We are all engaged in the freewill sacrifices and obligatory penitence of Lent. Perhaps we need an incentive to maintain the rigors of our discipline. There is a special reprieve for us this month. March 19 is the Solemn Feast of St. Joseph. Solemn Feasts carry with them special distinctions. Not only do we sing the Gloria at Mass, as we would for any Feast Day, but in addition, we recite the Creed, as we would on a Sunday. So as Sundays (in normal times) would be a Holy Days of Obligation, so are Solemn Feast Days in many parts of the world. In fact, in Italy, not only is St. Joseph’s Day a Holy Day of Obligation, but it is their chosen day to honor all fathers, their Father’s Day, thus tying in a noble secular observance with our Catholic faith. In the United States we don’t observe St. Joseph’s Day in the obligatory way that precept days are designated because our bishops decided to use an option that the Holy See granted back at the II Vatican Council. So, while we don’t observe St. Joseph’s Day as a Holy Day of Obligation, it is still one of the 10 Precept Days of the universal church. This means that it carries no obligation on our part, but we still have the benefits.
The benefits of a feast day are just that, to feast. As we know, there is a strict prohibition not to eat meat on Friday’s during Lent. This rule applies to those who have attained 14 years and is a mortal sin for those who knowingly and willingly disregard it. Meaning that if you fall into that category, you’ve got to visit the Sacrament of Penance before you show up for Holy Communion. (Consult the bulletin on the expanded Confession schedule during Lent.)
Nevertheless, this year, March 19 falls on a Friday. This means that nobody need ask me or Bishop Burbidge for dispensations. It is often the case when St. Patrick’s feast falls on a Friday, the Knights of Columbus ask the bishop for dispensation in order have their corned beef and cabbage dinners. Unlike St. Patrick, St. Joseph’s feast is a Solemn Feast for the universal church, not just a singular country, or those whose cathedral or parish is named after a particular saint. Therefore, there is no fasting or even abstinence on Friday, March 19 this year.
This is a mere fraction of the blessings that devotion to St. Joseph can bring us. Out of all the men in human history that the omniscient and omnipotent God could choose to guard, protect, educate, and love His only begotten Son, and His Most Blessed Mother, He chose St. Joseph. This is why Pope Francis has invited us to draw closer to St. Joseph. He has designated 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph in order to do just that. I’ve included information in our bulletin on how we can participate. It is a venerable tradition of our faith to use the nine days before a feast in order to prepare spiritually. Please, consider using one of these St. Joseph devotions for your novena as a way of making this March 19 the day of blessings for you and your that it could be.