The Year of St. Joseph – December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021

“Go to Joseph”.  In Canada, today (Jan 7th) is the feast day of St. Andre Bessette, the uneducated, humble, devout porter, Brother Andre, who had a reputation for the gift of healing.  His advice to everyone who came to him was to “go to Joseph”.  Pope Francis is also asking all of us to go to Joseph in this Year of St. Joseph.  As the spouse of Our Blessed Mother, foster father to Jesus, Pillar of Families, Terror of Demons and Protector of the Holy Church, St. Joseph Most Courageous is a sure model for us to navigate this troubled world in which we live.  His life was not immune to trouble and the Holy Family lived during a time of great persecution during the Roman occupation.

St. Joseph cares for all his children and will guide and protect you and enable you to progress spiritually.

St. Joseph holds a special place in Carmel as well.  In their letter to the Carmelite family on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Fr. Míceál O’Neill, O.Carm. and Fr. Saverio Cannistra, O.C.D., explain the Carmelite history of devotion to St. Joseph and how the 15th century “proper of the liturgy in honour of St. Joseph in the Carmelite tradition is thought by historians and liturgists to be the first monument of the Latin Church to the dignity of St. Joseph.” (p. 4-5)  They go on to explain:

Carmelite Preachers insisted that just as Mary the Virgin conceived the Incarnate Word in her womb through the work of the Holy Spirit, so Joseph, through the work of the same Holy Spirit, conceived the Word through contemplation, and became the father of Jesus on this earth.

And that St. Joseph is celebrated as “the image and reflection of the Carmelite mystical life in God.”

Plenary Indulgence during Year of St. Joseph

Did you know that you have an opportunity every Wednesday until December 8, 2021 to gain a plenary indulgence?  The Church is granting plenary indulgences to the faithful under the usual conditions during this special year.  A plenary indulgence remits all temporal punishment due to sin.  The usual conditions are accompanying any one of the 15 actions below with sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Holy Father, with a spirit detached from all sin (including venial).  Of course, many of us do not have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist these days, but you can make an Act of Spiritual Communion instead.  God knows both your intentions and your restrictions.  (List below taken from

1) Participate in a spiritual retreat for at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph. 

2) Pray for St. Joseph’s intercession for the unemployed that they might find dignifying work.

3) Recite the Litany of St. Joseph for persecuted Christians. Byzantine Catholics have the option of an Akathist to St. Joseph.

4) Entrust one’s daily work and activity to the protection of St. Joseph the Worker.

5) Follow St. Joseph’s example in performing a corporal work of mercy. These include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the imprisoned, visiting the sick, and burying the dead.

6) Perform one of the spiritual works of mercy, such as comforting the sorrowful, counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries, and praying for the living and the dead.

7) Pray the rosary together with one’s family in order that “all Christian families may be stimulated to recreate the same atmosphere of intimate communion, love and prayer that was in the Holy Family.”

8) Engaged couples can also receive an indulgence from praying the rosary together.

9) Meditate for at least 30 minutes on the Lord’s Prayer, because St. Joseph “invites us to rediscover our filial relationship with the Father, to renew fidelity to prayer, to listen and correspond with profound discernment to God’s will.”

10) Pray an approved prayer to St. Joseph on St. Joseph Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas in the Byzantine Catholic tradition.

11) Celebrate the feast of St. Joseph on March 19 with an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph.

12) Pray an approved prayer to St. Joseph on the 19th of any month. 

13) Honor Joseph with an act of piety or approved prayer on a Wednesday, the day traditionally dedicated to St. Joseph.

14) Pray to St. Joseph on the Feast of the Holy Family on Dec. 27.

15) Celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 with an act of piety or prayer.

The Diocese of Charlotte has put together a wonderful website specifically dedicated to this Year of St. Joseph. It is packed with ideas on how to celebrate this special year, including recorded talks on St. Joseph, virtual retreats, colouring pages, pilgrimage ideas (you can look up all the St. Joseph churches that are nearby to do your own local pilgrimage), devotions, prayers, etc.

And why not make this year the year you consecrate yourself to this wonderful saint?  I can’t recommend Fr. Donald Calloway’s Consecration to St. Joseph highly enough. 

