This Year of St. Joseph is so important to us because it should influence everything the Church does this year, especially the way we prepare for and celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19. However, in as much as March 19 always falls within the 40 days of Lent, it is important to learn how to grow in devotion to St. Joseph during the Lenten season… And as a model as he is, St. Joseph is a great exemplar for us of Lenten virtues that we need to ponder and emulate.
As an important religious observance in the Christian world, Lent is the season to observe and commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. It is an opportune time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ. Likewise, an opportunity to repent for our misdeeds and misgivings and to increase the intensity of our prayer, fasting, almsgiving, practice of our faith and welcoming others as our brothers and sisters in our faith community. Lent is a time to grow in and strengthen our faith, which binds us together and makes all things possible because of our love and devotion to Jesus.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten Season. In this holy season, Christians all over the world begin a spiritual journey of repentance marked by prayer, penance and almsgiving and other forms of charitable works. The placing of ash on our fore heads with the words, “dust you are and unto dust you shall return” or “repent and believe the gospel”, reminds us of the ephemeral nature of human life and of course the need to participate more intimately in the suffering of our Lord Jesus, in preparation of the celebration of the solemn feast of his resurrection at Easter which is a foretaste of our individual resurrection at the eschaton.
The Lenten period begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. When we exclude Sundays, that makes usually for a total of forty days. The number forty is primarily and richly symbolic. The earliest reference we have to a forty day preparation for Easter is in the canons of the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325). One of the most compact expressions of its meaning however appears in the work of St. John Cassian in the fifth century. He describes Lent as “the tithes of the year”, because it is roughly a tenth of the days in a year. We give those days to the Lord as a special offering; and in doing so; we imitate his own fast, as he intended us to do. Cassian also notes the Old Testament models of Israel in the wilderness, of Moses and Elijah, who also underwent forty days fast.
The Church extensively encourages her members to follow the Lenten custom of fasting by “giving something up”, preferably favorite food or pastime to which we are unduly attached. We may also stop eating between meals or forgo second helpings. We return it to God for forty days, not because any of it is ‘bad’, but because it is indeed very good. Only good things should be offered in sacrifice to God. Only the best is offered as a tithe. We give them to God so that we learn not to put anything in God’s place in our lives. We do not only fast with food. It should extend to other things that give certain pleasures – habits and certain vices. We can start with certain vices we need to do away with like; lies, stealing, anger, etc. As such, we can get over them and it becomes gain for us.
The Liturgical year has been announced by the Pope as the Year of St. Joseph. The Lenten period this year 2021 should be very important to us because we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s naming St. Joseph as the patron of the universal Church. It is a special celebration that should influence everything the Church does this year, especially the way we prepare for and celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19. However in as much as March 19 always falls within the 40 days of Lent, it is important to learn how to grow in devotion to St. Joseph during the Lenten season. We are of the position that as a model he is, St. Joseph is a great exemplar for us of Lenten virtues that we need to ponder and emulate. It is very important that Catholics in Enugu Diocese reflect on these virtues that would help us make good use of our Lenten season to nourish our spiritual lives.
Enugu Diocese has recently rolled out activities and guidelines for the celebration of the Year of St. Joseph. A 3-4 minutes video clip tagged: 10 things to know about the Year of St. Joseph in Enugu Diocese captures it all. This video can be accessed in our diocesan websites (www.choiceflame.com.ng and www.catholicdioceseofenugu.com.ng).
May your Lenten season this year 2021 be very fruitful as you reflect on the amazing virtues of silence, simplicity of heart, dignity of labour, obedience to God’s instructions, faithfulness to God, family love, humility, chaste love etc which St. Joseph is known for.
St. Joseph – Pray for us!