The Source of Salvation

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on December 13, 2020

Remember that ’80s song “I Need a Hero”? This whole year has me singing the chorus quite a bit. That’s why Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.” Meanwhile, the fact of the matter is the kind of salvation people are looking for does not come from politics, no matter how much we may want it to.

Pope Francis’ Prayer Service

I’ve often thought of Pope Francis’ prayer service early on in the pandemic. You couldn’t have scripted it better; it occurred on a rainy night in Rome, with the sounds of ambulances and other emergency vehicles constantly in the background. And he prayed and he prayed. And, as it happens, numbers of deaths did start to go down after that point in Italy. Maybe prayer is, in fact, action.

In his homily, Francis kept hitting a theme that resonates to this day: “Why are you afraid?” Haven’t we all asked ourselves this question this year? Many, if not most, of us obviously fear death. There’s also the very practical and understandable fear of making someone more vulnerable than us sick. “Love your neighbor” took on a new urgency, but then so should an appreciation that all of life involves some level of risk.

Francis said: “You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”

Priorities in this Short Life

That’s what this year has been about: priorities in this short life. And getting it right is an ongoing process, so be humble and kind.

Pope Francis went on that day, repeating the questions about fear and faith, adding: “Faith begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient.”

Of course, Pope Francis didn’t point to President Donald Trump or then-candidate Joe Biden or any other mere mortal as the possible source of salvation. He pointed to God: “Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them.” He added: “God’s strength [is] turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God, life never dies.”

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

On Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, an occasion that cities in Europe normally mark with fireworks displays, Pope Francis declared a year dedicated to St. Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. Pope Francis has been telling of his fondness for Joseph since he came on the international scene. He made popular an image of Joseph sleeping. He has a statue of him on a table in his room, and he writes down things that are burdening him and gives them to Joseph.

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It makes a lot of sense that at this time of unrest and division, of so much anxiety and uncertainty, especially concerning families, Francis would point to Joseph. There is a silent confidence about the man who raised Jesus, and in this selfie age, where so many rush to an opinion before even basic information is known, Joseph is someone who might help us cultivate silence and listening. And he’s a Jewish father, at a time when anti-Semitism is rearing its evil head again.

One of the things Francis says in his letter about Joseph is: “St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”

There is tremendous power in virtue. Live well and that will be more important than all the politicians in the world.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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