Jesus’ earthly father deserves recently given spot at Mass

There are several reasons St. Joseph was added to eucharistic prayers

Q. Last year St. Joseph was added to some of the eucharistic prayers of the Mass. Can you please explain why? Thank you.

A. In November 1962, Pope John XXIII included the name of St. Joseph [his baptismal name was Karol Jozef] in the Roman Canon. This was a significant addition, because the Roman Canon had remained unchanged for centuries, and if this ancient and venerable prayer could be changed, then maybe anything was possible. And the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963) authorized more and greater changes in the liturgy.

Before his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI initially approved the insertion of the name of St. Joseph into Eucharistic Prayers II, III and IV so as to bring them into accord with Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon).

This decision was confirmed and implemented by his successor, Pope Francis, who was installed March 19, 2013.

I admit that I have regularly added the name of St. Joseph to the eucharistic prayers during the Christmas season, when he appears with the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Gospel readings of those feasts, just as is required now in the four principal eucharistic prayers.

The addition of St. Joseph is a good one.

A beloved figure

In the early centuries, Joseph often stood in the shadows of the Holy Family, the “First Family of Christianity.” But the image of Joseph as a good earthly father to Jesus made him beloved for the last 600 years. Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, but he served as his father in every other way.

Mary must have heard lots of pounding and banging and hammering from the carpenter shop next to her kitchen while Joseph, her husband, and Jesus, her son, worked there. Maybe she enjoyed the quiet when they went to nearby Sepphoris, a city being built near Nazareth.

There was a building boom going on in Sepphoris, and skilled carpenters would find lots of work there. I’ll bet that Joseph and Jesus must have talked about lots of things along the way there and back.

Maybe Joseph spoke about Mary, his special love from his youth, the one whose “yes” to God required many “yesses” to God on his part. Joseph came to know that faith requires many “yesses,” both in ordinary and extraordinary circumstances.

Joseph figures prominently in the 2007 film, “The Nativity Story.”

Screenwriter Mike Rich notes that Joseph’s “defining attitude is the righteousness — his sense of fairness. It explains why he is drawn to Mary in the first place: she is virtuous.” And director Catherine Hardwicke says that “Joseph did not place his pride before [Mary’s] well-being. His decision to accept Mary and her child and to trust the word of God took great faith and courage.”

It is that humility, trust in the word of God, great faith and courage that make Joseph a good Lenten saint for us on the way to holy Easter.

A role model for today

He is the patron and protector of the universal church. Have we ever been in greater need of unity and peace, mutual love and forgiveness, wise direction and counsel, strength to be the “missionary” church that Pope Francis advocates? That makes St. Joseph a saint for us now.

A year ago there was some thought that Pope Francis was planning to make the optional memorial of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 into an obligatory memorial for the universal church, but he hasn’t done this. Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955, apparently in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by the Communists.

More recently, demonstrations and marches of a different sort have taken place on this day: expressions of support for undocumented immigrants living and working in our country. The memorial of St. Joseph the Worker reminds us that whatever work we do, somehow we continue the work of God’s creation.

The work we do or have done, the work that immigrants in our midst do; somehow, we all participate in the deepest mystery of creation. And because we do, we receive a God-given dignity that must be respected.

Decades ago I bought a wooden statue of St. Joseph, probably carved in Puerto Rico. I gave it to my parents, Joseph and Josephine.

My mother had it while she lived in St. Joseph, a town that shares her patron saint’s name, and then I had it until I gave it to one of my confreres at St. John’s Abbey named Joseph.

I like the artist’s portrayal of Joseph the carpenter: he rests his weight upon his saw, his eyes turned downward, as if he is turned to God in a moment of quiet rest.

As we rub shoulders with the holy carpenter of Nazareth in the liturgy, maybe some of his spiritual sawdust will rub off on us. St. Joseph, pray for us!

Benedictine Father Michael Kwatera, a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, serves as the abbey’s director of liturgy. Please send your questions on liturgy to him at or at St. John’s Abbey, P.O. Box 2015, Collegeville, MN 56321-2015. Father Michael enjoys giving workshops and presentations on liturgical topics to parish groups. Reach him at the email or postal addresses listed here.