On Dec. 8 of last year, Pope Francis declared a “Year of St. Joseph” to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being named patron of the Universal Church.  The year began that day and will end this year on Dec. 8.

In his Apostolic Letter entitled “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis describes St. Joseph “as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.”  Love and devotion to St. Joseph are particularly close to us here in the Diocese of Burlington as our cathedral is named for him and places us under his protection.

There is much to consider and ponder concerning St. Joseph and his importance to the Church. Much will be offered for our devotion to him during this patronal year. In this moment, I would offer some thoughts that draw upon a homily of St. Paul VI “On the Holy Family” that he preached on Jan. 5, 1964. In his homily St. Paul VI spoke of Nazareth as “a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand His Gospel.”  In describing what we can learn from the hidden years of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Nazareth he raises up three simple aspects of the Holy Family which can also be applied to St. Joseph himself.

First, we can learn from St. Joseph’s silence. “Beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times, the silence of St. Joseph should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom.” St. Joseph can teach us the value “of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life and of silent prayer that is known only to God.”

Second, from St. Joseph we can learn about family life. He can serve “as a model of what the family should be” — a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children – and for this there is no substitute.

Finally, in St. Joseph we have a craftsman who teaches us about “work and the discipline it entails.” He reminds us that while “work has its own dignity … it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.”

In closing, this initial reflection on St. Joseph is, I hope, the first of many that I will share with you.

St. Joseph, patron of the Church, pray for us.

—Originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.