It seems illogical to write about St. Joseph when the calendar says December 8 instead of March 19 or May 1. Actually, we should be writing about the Immaculate Conception. However, it is worth seizing the moment to expend a few words on St. Joseph as well—today is the 150th anniversary of his proclamation as Patron of the Universal Church.
On March 19, 1961, Pope John XXIII sent out his Apostolic Letter Le Voci in which he recounts the proclamation about Joseph, saying: “The first two ideas that the Fathers of the First Vatican Council presented to Pius IX when they met in Rome (1869-1870) had to do with St. Joseph. Their first request was that devotion to him be accorded a higher place in the Sacred Liturgy. This document bore the signatures of 153 bishops. The other, signed by 43 Superiors-General of religious Orders, asked for the solemn proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. Pius IX greeted both requests with joy. At the very beginning of his pontificate [on September 10, 1847], he set aside the third Sunday after Easter for the feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph. Already by 1854, in a devout and stirring speech, he had pointed to St. Joseph as the surest hope of the Church after the Blessed Virgin; and on December 8, 1870, when the Vatican Council was suspended due to political events, he took the happy coincidence of the feast of the Immaculate Conception to solemnly and formally proclaim St. Joseph as ‘Patron of the Universal Church’ and to elevate the feast of March 19 to the liturgical rank of a double first class feast [Decr. Quemadmodum Deus, Dec 8, 1870; Acta Pii IX P. M., 5, Rome 1873, p. 282].”
Thus, St. Joseph has officially been the Patron of the Universal Church for 150 years. We should also mention that he is the patron saint of our Order. In fact, the Constitutions of 2019 speak about him in art. 47, §4: “The friars are to honor and imitate St. Joseph, Protector of the Order, an outstanding example of a man who believes and is totally dedicated to God.” How many years ago was he chosen as our protector? It seems the answer is 279 years ago. The decision to choose St. Joseph as the protector and patron of the Order was made during the General Chapter celebrated in May of 1741, at the Friary of the Twelve Holy Apostles in Rome. Pope Benedict XIV personally presided over this Chapter. Then, on September 6, 1741, he issued the Decree, with which he granted the indulgences the friars requested, following the decision to choose St. Joseph as the Patron of the Order [cf. Archivum Franciscanum Historicum XIII (1920) 150-151, where the decree is published].
P.S. If anyone would also like a word on the Immaculate Conception, let us respond with some words by St. Maximilian M. KOLBE, who presented St. Joseph as an example of giving of oneself to the Immaculate Conception. In 1938, on Christmas Eve in Niepokalanów, St. Maximilian said: “Let us try to insert the Immaculate Conception into souls, just as St. Joseph accompanied her to Bethlehem (Lk 2:4-7). Let us pray to St. Joseph that we may dedicate and consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Conception; that we may live and work for her, as he did [cf. Lectures of St. Maximilian Kolbe, no. 202].”
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