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Father Vincent Hawkswell

St. Joseph: the Canadian Connection

Voices Dec. 24, 2018

A statue of St. Joseph at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. The oratory is the largest church in Canada and its dome the second largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. (Wikimedia photo)

Canadians have played an important part in the development of devotion to St. Joseph, perhaps the most neglected member of the Holy Family.

On March 19, 1624, Father Joseph Le Caron, one of the first four missionaries to Canada, wrote that they had chosen Joseph “Patron of New France,” and he is now Canada’s principal patron.

In 1911, Pius X approved a motion by the First Plenary Council of Quebec to include Joseph in the Divine Praises. At the request of Bishop Émile Grouard, OMI, of Athabasca, Pope Benedict XV mandated it for the whole Church in 1923.

St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal is now the largest church in Canada, and its dome is the largest of its kind in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome.

In the universal Church, devotion to St. Joseph developed slowly. Mass was celebrated in his honour as early as the 10th century, and by 1479, March 19 was his feast day in the Roman calendar. In 1570, Pius V extended it to the whole Latin Rite.

In 1714, Clement XI wrote a proper office for Joseph in the Roman Breviary. In 1729, Benedict XIII put his name in the Litany of Saints. In 1870, Pius IX declared him patron of the whole Church and the “Patronage of St. Joseph” became a feast.

In 1889, in Quamquam Pluries (on St. Joseph), Leo XIII wrote a prayer to Joseph to be added to the Rosary during October and he declared March the month of Joseph, as May is the month of Mary and June of the Sacred Heart. Pius X approved a Litany of St. Joseph in 1909, and Benedict XV wrote a proper preface for his feasts in 1919. In 1920, Benedict urged that Joseph be invoked on Wednesdays, especially as patron of a happy death.

In 1930, Pius XI made Joseph protector of Russia, and in 1955, Pius XII replaced the “Patronage of St. Joseph” with “St. Joseph the Worker” – May 1, International Workers’ Day.

John XXIII entrusted the Second Vatican Council to Joseph March 19, 1961. To give “new splendour” to Joseph’s altar in St. Peter’s, he commissioned a mosaic three metres high and blessed it March 19, 1963. He also added Joseph’s name to the Roman canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) Nov. 13, 1962. Pope Francis added it to the other Eucharistic Prayers May 1, 2013.

Benedict XVI entrusted “all pastors” to Joseph Dec. 19, 2010. We “venerate the legal father of Jesus,” he said, because St. Paul’s “new man takes form in him.”

See St. Joseph, the Holy Family’s Neglected Member.