St. Joseph in the Eye of the Storm

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Bishop Ricken

Perhaps you have heard the phrase “eye of the storm” when watching coverage of major hurricanes. This phrase comes from an interesting phenomenon where the very middle of the hurricane is a “peaceful place” that is totally unlike the funnel walls of the storm that surround the “eye.” Sometimes qualified weather trackers even fly their planes, fully equipped with instrumentation for measuring the power and energy trapped in the hurricane’s vortex, right into the eye of the storm.

The past year and a half have been very much like a hurricane since the effects of the pandemic have taken ahold of so many. Just like a hurricane combines high winds, heavy rains and storm surges, the pandemic hit us in a variety of ways and from many directions. From political crises to social upheaval to unrest in the church and in all institutions, even family members and friends divided over one issue or another, we are experiencing a vortex of change that has caused great suffering, whether physical, personal, relational or spiritual.

On March 19, 2020, in the Diocese of Green Bay, we began what we thought would be a year- long period of prayer in honor of St. Joseph on the 150th anniversary of his being declared  patron of the Universal Church. Who would have thought that, the very next day, we would have to close access to our parishes for a period of several weeks, in light of the as yet unknown threat of this virus? 

St. Joseph, the silent saint — with no recorded spoken word in the sacred Scriptures — is once again in history in the eye of the storm, quietly guiding from the peaceful center of reliance on Almighty God and providing the People of God an oasis of calm direction and answered prayer. To our great and delighted surprise, Pope Francis declared, on Dec. 8, 2020, a year in honor of St. Joseph and we have been blessed to extend our diocesan year of St. Joseph another eight months and 12 days.

Our diocesan prayer offered every Sunday throughout this blessed time has three parts: 

  • a part for families and especially for fathers and their role as spiritual fathers of their families;
  • a second part for the Holy Father, the bishop and the priests, that we be good spiritual fathers of God’s people; 
  • and a third part for an increase of vocations to the priesthood, since that is our most grave and pressing need for the present and future of our diocese.

I hope that your families have been blessed greatly during the Year of St. Joseph and that fathers felt encouraged and assumed more of a strong spiritual role, along with their wives, in heading their households. I know that our priests and I have deeply felt your prayers, despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented us in providing for the sacramental needs of the faithful, especially for the sick and homebound. 

In terms of vocations, as I have shared with you before, since the Year of St. Joseph began in 2020, 12 new young men from our diocese have begun seminary formation for the Diocese of Green Bay! In all the chaos our world has experienced in the past 20 months, St. Joseph is the ever-silent miracle worker from the eye of the storm, bringing the church throughout the world to safe harbor.

In times of great need, I have so often personally prayed through the intercession of St. Joseph, for a prayer request that seemed to be impossible. I hope this extended Year of St. Joseph has given you a chance to turn to St. Joseph in times of need and that your prayers have been answered through his intercession.

On Dec. 8, the Year of St. Joseph will conclude. Here in the diocese we will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at the National Shrine of St. Joseph on the campus of St. Norbert College in De Pere. We owe the silent wonder worker our deepest gratitude and the promise of our filial devotion from now and going forward. Please join me in giving thanks for the quiet faithfulness of St. Joseph, and know that, even though the Year of St. Joseph is ending, we can continue to seek his intercession in our times of greatest need.

Good St. Joseph, pray for us!

Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.