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How Holy Fathers Have Honored Christ's Earthly Father, St. Joseph, Throughout History

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

by Margaux Salcedo

While reading up on St. Joseph, inspired by the novena to St. Joseph held by the San Jose Manggagawa Parish in Manuguit, Tondo, in the days leading up to today, the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, I found that so many popes, not only Pope Francis, have had devotions to and paid tribute in their own way to St. Joseph.

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, thanks to Pope Pius XII, who established it in 1955. This was meant to Christianize the month of May which was recognized as a Communist holiday.

Here are the other contributions of other popes to honoring Christ's earthly father and Mary's protector:

Pope Pius IX

Pope Pius IX published the decree Quemadmodum Deus, declaring St. Joseph patron and protector of the universal Church

On December 8, 1870, The Sacred Congregation of Rites promulgated this decree, which communicated the decision of Pope Pius IX to declare St. Joseph patron of the Universal Church.

Pope Pius IX also elevated Joseph’s feast to a Solemnity, the highest designation.

Quemadmodum Deus also raised St. Joseph’s feast of March 19 to a Solemnity. Until this time, St. Joseph, while acknowledged, was not considered a preeminent saint, with his feast day only Class II on the calendar and few devotions in his honor.

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII approved the St. Joseph Scapular

He also penned the encyclical letter Quamquam pluries, an encyclical on devotion to St. Joseph, published on August 15, 1889.

Pope Pius X

Pope Pius X endorsed The Litany of St. Joseph for public use.

Pope Benedict XV

Pope Benedict XV added St. Joseph's invocation to the Divine Praises.

Pope Pius XI

Pope Pius XI designated St. Joseph as special protector against Communism

Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII established the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to be celebrated on the 1st of May.

Pope John XXIII

Pope John XXIII chose St. Joseph as the special patron of the Second Vatican Council

On March 19, 1961, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Pope John XXIII named him as the patron and protector of the Second Vatican Council. The Pope recalled that St. Joseph, Christ’s guardian had previously been invoked to help the Church in its projects and concerns, and especially when it was in crisis.

Pope John XXIII included St. Joseph in the First Eucharistic Prayer, or traditional Canon, of the Mass.

This was following the request of an old bishop who had been imprisoned for nine years in a Communist jail, whose legs were broken by his captors, who had prayed to St Joseph in agony. This was the first change to the Canon of the Mass in centuries.

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II wrote Redemptoris Custos, an apostolic exhortation, published on Nov 24, 2013

He also wrote this prayer:

Saint Joseph, with you, for you, we bless the Lord. He chose you among all men to be the chaste spouse of Mary, the one who would remain at the threshold of the mystery of her divine maternity, and who, after her, would accept it in faith as the work of the Holy Spirit. You gave to Jesus legal paternity in the line of David. You constantly watched over the Mother and the Child with an affectionate concern, in order to protect their lives and to allow them to accomplish their destiny. 

The Saviour Jesus deigned to submit himself to you, as to a father, throughout his childhood and adolescence and to receive from you an apprenticeship in human life, while you shared his life in the adoration of his mystery.  You remain at his side. Continue to protect the whole church, the family born of the salvation of Jesus. See the spiritual and material needs of all those who beg your intercession, particularly families and those who are poor, in every sense; through you, they are certain to find Mary’s maternal face and the hand of Jesus to assist them.  Amen. 

Pope Francis

Pope Francis added the name of St. Joseph to the four Eucharistic Prayers, alongside the Blessed Virgin Mary

On the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 2013, Pope Francis inserted the name of St. Joseph into Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV.

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph in 2020, as the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis also offered this prayer to St. Joseph.

Protect, O Holy Guardian, this our nation. Enlighten those responsible for the common good, so that they might know — like you do — how to care for those entrusted to their responsibility. Grant intelligence of knowledge to those seeking adequate means for the health and physical well-being of their brothers and sisters. Sustain those who are spending themselves for those in need, even at the cost of their own safety: volunteers, nurses, doctors who are on the front lines in curing the sick. Bless, O St Joseph, the Church: beginning with her ministers, make her the sign and instrument of your light and your goodness. Accompany, O St Joseph, our families: with your prayerful silence, create harmony between parents and their children, in a special way with the youngest. Preserve the elderly from loneliness: grant that no one might be left in desperation from abandonment and discouragement. Comfort those who are the most frail, encourage those who falter, intercede for the poor. With the Virgin Mother, beg the Lord to liberate the world from every form of pandemic. Amen

We are praying together, entrusting ourselves to the intercession of St. Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family, Guardian of all our families. Even the carpenter of Nazareth knew the precariousness and bitterness. Though he worried about the future, he knew how to walk the darkness of certain moments, always letting himself be guided by God’s will without reservation. - Pope Francis, March 18, 2020

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