Jan 15, 2021

Q: Pope John XXIII added St. Joseph to the Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) of the Mass in 1962. Several years ago St. Joseph was also added to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. What was the reason for adding St. Joseph to these prayers?

A: This is a fitting question in light of Pope Francis’s announcement that 2021 will be the Year of St. Joseph. Several years ago Pope Benedict XVI mandated that the name of St. Joseph be inserted into Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. This is a great gift to us because of St. Joseph’s pivotal role as Jesus’ foster father. Instead of simply writing a document outlining his importance, a solemnity was established for his feast day (March19th) by Pope Gregory XV, establishing it as a holy day of obligation in 1621. St. Joseph was declared the patron of the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1870. In 1955 Pope Pius XII established May1st as a feast day for workers under St. Joseph’s patronage and Pope St. John XXIII mandated that St. Joseph be added to the Roman Canon (the first eucharistic prayer) on December 8, 1962. However, in the reforms after Vatican II, somehow, St. Joseph was left out of the newly composed eucharistic prayers. Pope Benedict XVI remedied this, not because St. Joseph is just a particular favorite of Joseph Ratzinger’s, but because St. Joseph is so fundamental to salvation history and, with his inclusion in the four main Eucharistic Prayers, the entire Holy Family is now recalled at our regular celebration of the liturgy of the Mass.

Indeed, the calling to mind of the Holy Family not only speaks to the needs of our time, where the family is so deeply under attack, but speaks to the needs of every time because the “history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family” (John Paul II, “Letter to Families,” 23). There is an “importance and universality of the patronage of St. Joseph ‘to whose care God entrusted the beginning of our redemption,’ ‘and his most valuable treasures’” (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 220). St. Joseph, “the just man” (cf. Matthew 1:19), gives a beautiful example to us in his “happy death,” his faithful work, his chaste and faithful love, his obedience to the Lord in the birth of Jesus, giving Jesus his name, and in his faithfulness in raising Jesus according to the Law of the Lord. With this now daily invocation of St. Joseph in the Liturgy of the Church we ask for his intercession more often and so more readily take him as our model in daily life. Truly, every one of us “can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble” (Pope Francis, Patris Corde). St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!

—Answered by the Editors

The Editors