourages priests to pastorally facilitate the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and the administration of Holy Communion to the sick with a willing and generous spirit. The Oblates of St. Joseph and all devotees, Sons and Daughters of St. Joseph, are particularly grateful to the Holy Father for this opportunity to make St. Joseph better Known, Loved and Imitated. Our mission is to “Serve the interest of Jesus in imitation of St. Joseph” and we pray that in this unique year of St. Joseph, graces may be made abundant for us all. Amen! Remember to “Go to Joseph” for all your needs. He knows how to touch the heart of Jesus his Son. • By Rev. Fr. Michael Odubela, OSJ, Oblates of St. Joseph General House, Rome