I’ve written previously about Carmelite Saints and St. Joseph, especially St. Teresa of Avila’s devotion to him.  Carmelites “veneration of Saint Joseph is not only a devotion or pious practice but rather a life plan, that is an integral part of the charismatic heritage of Carmel.  Together with Mary, Joseph is the gospel icon in which we Carmelites may see and understand what it means to live ‘in allegiance to Jesus Christ.’ ” (p. 11)

May this year of St. Joseph bring you closer to the person who walked this earth with Our Lord, who knew him best along with Mary and who by naming Jesus, “became the first one to announce that in the child of Nazareth we are saved by God.” (p. 5)  St. Joseph cares for all his children and will guide and protect you and enable you to progress spiritually.   As St. Teresa witnessed “I have always seen those who honored him in a special manner make progress in virtue, for this heavenly protector favors in a striking manner the spiritual advancement of souls who commend themselves to him.”

A Gift From God – Silent Retreat During Pandemic

Annual silent retreats have been a wonderful break from the world for me for the past 5 or 6 years now.  It was an invitation from a fellow parishioner that got me to my first one at Manresa and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I thought I would have a difficult time being unplugged and silent for a whole weekend, but it turns out I took to it like a duck to water.  Now I feel bereft if I don’t have that recharge the batteries time with God in silence. 

With the pandemic everything has been moved online, including our annual Carmelite retreat that took place in October.  Fr Nicholas Blackwell, O.Carm., did a great job of providing us with a wonderful retreat online via Zoom.  But in my basement office I could hear the family constantly overhead on a busy Saturday so it wasn’t quite the same quiet environment! 

My mom asked if I wanted to go to the Manresa women’s retreat in November.  I didn’t realize they were still running their retreats so I called and got all the information as to how they were running them and keeping all the participants safe.  I was very impressed.  So, I put our names down and we were placed on a waiting list as the retreat was already full.  After that, I left it in God’s hands.  If He wanted us there, we would be there.  If not, it was not His will for us. 

The day before the retreat started I received a phone call; Manresa had just received two cancellations and would my mom and I be joining them!  I was thrilled. After phone calls to husband and mom and coordinating pick up times for carpooling, we confirmed our spots.  We arrived at Manresa in good time for the start of the retreat the next evening.  Everything ran very smoothly; the staff had put a lot of thought and care into running the retreat safely. 

It was another reminder that there are no coincidences with God! 

I remembered my Formation Director’s advice to make sure I’m always studying or learning Carmelite spirituality so I had packed Thomas Dubay’s “Fire Within” book all about St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross and the Gospel on prayer.  It’s a heavy read and I had already attempted it before becoming a Lay Carmelite.  I figured with a year of formation under my belt maybe it would make more sense to me!   The retreat theme was “Silent Music, Encountering God in Silence” and was run by Fr. Scott Lewis, SJ.  I thought I would attend the first talk, and if it wasn’t hitting the right notes from a Carmelite perspective I would spend the weekend reading my book, walking the grounds and praying.  I should have known better.  I have found on these weekends that somehow, someway, God orchestrates everything just perfectly.  It turned out Fr. Scott’s talks were mostly about contemplation and based heavily on St. John of the Cross.  He had even named the retreat after one of St. John of the Cross’ writings:

My beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The silent music,
The murmuring solitude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.

The lessons I was learning from reading “Fire Within” seemed perfectly in tune with the talks Fr. Scott gave and even what I learned during confession with Fr. Henk that Saturday evening.  God always gives me a theme that I need to be aware of on these weekends and it’s usually a blind spot or something He wants me to focus on more closely.  Here’s some examples of how intertwined the talks and my personal reading were:

From Fire Within: “..God will give everything just as soon as we give up everything.”

Fr. Scott: “practice of silence is the practice of letting go and losing control”; “we’re afraid of silence because we’re afraid of loss of control and you lose yourself – be willing to learn a new language.”

From Fire Within: “…people are given what we may call a being-drawn-to-God, a quiet leaving of worldly things, a desire for solitude within Him ‘a call so gentle that even they can hardly recognize it’.  They are at times ‘within the castle before they have begun to think of God at all’, and He gives an understanding of divine things unattainable by human reasonings.  The Lord gives an awareness ‘ which holds its attention and makes it marvel.’  It is a quiet attention that the recipient cannot attain by his own efforts.”

Fr. Scott: “attentive alertness”, “silence is attention, not just the absence of speech”

Just a few samples of how it seemed to me the whole retreat blended seamlessly from the talks, to the reading material I had brought with me, to the “epiphanies” experienced during contemplation that were reinforced by other experiences throughout the weekend.  The entire weekend was a beautiful gift from God and I thank Him so much for His bounty.  It was another reminder that there are no coincidences with God! He gives good things to all His children.  We just need to listen in silence and He will show us what He has done for us.