New York City, N.Y., Mar 26, 2021 / 05:16 pm (CNA).- In a recent pastoral letter, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York encouraged Catholics to foster a culture of life through charity and prayer.

The cardinal issued the letter on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph. He challenged Catholics to reflect on better ways to reach out to the vulnerable, especially as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic increases loneliness and suicide rates.

“In our Catholic tradition, Saint Joseph is the patron saint of a happy death. As we live through a second Lent of the Coronavirus pandemic, I know that ‘happy’ is not the word we would associate with the widespread death that we have seen around us. This has been an agonizing and sorrowful time for us all,” the cardinal said.

“In the wake of so much death, it’s important for us to invoke Saint Joseph and to imitate his example of courage and creativity in following God’s call in his life. We have a special duty to be like Saint Joseph for those who are suffering and vulnerable in our society, and to proclaim the Gospel of Life in all that we do!”

Dolan reflected on the devastation of the coronavirus as well as a “spiritual pandemic” that has created a throwaway culture. He said this type of mindset – treating people as discardable objects – has impacted the most vulnerable in society.

“This ‘throwaway’ mentality leads ultimately to a dehumanizing culture of death, in which the unborn, physically and mentally challenged, and our elders are disposed of through the grave evils of abortion and euthanasia. It’s no wonder we are an increasingly violent society.”

Even before the coronavirus hit, he said, many states in the country had chosen to legalize assisted suicide.

“The last thing we need is more unnecessary death. With health authorities warning about a dramatic rise in the number of suicides during this pandemic, we certainly do not need more suicide,” he argued.

“Every human life is sacred and precious – every person willed by God, loved by God, and created in His image and likeness. This means that every life deserves to be respected, protected, and cherished from the ‘womb to the tomb.’”

Dolan encouraged people to reflect on how saints would have responded to this pandemic and to ask themselves if they are sources of charity. He said depression and loneliness have continued to spread, and he challenged Catholics to find more ways to reach out to the vulnerable, not just through virtual platforms like Zoom.

“The answer to those who are suffering is not to help them end their lives. The answer is compassion, which literally means ‘to suffer with,’ to see Christ’s face in the faces of sick, disabled, and mentally troubled,” he said.

“Let us suffer with those who are suffering, mourn with those who are mourning, and hunger and thirst for justice and holiness. Let us live with simplicity and humility, and love with abandon and generosity, merciful as we work for justice and peace in our society.”

The cardinal noted that in addition to being a special intercessor for families and refugees, St. Joseph is the patron saint of a happy death. Suicide is not happy death, he said, but is rather an act of desperation and loneliness. He challenged Catholics to pray for an end to assisted suicide and rely on the intercession of St. Joseph.

“As Pope Francis reminds us, ‘Go to Joseph!’ has long been the cry of the Church. After the year we’ve been through – in this hour of death – we need to go to Joseph more than ever,” he said.

“We pray for his intercession, especially that he obtain for us the grace to be like him, to be just, to be men and women of the Beatitudes – which is the definition of Christian discipleship and the spiritual path that Joseph walked.”

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