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Monica Doumit: Year of St Joseph is perfectly providential

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Pope Francis has proclaimed this a year of St Joseph for the Church. PHOTO: Michael O’Sullivan/Unsplash

Saint’s intercession is ideal for the battles ahead in 2021

Go to Joseph.

These words, originally spoken by Pharaoh to the people of Egypt who were crying out to him in time of famine for food are recorded in Chapter 41 of Genesis, are now used as an exhortation to the faithful to go to St Joseph, earthly father of Jesus and our spiritual father, in our need.

Last week, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrated the 150-year anniversary of the proclamation of St Joseph as Patron of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pius IX. There was further cause for celebration when our Holy Father, Pope Francis, proclaimed this year to be the year of St Joseph.

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Go to Joseph, he encourages us, once again.

Reflecting on the proclamation of the Year of St Joseph, and on the Holy Father’s beautiful apostolic letter, Patris Corde, I am certain that this year is a gift of Divine Providence.

Usually, as we wrap up The Catholic Weekly for the year, I use my final columns to foreshadow the challenges that we will face in the year ahead from a social and political perspective.  As I began to sketch these out this time, I was struck at how appropriate it will be to seek St Joseph’s intercession in these battles.

Go to Joseph, I was being encouraged, once again.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis shows the sleeping posture of a statue of St Joseph he keeps on his desk, while giving a talk in 2015. He has proclaimed Nov 20-Dec 21 the year of St Joseph. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Over the last fortnight, I have written about the attempt to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in Victoria.  While this is marketed at outlawing things like electroshock therapy to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTI persons, it goes much further than that.

In just one illustration of its extremity, the bill – if passed – would treat a mother or a father telling a child that same-sex attraction is wrong would be defined as family violence and open the door for children to be removed from the family home as a matter of ‘child protection.’ This is an attack on family life, and seeks to undermine the authority of parents, and their right and duty to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs.

One of the titles we have for St Joseph is ‘Head of the Holy Family,’ corresponding to the passage of Sacred Scripture (Lk 2:51-52) where we read that Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and was obedient to Mary and St Joseph, increasing in wisdom and stature. Even though Jesus is God, He subjected Himself to the authority of earthly parents; a reminder to all of us of the important role of parents in raising their children. If even God-become-human did not deign to undermine the authority of parents, the State must not dare to do so.  This year, when parental responsibility is under direct attack, we need to seek the intercession of the Head of the Holy Family.

We need to go to Joseph.

Last weekend, we had New South Wales Independent MP Alex Greenwich announce that he was working on euthanasia legislation for this state, with an unnamed group of cross-party MPs, and would seek to push these misguided laws through parliament next year. The process he has chosen is eerily similar to the one he used for the change to allow abortion up until birth, the backlash against which – although unsuccessful – was strong enough to prompt Premier Gladys Berejiklian to declare that there would be no more contentious social issues put before parliament this term, and to prohibit her MPs from working on such cross-party bills.

St Joseph is patron of a ‘happy death’ as he died in the presence of Jesus and his Mother. PHOTO: CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz

While I hope and pray that the Premier stays strong on this one, she will be under pressure from Greenwich and others who will bleat on about ‘death with dignity,’ a catchphrase that euthanasia advocates ironically use while making a direct attack on the dignity of the sick and vulnerable elderly by telling them they will be better off dead.

St Joseph is also honoured under the titles ‘Hope of the Sick,’ ‘Patron of the Dying’ and ‘Patron of a Happy Death,’ because his life ended in the presence and embrace of his Divine Son and the Blessed Mother. Is there anyone who died with more dignity than St Joseph?

In the fight against euthanasia in this state, we need to go to Joseph.

There are other battles we expect to come in the year ahead: whether it is a debate about the confessional seal (which is really an attack on the fatherhood of our Priests), the fight for religious freedom, or advocacy for the poor, for refugees and others, St Joseph’s patronage has it all covered. We can be confident of his fatherly intercession in these and the other battles we face, if we just remember to seek it.

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