St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church

June 28, 2021 • 4 min

From St. Joseph’s Life, Virtues, Privileges, Power, page 250
By Very Rev. Archdeacon Kinane, P.P.

Never, perhaps, in any age has the Church been assailed by more deadly enemies than at present. Never, surely, has a wilder tempest raged round the Head of the Church, the Pope of Rome; hence God, in His infinite wisdom, has given to His Church a new Protector in St. Joseph.

At the dawn of Christianity, the Church, which may in some sense be said to have consisted of the Holy Family, was governed by St. Joseph, and was by him protected against the cruelty of Herod. To-day there are new Herods, new Pilates; to-day the Church may be said to be journeying through a desert, a thousand times more dangerous and desolate than that of the “flight into Egypt;” hence God has appointed St. Joseph to watch over the Church and to protect and guard her Head, the Sovereign Pontiff.

It was in this spirit that Pope Pius IX. ordained that the Feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph should be celebrated throughout the whole Catholic Church on the third Sunday after Easter; and the same illustrious Pontiff, at the Vatican Council, at the prayers of almost all the Bishops of Christendom, proclaimed, to the joy of all the faithful, St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church.

The following is a translation of the Decree:—

"As God established Joseph, son of the Patriarch Jacob, in Egypt, and made him governor of the land, in order that he might supply his people when they came to want the necessities of life—so when the time appointed to send His only Son upon earth had arrived, He chose another Joseph, of whom the first was a type, and making him Lord and Prince of His house and goods, chose him as guardian of His greatest treasures.

"And Joseph espoused Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, of whom was born our Lord Jesus Christ, who wished to pass as the son of Joseph, and was subject to him. And Him, whom so many Kings and Prophets longed to see, Joseph not only saw, but conversed with, and held Him in his arms, covered Him with kisses, and provided the daily bread of Him, who is the spiritual Bread of all the faithful.

"Because of this great dignity, conferred by God upon His most faithful servant, the Church has always held St. Joseph in great respect and veneration, praying to him with great confidence in all her great necessities; and as at this present time the Church is attacked on all sides by her enemies, and is oppressed by so many calamities, that impious persons here declared, that now at last the gates of hell shall prevail against her, the Bishops of the whole Catholic world have most humbly implored the Sovereign Pontiff, in their own name, and in the name of all the faithful confided to their care, to declare St. Joseph Patron of the Catholic Church.

"These prayers were renewed more fervently at the time of the great OEcumenical Council at the Vatican; and our Holy Father Pius IX., deeply moved by the last deplorable events, and wishing to place himself and all the faithful under the special protection of the holy Patriarch Joseph, heard the prayers of his Bishops, and solemnly named the beloved foster-father of Jesus, Patron of the Catholic Church. He also ordained that the feast of St. Joseph (19th March) should be raised to a double of the first class; but without an octave, on account of Lent. He further ordains that this declaration which has been made by the Decree of the Holy Congregation of Rites, shall be published on this day, which is consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, and Spouse of St. Joseph. Nothing is to prevent this order being executed.

"8th December, 1870.
        "Constantine, Bishop of Ostia and Velletri.
        "Cardinal Patrizi, Prefect of the Congregation of Rites.
        “D. Bartolini, Secretary”

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