“Joseph shows us how to say ‘yes’ to life, despite our own fears, frailties, and weaknesses. For it is Joseph who was ‘chosen by God to guide the beginnings of the history of redemption. He was the true ‘miracle’ by which God saves the child and his mother.” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Respect Life Reflection, www.respectlife.org/respect-life-month).
The celebration of Respect Life Month in the United States this year comes at a time when we are hoping that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and that we can move forward in our lives in a manner that is more “normal.” As far as we have come, though, it seems that there are continuous challenges in ever-shifting situations. Concerns for potential new waves of COVID cases linger, as does the possibility of new variants of the virus; many who lost work during the shutdown continue to struggle to find meaningful employment; political and social division abound; the mental toll of the stress of the pandemic has only just begun to be felt; and families continue to grieve in complicated ways for those they have lost, who were often alone or left without the possibility of closure.
How can we possibly add to all these demands and uncertainty with a call to protect the most vulnerable, particularly those at the very beginning and very end of life? Pope Francis offered an answer when he declared this the Year of St. Joseph, which has, in turn, inspired the theme for the USCCB’s Respect Life Month: St. Joseph: Faithful Protector of Mother and Child.
In his apostolic letter, Patris Corde, Pope Francis describes the trust and faith of St. Joseph, amid grave uncertainty and unrest. Yet Joseph gave his own fiat to the call to protect Mary and her unborn child. Joseph entered into the unknown, following God’s will, though the path was not always clear, and danger surrounded them. “Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture” (Patris Corde, 2).
As disciples, we know that the journey will not always be easy, especially during times of change and turmoil. It may be tempting to hold off or wait until the world is more settled and secure. Our faith, though, sustained through the Eucharist, compels us to continue forth, following the witness of St. Joseph as we defend those who are voiceless, who are alone and who are on the margins.
To that end, we invite you to continue to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, and to walk with those who need assistance during critical moments of decision-making. Please visit www.LifeRoc.org to sign up for advocacy alerts from the New York State Catholic Conference and the USCCB, and review the resources available in our diocese to bridge people to the support necessary, and invite others to do the same.
There is still much that needs to be done, even as the challenges of the world continue. Let us face those challenges together, asking St. Joseph to walk with us as we walk with others. May we continue our journey this year, confident that we are transforming our culture to one that embraces, supports and promotes the gift that is human life.
Kilbridge is director of the Diocese of Rochester’s Office of Life Issues.