Rorate Caeli

De Mattei: "The Year of Saint Joseph: A Great Opportunity for the Church"

Roberto de Mattei

The scenario at the end of 2020 appears very different from that with which 2019 concluded. A year ago, the unrelenting decline of the pontificate of Pope Francis was confirmed by the outcome of the Pan-Amazonian Synod which was unable to bring about any of the expectations of the progressivists, from the abolition of ecclesiastical celibacy to women priests. On the level of international politics, the victory of Donald Trump in the following year’s election seemed sure, without any electoral fraud able to threaten it. The resistance against the revolutionary forces which dominate the world was shown in many ways: by great pro-life events to anticommunist demonstrations in Hong Kong, to the formations of Catholics in Acies Ordinata. The groups most tied to Tradition were on the attack, with a substantial unity of purpose.

A year later, the scenario has changed. The most worrying aspect of the panorama which we have before us, is not the Covid pandemic, nor the “Great Reset” which is spoken of so much, not even the unexpected defeat of President Trump, but the disunion which is showing itself among the defenders of the Church and the natural Christian order. The points in which this discord is manifested are not of the theoretical order, but practical, and they are a direct consequence of the Coronavirus. The animated discussions on the existence of a health conspiracy, or on the liceity of vaccination, touch daily life, thereby raising up sentiments of emotion, anger, and depression among Catholics. We feel darkly threatened, and an atmosphere of deaf rebellion against everything and against everything is spread about.

The world, disturbed and agitated, attributes what is happening to governments or to hidden powers, without going to the ultimate causes, which are the sins of men. Divine chastisements are not recognized as such, and where there is excitement and feverish activity, Divine Grace does not enter. Grace requires calm, reflection, the order which the Holy Family modeled. For this, there is nothing better, in these days of Advent, than to raise our gaze to Saint Joseph, who in the cold and dark of a difficult journey, brought the Holy Family entrusted to him to Bethlehem with prudence and courage.

Saint Luke says that in those days, there was issued a decree from the Emperor Augustus, “ut describeretur universus orbis,” so that the whole world be enrolled, for which “all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city” (St. Luke 2:3) and because Joseph was “of the house and family of David, [he] also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem.” (St. Luke 2:4) The census ordered by Augustus was based on the arrogance of an Emperor who pretended to aspire to the dominion of the world. Many Hebrews cherished the illusion of a sterile and useless rebellion. These, as Fr. Faber recalled, looked in all directions, instead of being oriented toward the Cave of Bethlehem; and when the Messiah was born, He became for them a stone of scandal. (Bethlehem by Fr. Faber).

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph did not rebel, but, as the Venerable Louis de la Puente observed, they professed themselves as vassals of Augustus and wished to pay him their tribute, to confound with this example the pride and avarice of the world (Meditations, translated into Italian by Giacinto Marietti, Turin 1835, Vol. II, Pg. 145). In fact, God wills that we obey those who govern us, even if they govern us with evil intentions, provided that that which is requested of us is not in itself illicit and contrary to the Divine Law. The word authority in various languages derives from the Latin augere, accrescere (to increase). Saint Joseph, called filius accrescens (Genesis 49:22), he who increases, incarnates the principle of authority, understood above all, as service for the growth of our neighbor. He was the Foster-Father of the Man-God and the most-pure spouse of the Mother of God, but exercised authority over Jesus and Mary, and They obeyed him. And yet, no one as he was as obedient to the Divine decrees, setting off for Bethlehem.

On December 8, 1870, Blessed Pius IX with the decree Quemadmodum Deus, declared St. Joseph to be Patron of the Catholic Church. This decree gave canonical form to the truth according to which Saint Joseph protects the Church as he protected with his authority the Holy Family during his life. 

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the decree of Pius IX, Pope Francis announced a Year of Saint Joseph, from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021. On this occasion, the Apostolic Penitentiary, which is the supreme tribunal of the Church, granted to the faithful the extraordinary gift of special indulgences. In fact, with a decree of Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary of the Church, emitted in conformity with the will of Pope Francis: “the Apostolic Penitentiary grants the Plenary Indulgence according to the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer according to the intentions of the Holy Father) to the faithful, who with a soul detached from any sin, will participate in the Year of Saint Joseph, in the ways which the same Congregation indicates.”

The foreseen ways for obtaining the Indulgence are numerous. Among these are the recitation of the Holy Rosary in the family, the recitation of the Litany of Saint Joseph, or any prayer to Saint Joseph legitimately approved, like the prayer “To thee, o Blessed Joseph,” especially on the occasions of March 19, May 1, and on the feast of the Holy Family, the 19th of every month, and every Wednesday, the day dedicated to recalling the Saint.

Few have understood the relevance of this decree of the Sacred Penitentiary. We know, in fact, that an indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sin already remitted, which the faithful gain by the intervention of the Church, which has the power to dispense the treasures of the satisfaction of Christ and of the Saints. The Church is not an invisible reality, but a juridically perfect society, equipped with all the means to operate in view of fulfilling her mission. 

Pope Francis can be criticized, even severely, but as long as he is considered the legitimate Vicar of Christ, the juridical acts which he puts into being are valid, as long as they are not in contradiction with the Tradition of the Church. This is not the case for the indulgences which he, as Pope, has all the right to bestow, in virtue of the power of the keys given to Peter and his successors: “And I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven.” (St. Matthew 16:19).

He who negates the validity of these indulgences, accepts, at least de facto, the thesis that Pope Francis is a false or illegitimate Pope, head of a “church” different from the Catholic Church. He who, while considering him Pope, ignores or minimizes the worth of his juridical act, assumes the responsibility of a missed increase in grace, and in the glory of many souls, and of a missed freeing of other souls from Purgatory. Every member of the faithful, in fact, can gain for himself the indulgences, both partial and plenary, or apply them to the dead through suffrages. 

It is not easy to gain a plenary indulgence, because a disposition of soul which excludes every attachment to even venial sin is necessary. However, every indulgence, even partial, is a great gift of the Church, especially because it cancels out, in whole or in part, the punishments due to sin, on earth or in Purgatory. We cannot judge the intentions of Pope Francis, but we must take note of the fact, that with his decree, he has offered a precious aid to faithful Catholics who need the special assistance of Grace in the time of convulsion in which we live. After the Blessed Virgin Mary, no other human creature had the faith of Saint Joseph and no one was more logical and reflective than he. In the Year dedicated to him, let us ask Saint Joseph to grant us the sense of the Faith, and the use of reason necessary to orient us, without getting lost, toward the Divine Cave of Bethlehem.

[Translation by Brendan Young]