By BISHOP BERNARD E. SHLESINGER III | Published January 22, 2021 | En Español
Many hope that the pandemic will soon end. We may look back on this historical period as a time of unhappy memory. Along with the grieving over the tragic loss of life, all have experienced an inconvenient adjustment to our quality of life, and it has challenged us to take inventory on what is most important in living.
The COVID-19 vaccine will most likely bring us closer to a season where the loss of life or economic hardship is less. Yet, as we hope for a brighter future and a better quality of life, let me briefly highlight the quality of the character of a man whose faithfulness to God in the present moment profoundly affected the future of the world.
With the apostolic letter “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis proclaimed the “Year of St. Joseph” which began on Dec. 8, 2020 and will end on Dec. 8, 2021. The life and mission of St. Joseph stands forever as a shining example of how quality of character gives meaning to the quality of life. The Scriptures refer to him as being a “righteous” man who was unwilling to expose Mary to shame from conceiving a child outside of their betrothal (Mt 1:18-25).
St. Joseph placed a woman and child first in his thoughts, and God placed his Incarnate Son and Virgin Mother under his protection. Joseph was not concerned, as many are today, about his individual rights or personal pleasure. He simply saw his duty in service to God and others as paramount rather than consider what was due to him or what might be in his best interest.
St. Joseph stands before us as a “quiet man” of unparalleled virtue who experienced rejection when there was no room for his family at the inn. We do not have a clear window into St. Joseph’s earthly dreams of a better life, but we do know that God influenced his dreams. He was advised in a dream to take the child and his mother into Egypt for Herod had sought to destroy the Child (Mt 2:13-23). He acted without hesitation.
Eventually, he would hear again in a dream to return to Israel and decided that the region where Herod’s son Archelaus was ruling was dangerous as a place to dwell. Without Joseph, Mary and Jesus would have been victims exposed to threats of kings and others who dreamt of worldly power and the elimination of all who might contest that power or their claims to a right to rule without interference.
This year marks 150 years since St. Joseph was named the patron of the Universal Church. I doubt that a simple chaste husband and foster father would be declared the man of the year in our secular society today—a society that promotes living a dream that often becomes a nightmare for others. St. Joseph shows us how we can be better men and women of great character, for it is character which gives quality to life.
St. Joseph is the man of the year 2021. Let us invoke him under the title “Terror of Demons” knowing that, like him, we too must fight against such demons who dishonor the dignity of women and demean the sanctity of life.