Pope Francis nominated the 12 months from December 8 2020 to December 8 2021 to be the year of St Joseph to mark the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius X naming Joseph the universal patron of the Church.
While marking this anniversary is a worthy reason for having a year dedicated to Jesus’ earthly dad, the COVID pandemic makes for a fitting context. St Joseph was very familiar with upheaval and was nimble in changing his plans to accommodate new circumstances and the unfolding of God’s Will.
In his beautiful document, Patre cordis (with a father’s heart), Pope Francis makes particular note of Joseph’s dreaming. Four dreams in fact: Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife (Matt 1:20), Joseph, flee to Egypt because Herod is coming to murder your newborn (Matt 2:13), Joseph, Herod’s dead go back to Israel (Matt 2:19), No Joseph, not Judea, the guy who came after Herod is a danger too (Matt 2:22).
You could almost forgive Joseph for groaning whenever an angel appeared in his dream: ‘what is it now?’ Just when things looked settled for Joseph, something comes and interrupts his plans.
He had everything nice and ready for Mary to give birth in Nazareth, but no, some far distant Emperor decides to impose a census on everyone and in the scramble, all Joseph can manage is a dirty stable for his miracle baby.
What shows the true courage and holiness of St Joseph is that he is not begrudging in doing God’s Will, he welcomes it.
In his message on World Vocations Day, Pope Francis had this to say about St Joseph’s dreams: “They were calls from God, but they were not easy to accept. After each dream, Joseph had to change his plans and take a risk, sacrificing his own plans in order to follow the mysterious designs of God, whom he trusted completely.” (Pope Francis, Message for 2021 World Day of Vocations).
What was the fruit of this continual ‘yes’ that St Joseph made to God? First, Joseph made one of the greatest contributions to our salvation – he’s called the saviour of the Saviour because he rescued the infant Jesus from death, so that Jesus could rescue us from death. But in saying a continual ‘yes’ to God, Joseph also received something for himself – he received Jesus and Mary.
Like St Joseph, saying our ‘yes’ to God’s plan brings a two-fold gift: we share in God’s plan to save the world and we receive a life of intimacy with our brother Jesus and our mother Mary. Our own plans are usually too small and our dreams too narrow – God dreams big! Will we have the courage to open ourselves to God’s call? Will we have the openness to allow the Lord to interrupt the ordinary course of our lives with a vocation to the priesthood or Religious life?
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