Homily | Opening the Year of St. Joseph
Homily given by Bishop Kemme on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2020, Opening the Year of St. Joseph.
“You may be surprised that I do not intend to speak to you today about Mary, even though today is her great feast and the patronal feast of our nation and our diocese, the Immaculate Conception. I mean no disrespect or disregard to the Blessed Mother, but today I wish to speak to you rather about Joseph, and that is because beginning today, I have declared a Year of St. Joseph for the Diocese of Wichita to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as the Patron and Protector of the Universal Church, declared by Pope Pius IX on this day in 1870.
Why St. Joseph? For many reasons. Like Mary, he too was chosen to play a significant role in the history of salvation. Like Mary, the plan of God was revealed to him by an angel. Like Mary, he too was asked to give his fiat, his assent to that plan and trust in the providence of God. His brief and silent presence in the Gospels should in no way diminish his importance. Without his obedience to God’s will, the Advent of Jesus in history would not have happened. He said yes to God, to take Mary as his wife, to name their child Jesus, to flee to Egypt in order to protect the child from the forces of evil intent on destroying him, to return to Nazareth and there to provide a home, a livelihood, a religious tradition and the guidance and support Jesus needed in his humanity to accept the mission of Messiah and Lord. As Mary did, so too Joseph did all of this with obedience, fidelity and steadfast love.
It is this example and this profound witness that inspires the church to look to Joseph as our protector and patron. From his place in heaven, Joseph now looks upon each of us as his spiritual children, who form the family of the Church on our pilgrim way to the Kingdom. We very much need his protection and his intercession in our dark and wayward times.
It is my sincere hope that we will all strive to imitate his humility, his obedience and his love, but I am particularly hopeful that Joseph will inspire the men of our diocese, me its bishop, all our priests and deacons, our seminarians, all the husbands and fathers, grandfathers, godfathers, uncles and all single men to accept their role in the families entrusted to their care and the communities to which they belong. I also lift up St. Joseph for our younger men, those in high school and college and those just beginning to live a young adult life, that St. Joseph will inspire them to be men of integrity, chastity, and courage in a time that tempts them to throw away their virtues and live life solely on their own terms. Yes, St. Joseph can be a powerful intercessor for all men in the Catholic Church.
I am personally praying that St. Joseph will inspire us in the important work of implementing our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, “Fully Alive as Missionary Disciples.” As we embrace in this diocese the mission of the Joy of the Gospel, we can look to no better examples than Joseph and Mary, who accepted the mission entrusted to them and fulfilled it so perfectly as Jesus’ first and best disciples.
But as I reflect on the darkness of our times and the many challenges we face in the Church, for any number of reasons, but mostly because of a secular culture which fosters a growing hostility toward religious liberty and practice, and given that I have heard the lament and anxiety of our pastors and parish priests, as well as the same from faithful family members of the many in our parishes and families who no longer attend Mass, which is the source and summit of the Catholic faith, I and my advisors are convinced that we will never be able to make sufficient progress in implementing our Pastoral plan unless and until we can bring back many of those who absent themselves each Sunday and who for various reasons no longer feel the need to worship and receive the Eucharist.
And so, on this great day in which we acknowledge God’s transformative grace in the very being of the humble virgin and on which we dedicate this year to the patronage and protection of her obedient spouse, St. Joseph, I call all of us to an urgent period of prayer and discernment on all levels of diocesan life, curia, parishes, schools, hospitals, college campuses, families, indeed wherever our people are to be found, in order to execute a diocesan wide search and rescue mission: to bring back the lost, the wayward and the wandering souls to Christ, the Bread of Life. While I do not pretend that our goals in this regard will be readily or easily accomplished and am certain will require a multi-faceted approach in order to bring about a true conversion of heart, I am confident that this is an urgent, timely and critical mission for our diocese, one that if left unaccepted will have devastating consequences for the future dynamism of the faith, for evangelization, discipleship and stewardship. Therefore, I wish to commit the resources and the energy of our diocese to forming us all as missionary disciples who will go out to invite back and accompany our brothers and sisters who no longer join us at the altar of the Lord at Holy Mass. As your bishop and successor of the apostles, let me be the first to call all those in our diocese, in our parishes, and in our families, who no longer share with us the Holy Eucharist, to return now or as soon as possible to be one with us at the Lord’s banquet.
Will you, my brothers and sisters in the faith join me in intense prayer and frequent fasting to ask God to send us the Holy Spirit, to anoint these efforts in the months and years ahead and to give us the resolve and determination, the compassion, wisdom, courage and the understanding to put our humble efforts at the service of the Lord in seeking out and rescuing the lost and lapsed who are our brothers and sisters in the faith? Together and throughout this year, let us call upon St. Joseph to help us in this critical mission. With his guidance and intercession, I am confident we will witness many returning to the Eucharistic banquet of the Lord and strengthening the Church, over which he serves as Patron and Protector. St. Joseph, Pray for us!”