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Mary and Joseph, Figures of Hope

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By Dan-Tam Pham, 5th grader (2014), Holy Family Parish, San Jose.

by Fr. Hao Dinh

While billions of people in the world are now anxiously awaiting a vaccine that would protect them against illness in this pandemic, Advent is always a season of anticipation and hope: God kept His promises in sending His only Son to this world and will fulfill the kingdom that Jesus has inaugurated when He returns in glory.  Even when we are suffering along our earthly journey, we are not alone, for close to us is our Lord who is merciful (today’s entrance antiphon and responsorial psalm).

We are also accompanied by the two Advent figures who are our role models of hope: Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.  They may have had no experience of a pandemic, but their lives were disrupted, both by God’s call and by events in their family; yet they learned to live with uncertainty, to walk with faith and hope – not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

Within two days this week, Pope Francis pointed to the Blessed Virgin and her Spouse as our examples and protectors:
Mary, whose life embodied the “Fiat” to God’s will being done in all circumstances of her life; and Joseph, whose “creative courage… emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties.”

On December 8, by means of his Apostolic Letter, “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis proclaimed a Year of Saint Joseph from December 8, 2020, to December 8, 2021. It marks the 150th Anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church by Blessed Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1870.

It is truly a blessing and perhaps providential that we will celebrate our Diocesan Jubilee to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Diocese of San José during the Year of Saint Joseph, Patron of our Diocese and of the Universal Church. The theme for our Jubilee is “Journeying Together in Hope.”

The next day, December 9, the Holy Father granted to all Catholic faithful of the world the possibility of obtaining a plenary indulgence on December 12, the 125th Anniversary of the Coronation of Our Lady of Guadalupe, even while the faithful remain at home. 

With the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City closed for her feast because of the pandemic, the Pope said the faithful can receive a plenary indulgence, or a remission of the temporal punishment of one’s sins, for their Marian devotion if they follow these following conditions:

   – Prepare an altar or place of prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe at home.
   – Watch a livestream or televised Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 12, “actively participating… with devotion and with exclusive attention to the Eucharist.”

   – Complete the usual conditions for an indulgence by praying for the Pope’s intentions, being in a state of grace after confession, attending a full Mass and receiving Communion.

   The letter from the Apostolic Penitentiary specifies that the last three conditions “can be fulfilled when public health guidance allows” (Vaticannews.va).

The Apostolic Penitentiary also issued a decree granting special indulgences for the duration of the special Year of Saint Joseph “to perpetuate the entrustment of the whole Church to the powerful patronage of the Custodian of Jesus.”  Details on the indulgences in the decree will be announced as we approach the beginning of our Diocesan Jubilee in January.

Pope Francis concluded his letter, “Patris corde,” with a prayer to Saint Joseph as follows.

   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.