Thursday, May 01, 2014

Some Liturgical Notes on St Joseph the Worker (and a Few Dominican Saints)

From Fr Hunwicke, who always manages to combine erudition, wisdom, and a prose style that is truly enjoyable to read.
This week provides a good example of how the Calendar of the Vetus Ordo is starting to to groan a bit because it has been unchanged since 1962. (I bet that’s never happened in liturgical history before; and this sort of unresponsiveness to natural, gradual, evolution is itself, in fact, Untraditional.)
(1) May 1. I'll be fair: I can see why Pius XII had the S Joseph idea in 1956. But it never caught on, and little more than a decade later the Novus Ordo reduced it to it an optional memorial, leaving the poor old Vetus Ordo lumbered with this enormous, innovatory and untraditional whale, marooned and decaying just above the tideline. It would be absurd to do anything other than to clean up the beach and to return pipnjim to May 1 in both Calendars. (Keen Josephites might enjoy the restoration of the Patronage of S Joseph on the Wednesday of the second week after the Octave of Easter. The propers for that feast played quite nice typological games with S Joseph and his OT namesake.)
The references to the Patriarch Joseph as an Old Testament type of Christ’s foster-father are indeed one of the most beautiful features of the old Office and Mass of the feast of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. The Church often applies to him the words “Ite ad Joseph – Go to Joseph”, from the words which the Pharaoh spoke about the Patriarch in Genesis 41, 55, telling the people of Egypt to ask him for grain during the great famine. These words are quoted in the second responsory of Matins, which in the first nocturn sums up the story of how Joseph became “as it were, the father of the king, and the lord of all his house”. The Epistle of the Mass, Genesis 49, 22-26, applies to St Joseph, as the heir of the Old Testament Patriarchs, the words by which Jacob blesses his son Joseph before his death, “The blessings of thy father are strengthened with the blessings of his fathers: until the desire of the everlasting hills should come; may they be upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the Nazarite among his brethren.” Already in the fourth century, Paulinus of Milan, the biographer of St Ambrose and a faithful follower of his teaching, explains the “desire of the everlasting hills” to be Christ Himself. (De Benedictionibus Patriarcharum, X, 15; P.L. XX 730C)
St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church; this is the image used as the header of the Mass of St Joseph in liturgical books printed by the Pustet company in the later 19th and early 20th century.
The origins of the earlier feast go back to St Theresa of Avila, who had a great devotion to St Joseph; he was traditionally honored as a Patron of the Carmelite Order, even before Bl. Pius IX gave the feast to the universal Church in 1847. The Carmelite supplement to the Roman Breviary has a special hymn for Vespers of the feast, which reads in part, speaking to St Joseph, “Our kindly mother Theresa revered thee in her prayers as a most holy patron, of thy great bounty receiving protection in all her trials.” It also has a special versicle sung three times in the Office, “From my mother’s womb thou art my protector.” In her autobiography, (6.9) St Theresa herself writes:
I took for my patron and lord the glorious St. Joseph, and recommended myself earnestly to him. I saw clearly that both out of this my present trouble, (a temporary episode of paralysis) and out of others of greater importance, relating to my honor and the loss of my soul, this my father and lord delivered me, and rendered me greater services than I knew how to ask for. I cannot call to mind that I have ever asked him at any time for anything which he has not granted; and I am filled with amazement when I consider the great favors which God hath given me through this blessed Saint; the dangers from which he hath delivered me, both of body and of soul. To other Saints, our Lord seems to have given grace to succor men in some special necessity; but to this glorious Saint, I know by experience, to help us in all: and our Lord would have us understand that as He was Himself subject to him upon earth--for St. Joseph having the title of father, and being His guardian, could command Him--so now in heaven He performs all his petitions. I have asked others to recommend themselves to St. Joseph, and they too know this by experience; and there are many who are now of late devout to him, having had experience of this truth.
From a strictly literary point of view, the liturgical texts of St Joseph the Worker are a clumsy set of pieces, quite inferior to those of the earlier feast. Especially ill-chosen is the Gospel, St. Matthew 13, 54-58, which asks but does not answer the question “Is this not the carpenter’s son?”, and ends with the words “And He wrought not many miracles there, because of their unbelief.” The Secret of the Mass contains an interesting foreshadowing of changes which would later be made to the Offertory, referring to the “hostias” which are offered as coming “from the works of our hands.” I am given to understand by those who really know chant that the Gregorian Mass-propers are particularly bad. This is due at least in part to the opposition to the feast by members of the Sacred Congregation for Rites, who also objected to the removal of the Apostles Philip and James from their very ancient traditional date of May 1st to what was then the next free day, May 11th. (With the suppression of the Finding of the Cross, they were then moved again in 1969, to May 3rd.)
