Editorial: The Year of St. Joseph and the case for Lenten feasting

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A crucifix and a statue of St. Joseph are seen as Pope Francis leads his general audience at the Vatican in this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo. In a Dec. 8, 2020 apostolic letter, Pope Francis proclaimed a yearlong celebration dedicated to St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

It’s March 2021, and that means it’s the month dedicated to St. Joseph in this current year dedicated to St. Joseph. And coming up on March 19, it’s the solemnity of St. Joseph. What does all this mean, in short? It’s time for some feasting.

But wait, you might say. Feasting within Lent? This cannot be so. Yet while it’s true that Lent is typically reserved for fasting, penance and almsgiving, Catholics would be remiss if we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities to rejoice, even during this solemn season.

That is, after all, the way the Church has designed it. Because the Church teaches that a solemnity trumps the penance designated by the Church for Fridays (all year long, but especially during Lent), and because the solemnity of St. Joseph falls on a Friday within Lent this year, Catholics are not obligated to abstain from meat or partake in any other usual penances. According to Canons 1250-51 of the Code of Canon Law: “The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.”

Instead, the solemnity of St. Joseph, as with any other solemnity during the year, is a time to celebrate. And this is especially true while the Church is celebrating the Year of St. Joseph (through Dec. 8, 2021). While we may observe the day by eating meat, we aren’t just called to celebrate with our stomachs. Celebration for the feast of St. Joseph this year and every year can include attending or livestreaming Mass, praying the Litany of St. Joseph, praying a novena to St. Joseph (starting March 11), or spending time reading and reflecting upon St. Joseph in Scripture. For those interested in exploring the Litany of St. Joseph in more depth, OSV has just published “Model of Faith: Reflecting on the Litany of St. Joseph” ($9.95) by the University of Notre Dame’s Leonard J. DeLorenzo.

Celebrating also can mean dressing in your best, spending quality time with your family — especially dads with their kids — and decorating the house with lillies, a traditional symbol of St. Joseph. It can also include extending the celebration to others. You could send St. Joseph Day cards to friends and family, participate in a community service project, make a charitable financial contribution or set a St. Joseph’s Table. And, of course, we should always be sure to invoke the intercession of St. Joseph for any special intentions. A site devoted to the Year of St. Joseph, offers plenty of information and suggestions for how you can celebrate St. Joseph not just this month, but all year and beyond.

The Year of St. Joseph comes with some not-to-be missed spiritual benefits, including the opportunity to earn a plenary indulgence. As Father Nicholas Blackwell reminds us at SimplyCatholic.com, the degree from the Apostolic Penitentiary regarding the indulgence “offers points of reflection on who Joseph is and how the different aspects of his life help us see the beauty of human life. “Each of the five points is a vignette into the life of Joseph as a means for the faithful to see God’s presence and beauty in those life moments through St. Joseph,” Father Blackwell writes. “With St. Joseph’s help, the Church is responding to the need for hope in 2021.”

The Year of St. Joseph is not an opportunity to be missed — and that’s particularly true during this month most frequently associated with the foster-father of Jesus. As we best discern how we can celebrate the solemnity, month and year dedicated to St. Joseph, we know that prayer to this great saint of the Church must always lead the way. And so, we conclude here with an excerpt from the novena prayer of St. Joseph:

“Glorious St. Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, obtain for me a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine will. Be my guide, my father and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.” Amen.

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Father Patrick Briscoe, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young