Dear Friends in Christ:
Today is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Each year I see this Feast as an opportunity to think about what baptism means in our lives, and specifically how am I living out my own baptism. Today we celebrate the moment when Jesus went down to the Jordan River and asked John the Baptist to baptize Him. The One who did not need to be saved from sin, identified as God’s beloved Son, chose to be baptized, as He says to John, “to fulfill all righteousness.” In being baptized, Jesus demonstrates His commitment to the Father’s Will. In response, God revealed through the voice from heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit that this was the Messiah, the Anointed One, His beloved Son with whom He is well pleased.
From the moment of His baptism, Jesus is sent to perform His ministry of preaching the Kingdom of God. We begin what is often referred to as His public ministry. If you think about it, our baptism was a public beginning as well. We were brought to the church by our families, our life in Christ was begun, and we began to live as sons and daughters of God seeking to bring His light and His love into the lives of others.
I ask this EVERY YEAR…Do you actually know the date and place of your baptism? I think it is safe to say only a handful of us have that information in our heads. Sadly we do not celebrate our baptism date as we do our birthday date and, yet, it is the day we became a son or daughter of God and received the promise of eternal union with God! Given all that this date means in terms of our eternal life and status as (adopted) children of God, wouldn’t we want to celebrate it with great joy?
So, if you do not know your date of baptism, I encourage you to find it out, and to celebrate it with great joy for it marks the anniversary of your becoming a child of God.
Did you know Pope Francis proclaimed a “Year of St Joseph?” With all that was going on in December it may be that, we missed this announcement. Back on December 8, 2020, in his Apostolic Letter “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis recalled the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark this significant occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from December 8, 2020, to December 8, 2021.
Some of the terminology that Pope Francis used in this Apostolic Letter to describe Saint Joseph caught my attention, such as, a beloved father, tender and loving, obedient, and courageous.
The Holy Father wrote this Apostolic Letter amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which, he says, has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people in a time when we have come to experience that “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked.” People who do not look for the limelight, who exercise patience and who offer hope to others every day. In this, they resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
In Joseph, “Jesus saw the tender love of God.” He also teaches each of us the importance of obedience to God’s will. Pope Francis writes, “Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.”
Isn’t that something we all need to learn! Joseph did not always understand what was happening, but he was obedient to God. He put his faith in what God said to him through the angel. Despite the understandable fear and anxiety the situation might have given him, he was obedient to the Father’s Will. With his ‘fiat’ he protects Mary and Jesus and teaches his Son to “do the will of the Father.”
Joseph’s spiritual path “is not one that explains, but accepts.” Full of hope and with the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in him, Joseph is able “to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.” He teaches us that faith in God and His love for us enables us to face the moments of life with confidence. Joseph did not look for shortcuts to turn away from what life threw at him, rather, he confronted reality with open eyes. As the Pope wrote, “Just as God told Joseph: “Son of David, do not be afraid!,”, so he seems to tell us: “Do not be afraid!” We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage.”
The true gift of self…Happiness for Joseph involved a true gift of self: “In him, we never see frustration, but only trust,” writes Pope Francis. “His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust.” Joseph stands out, therefore, as an exemplary figure for our time, in a world that “needs fathers,” and not “tyrants”; a society that “rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction.”
In this challenging time of COVID-19, we can turn to St. Joseph with great hope:
· We can turn to him as protector from harm, even as he protected Mary and the child Jesus from Herod’s wrath;
· St. Joseph was worker and provider for the Holy Family, so to him we can entrust ourselves and our nation in the face of unprecedented unemployment and economic distress;
· As model husband and father, we turn to St. Joseph at a time when good examples of both are so desperately needed. We can ask him to help strengthen our families – as well as the bonds of our “parish family” – at a time when these can be fragile.
· As patron of the dying, we can invoke the intercession of St. Joseph on all who are in their last moments of life, including the elderly and others with terminal disease.
More reflections to come in the year ahead on Saint Joseph and his role in our lives. The Pastoral Staff is now contemplating events and programs that will help us to understand better the role Saint Joseph plays in our own lives. Stay tuned…for now we encourage you to pray a daily prayer to St Joseph as Pope Francis ended his letter with:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.
There are available to us all Plenary Indulgences for the Year of St. Joseph…All this year until Dec. 8, 2021, the decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary, which is in charge of indulgences, has established that the faithful “following his example can daily strengthen their life of faith in the full fulfillment of God's will.” They will have “the opportunity to commit themselves, with prayers 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 today afflict the contemporary world.”
We can gain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions — sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father, “with a soul detached from any sin” if we participate in the Year of St. Joseph in several specific ways that the Apostolic Penitentiary has established for us to gain the plenary indulgence.
· 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 1 May 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.”
In Light of Health Crisis
The Apostolic Penitentiary has also taken into account the worldwide situation regarding the health crisis. The office stated the “gift of the plenary indulgence is particularly extended to the elderly, the sick, the dying and all those who for legitimate reasons are unable to leave the house, who with a soul detached from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling, as soon as possible, the three usual conditions, in their own home or where the impediment holds them, they will recite an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, trust in God the pains and discomforts of their life.”
DRIVE-THRU HOLY COMMUNION will be offered to our Virtual Family, once again, NEXT SUNDAY, January 17th from 1:30-2:30PM. We are pleased to be offering another opportunity for our parishioners who have yet to return to “in-person” Mass to come by and receive Holy Communion without even leaving your car!
These opportunities have been so well received and we know that many long to be able to receive Holy Communion so we are doing our best to offer it at least once a month.
It is as safe as we can possibly make it. You don’t even need to leave the car! Enter the Church Campus from the Main Street entrance and follow the signs around the Church. These signs will guide you through some preparation prayers, then to a station where Father Federico and I will be there one on each side of the car. Roll down the windows and receive the Holy Eucharist. Please be sure to consume Holy Communion before pulling away from us…then pull forward to do your prayer of thanksgiving and be on your way.
As always, please remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world. As we end the Christmas Season today with this Baptism of the Lord, once again, I wish to say Merry Christmas! Stay safe!!!