March 14, 2021

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14 March
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Laetare Sunday

According to some traditions, March 19 was the day that St. Joseph died although there is little evidence to support it. We know from the Gospel of Luke that St. Joseph was present when Jesus was twelve years old and found in the Temple (Luke 2,41-52) but there is no mention of St. Joseph at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when, at the wedding in Cana, Our Lord turned the water to wine at the prompting of His Blessed Mother.

The Bible is entirely silent about St. Joseph’s death and as a result, the Church relies on oral traditions passed down over the centuries. With a little bit of “liturgical archeology” we can be certain that something of great significance related to St. Joseph happened on March 19. Why? Because that date always happens during the penitential season of Lent. March 22 is the earliest possible date for Easter. April 25 is the latest possible date for Easter. Either way, March 19 ought to be a day of penance.

Before we get too carried away with the Solemnity falling this year on a Friday, which according to Canon Law means that we are dispensed from the obligation to abstain from meat, remember that for centuries the Christian Faithful celebrated St. Joseph by pausing some of the liturgical restraint of Lent and they may have relaxed the practice of fasting on March 19 but they still abstained from meat just as they abstained from meat even on Sundays of Lent.

The 19th of March was dedicated to Saint Joseph in several Western calendars by the 10th century, and this custom was established in Rome by 1479. Pope Pius V extended its use to the entire Roman Rite by his Apostolic Constitution Quo primum on 14 July 1570. Since 1969, Episcopal Conferences have permission to transfer St. Joseph’s Solemnity to a date outside Lent but I do not know of a single instance of that happening.

In Italy and Spain, March 19 is also Father's Day. The Spanish custom is for children to cook a meatless breakfast for their fathers breakfast or even give small gifts. The famous St. Joseph Day Tables that come to us from Sicily include lots of bread, beans, eggs, olives (of course) but no meat.

St. Joseph, pray for us!
God bless you.
Rev. Christopher J. Pollard