Ask A Franciscan

Why Is St. Joseph Overlooked?

May 11, 2020
painting of the holy family | image in the public domain

God the Father chose Mary to have Jesus and selected Joseph as the child’s foster father. I have a great devotion to Mary and Joseph. Why is it that only Eucharistic Prayer I mentions Joseph? That seems very odd.

On March 19, we celebrate St. Joseph, the patron of the universal Church, of families, workers, unborn children and those who are dying. He is the patron of countless churches, schools, religious 
communities and all the people named Joseph.

I see Joseph as the patron for all of us when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

Who knows this more than Joseph? He could not have expected Mary to become pregnant before their marriage, that angels would speak to him in dreams or that wise men would appear with gifts for the child or that he, Jesus and Mary would have to escape to Egypt. When will St. Joseph receive from Catholics the respect that he clearly deserves?


On November 13, 1962, Blessed Pope John XXIII ordered that, effective on December 8 of that year, St. Joseph’s name be inserted into the Roman Canon, which has been known since 1969 as Eucharistic Prayer I. Celebrants are free to insert Joseph’s name into Eucharistic Prayer III.

During the first weeks of the Second Vatican Council, a very prominent Roman cardinal asserted that the pope was so bound by tradition that he could not even add a saint’s name to the Roman Canon. Pope John XXIII did not agree. Also, several bishops had asked before the Council that it foster increased devotion to St. Joseph.

According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia (second edition), the first known independent commemoration of St. Joseph is in an eighth-century list of saints. The first certain liturgical observance of his feast was in 1324. Sts. Bernardine of Siena and Teresa of Avila promoted devotion to St. Joseph.

Starting in 1815, hundreds of bishops and thousands of laypeople began petitioning the Holy See that St. Joseph be included in several prayers said at each Mass.

In 1870, Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him patron of the universal Church. In 1937, Pope Pius XI declared him patron of the Church’s campaign against atheistic communism. Partly as a response to communist May Day celebrations, Pope Pius XII in 1955 instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Six years later Blessed Pope John XXIII declared St. Joseph the patron of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical on the saint in 1899. The men’s movement in the Catholic Church has fostered a renewed devotion to St. Joseph.

In fact, we know little about Joseph beyond his virtues of justice and generous service. Because some early Christians were not satisfied with what the canonical Gospels say about St. Joseph, over 100 years after his death they added unverifiable details about his life into gospels that are not part of the New Testament.

The Industrial Revolution led the Catholic Church to a greater emphasis on St. Joseph and devotion to the Holy Family.

The Church has encouraged more recognition and respect for St. Joseph. We need to carry that out.


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