Pope Francis has declared 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph. The declaration was made on December 8, 2020, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and on 150th anniversary since Pope Pius IX, (8 December 1870) declared St Joseph Patron of the Universal Church.
In Apostolic Letter titled Patris corde (With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis termed St. Joseph as a tender and loving father who cared for Jesus and his family. A righteous man who, faithful to the will of God, contributed to our salvation. His life was full of love and simplicity.
This Year of St. Joseph brings into focus the role of parents, especially fathers in caring and protecting the family; not only their biological family but also those around them who need a father.
As Pope Francis notes, “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.”
The situation in Kenya is dire, our society is currently in need of father figures in this period of the pandemic, especially in the wake of the closure of schools that has reportedly led to a high number of teenage pregnancies across the country.
While reopening schools for physical learning, the government has tried to encourage all learners to go back to school, even those who had fallen pregnant during the period when schools were closed. This admittedly is going to be a tall order to follow; unless we as a society support the call with action.
It is at such moments that we need to ask ourselves the question, what would St. Joseph do? It is important to note that the foster father of Jesus was always obedient to the will of God, following instructions without questions, ultimately keeping Mary and the child Jesus away from harm.
Many of these children to be born of teenage mothers, are going to grow up without their biological fathers, and so we are going to need ‘fathers’ to step up and care for both the young mothers and their children.
Fathers, mothers, grandparents, teachers, neighbours, whatever ordinary position you are in, we are all going to have to step forward and emulate St. Joseph, if only to save the lives of the little children, and give the young girls a chance to fully grow up and make something of their lives.
The example of St. Joseph, an ordinary carpenter shows us that indeed it is the ordinary person, you and me, who play an important role in guiding and protecting our families physically, mentally and psychologically. The pandemic has shown us that many times, ordinary people, for example the teachers in schools have been providing a safe environment for children, away from sexual engagements, and abuse.
As Pope Francis notes, each one 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. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.
As we seek to receive the special indulgences granted by the Holy See for the Year of St. Joseph, whenever we make decisions that would affect our families, let us keep asking ourselves the question, what would St. Joseph do?