It’s fitting that with the apostolic letter “Patris corde (With a Father’s Heart),” Pope Francis proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from Dec. 8, 2020, to Dec. 8, 2021.
St. Joseph’s spiritual path, Pope Francis wrote, “accepts” — which does not mean that he is “resigned.” Instead, he is “courageously and firmly proactive,” and full of hope, he is able “to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.”
In practice, Pope Francis said, through St. Joseph, it is as if God were to repeat to us: “Do not be afraid!” because “faith gives meaning to every event, however happy or sad,” and makes us aware that “God can make flowers spring up from stony ground.”
The year 2020 will be remembered for a global pandemic, an economic plummet, natural disasters and a highly divisive national election. The year began with massive fires in Australia followed by flooding. A U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general followed on Jan. 7 with a ballistic missile strike targeting American troops in Iraq. On May 25, George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis sparking mass protests around the world and a long overdue reckoning on racism. That’s just the start.
Yet we should look to St. Joseph’s example when pondering all that has gone wrong and the struggles we have faced. “Do not be afraid,” a phrase also associated with Pope John Paul II, certainly applies.
It’s a theme often repeated in the Bible: “So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7); “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
We are called to enter the new year with hope in Christ. In 2020, we coped with the struggles of the past year. The pandemic forced many of us to slow down and pay more attention to our families and friends. We’ve found new ways to evangelize and seek spiritual comfort through technology. We’re more appreciative of health care workers and other frontline workers. We’ve seen a need to step up our response to the needy in our midst. And we condemn and work to erase racism and the systems that perpetuate it.
The year concluded with reports of people flocking to stores for outdoor and indoor Christmas lighting. While it’s nice to see the lights, it’s the light of Christ that we all should follow. St. Joseph struggled with what he was called to do. But full of hope, he accepted life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments and moved forward. We will thrive in the new year by following his example.