St Teresa of Avila receives a veil and necklace from the Virgin and Saint Joseph, by Cristóbal de Vaillalpando, 
Fr Hunwicke also notes a problem with the feast of St Catherine of Siena, one of the six “Patrons of Europe” established as such by Pope St John Paul II. “S Catherine being a Patron of Europe, it is weird to have her on different dates in the two Calendars. A choice should be made.” 
St Catherine is kept on the 30th in the traditional Calendar because the day of her death, April 29th, is occupied by another Dominican Saint, Peter the Martyr. St. Peter was killed by Cathars, sectaries of one of the weirdest and sickest heresies the Church has ever known, on April 6th, 1252. Almost venerated as a Saint in his lifetime, (he was often in danger of being crushed by the crowds which came to hear him preach), he was canonized in less than a year, and remains to this day the single most rapidly canonized Saint in history. (I am speaking here of the formal process of canonization, which was of course simpler, but nevertheless very thorough, in the 13th-century.) A walk through any art museum in Europe, but especially in Italy, will easily show how widespread the devotion to him was.
An illustration from a Missal in the Dominican church of San Marco in Florence, ca. 1430, by one of its most famous residents, and another Dominican Saint, the painter Fra Angelico. (1395-1455) St Peter is shown writing the Apostles’ Creed with his own blood as he dies, a testament to the faith in one God against the bizarre dualist theories of the Cathars. One of his assassins, Carino, was eventually converted to a life of repentance, entered the Dominican house at Como, and is now venerated as a Blessed.
The day of his death is almost exactly in the middle of the period in which Easter can occur; his feast was therefore assigned to April 29th, where it would only rarely be impeded by the Paschal Octave. This was the date on which St Catherine herself, a Dominican Tertiary, kept the feast of St Peter, and the date on which she died in 1380. In her time, Saints Dominic, Peter Martyr and Thomas Aquinas were the only canonized Saints of the Dominican Order, and it is should be counted as one of the many graces given her that she should die on such a feast.
St Catherine was then canonized by Pope Pius II (1458-64), a fellow citizen of the Republic of Siena who also wrote the proper Office of her in the Dominican Use. Her feast was originally kept on May 2nd, and another Dominican Saint, Antoninus, archbishop of Florence from 1446 to 1459, was granted the grace to die on that day. She was later moved to April 30. St Pius V, yet another Dominican, died on the feast of Ss Philip and James, and was originally assigned to the next free day, May 5th, while St Antoninus was moved to the 10th for the sake of the older and more universal feast of St Athanasius.
Dominicans Leading the Faithful to Salvation; fresco on the east wall of the former chapter hall of the Dominican house of Santa Maria Novella. The hall was later converted into a chapel for the use of the Spaniards in Florence, and is now known as the Spanish Chapel. Andrea da Firenze, 1366-67. Ss Peter Martyr and Thomas Aquinas are shown on the lower right, disputing with heretics.
In the post-Conciliar Calendar, the feast of St Peter Martyr has been suppressed, one of its least justifiable changes. This cleared the 29th for St Catherine, and thus the 30th for St Pius V; the latter is kept at the very lowest rank, as an optional memorial, although the Constitution which promulgated the Missal of 1969 begins by stating “Everyone acknowledges that the Roman Missal, promulgated by Our Predecessor St Pius V in the year 1570, by a decree of the Council of Trent, must be counted among the many and wonderful useful fruits that flowed forth from that same most holy Synod to the universal Church of Christ.”
In point of fact, St Vincent Ferrer and Albert the Great are the only Dominican Saints who kept their traditional feast days on the 1969 Calendar, both as optional memorials. Saints Dominic, Thomas Aquinas and Rose of Lima (the last also optional) were all moved to new days, while Antoninus and Hyacinth were suppressed. The feast of the Holy Rosary is a Solemnity for the Dominicans, and may be kept as an external Solemnity on the first Sunday of October in the traditional Rite; on the general Calendar of the Ordinary Form, however, it was downgraded, from the 2nd of six ranks to the 3rd of four.
Fr Hunwicke aptly describes the Calendar of the Extraordinary Form in the title of his piece as “Frozen solid in pack ice”. Of course, feasts have been moved and suppressed before, and will be moved and suppressed again; the original Calendar of St Pius V contained neither Peter Martyr nor Catherine. But it is still something to hope for that, come a future thaw, it be remembered that the liturgical Calendar is not only a list of feast days which we keep, but also a list of feast days kept by the Saints before us.

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