Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Solemnity of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church 2024

From the decree of the Sacred Congregation for Rites Quemadmodum Deus, dated Dec. 8, 1870, by which St Joseph was formally recognized with the title “Patron of the Catholic Church”. Translation from the website of the Oblates of St Joseph, modified by myself.

Just as God had placed Joseph, son of the Patriarch Jacob, in charge of all the land of Egypt, that he might save grain for the people, so when the fullness of time had come, and He was about to send His only-begotten Son upon the earth as the Savior of the world, He chose another Joseph, of whom the first had been a type, whom he made the lord and chief of His house and possessions, the guardian of His greatest treasures. For indeed, he had as his spouse the Immaculate Virgin Mary, from whom was born by the Holy Spirit our Lord Jesus Christ, who deigned among men to be thought the son of Joseph, and was subject to him. And Him whom so many kings and prophets had longed to see, Joseph not only saw, but conversed with Him, and embraced with fatherly affection, and kissed, and most wisely reared, even Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread come down from heaven, to obtain eternal life.
St Joseph as Patron of the Catholic Church; this image was used as the header of his feast under that title in liturgical books printed by the German company Frideric Pustet, from the later 19th to mid 20th century. The Papal crests of Popes Bl. Pius IX and Leo XIII are seen to either side of St Peter’s Basilica.
Because of this sublime dignity which God conferred on his most faithful servant, the Church has always most highly honored and praised the blessed Joseph, after the Virgin Mother of God, his spouse, and has besought his intercession in her troubles. And indeed, since in these most sad times the Church is beset by enemies on every side, and weighed down by such grave calamities that wicked men assert that the gates of hell have finally prevailed against Her, the venerable bishops of the whole Catholic world have for this reason presented to the Supreme Pontiff their own requests, and those of the faithful entrusted to their care, asking that he would deign to declare St Joseph the Patron of the Catholic Church. Thereafter, since they renewed these same petitions and requests all the more earnestly at the Sacred Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, our most holy lord Pope Pius IX, moved also by the most recent and lamentable state of affairs (i.e., the fall of the Papal States), that he might entrust himself and all the faithful to most powerful patronage of the Holy Patriarch Joseph, has chosen to satisfy the bishops’ request, and solemnly declared him Patron of the Catholic Church.

Bl. Pope Pius IX; portrait by George Healy, 1871. (Public domain image from Wikimedia.)
The feast of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, was originally called “the Patronage of St Joseph,” and fixed to the Third Sunday after Easter. It was kept by a great many dioceses and religious orders, particularly promoted by the Carmelites, before it was extended to the universal Church by Bl. Pope Pius IX in 1847, and later granted an octave. When the custom of fixing feasts to particular Sundays was abolished as part of the Breviary reform of Pope St Pius X, it was anticipated to the previous Wednesday, the day of the week traditionally dedicated to Patron Saints. It was removed from the general Calendar in 1955 and replaced by the feast of St Joseph the Worker, one of the least fortunate aspects of the pre-Conciliar liturgical changes; the new feast itself was then downgraded from the highest of three grades (first class) in the 1962 Missal to the lowest of four (optional memorial) in 1970.

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