Why does the Church have years dedicated to specific topics?
The Church observes the passage of time through the liturgical calendar—which includes feasts such as Easter and Christmas, and seasons such as Lent and Advent. In addition, however, popes can set aside time for the Church to reflect more deeply on a specific aspect of Catholic teaching or belief. Past years designated by recent popes include a Year of Faith, Year of the Eucharist, and Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Why did the Pope declare a year of St Joseph?
In making his declaration, Pope Francis noted that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the saint’s proclamation as patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1870.
Pope Francis said the coronavirus pandemic has heightened his desire to reflect on St Joseph, as so many people during the pandemic have made hidden sacrifices to protect others, just as St Joseph quietly protected and cared for Mary and Jesus.
“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,” the Pope wrote.
He also said he wanted to highlight St Joseph’s role as a father who served his family with charity and humility, adding, “Our world today needs fathers.”
When does the Year of St Joseph begin and end?
The year began December 8, 2020 and concludes on December 8, 2021.
What special graces are available during this year?
As Catholics pray and reflect on the life of St Joseph throughout the coming year, they also have opportunities to gain a plenary indulgence, or remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. An indulgence can be applied to oneself or to a soul in Purgatory.
An indulgence requires a specific act, defined by the Church, as well as sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, prayer for the pope’s intentions, and full detachment from sin.
Special indulgences during the Year of St Joseph can be received through more than a dozen different prayers and actions, including praying for the unemployed, entrusting one’s daily work to St Joseph, performing a corporal or spiritual work of mercy, or meditating for at least 30 minutes on the Lord’s Prayer.
Why does the Church honour St Joseph?
Catholics do not worship saints but ask for their heavenly intercession before God and seek to imitate their virtues here on earth. The Catholic Church honours St Joseph as the foster father of Jesus. He is invoked as the patron saint of the Universal Church. He is also the patron of workers, father, and a happy death.
Church grants plenary indulgence for year of St Joseph
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:
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 “19 March, on 1 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 recognised 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.
Prayer to St Joseph
To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our afflictions, and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also.
Through that charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.
O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be kind to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness.
As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.