In 1870, Pope Pius IX declared Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church. It was on the 150th anniversary of that proclamation when Pope Francis declared the Year of Saint Joseph. In the 1870 proclamation Quemadmodum Deus, Pope Pius wrote:
“[Jesus Christ our Lord] whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw but conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby they might obtain eternal life.”
By declaring Joseph the patron of the Universal Church, his feast day—March 19—was raised to the rank of a solemnity, which is a celebration of greatest importance. Because of their importance, the Church does not have all that many solemnities. Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation are always considered solemnities. In the United States, Holy Days of Obligation are the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God; the Ascension of the Lord; the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; All Saints; the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas). In other countries, solemnities (aka Holy Days of Obligation) include the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Friday after the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ [Corpus Christi]); the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29); and the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Solemnities start with vespers (evening prayer) the night before the feast and many solemnities, like Christmas, have their own unique vigil Masses.
By declaring Joseph the patron of the Universal Church and elevating his feast to that of a solemnity, the Church recognizes his importance in the role of salvation. As the proclamation says: “Because of this sublime dignity which God conferred on his most faithful servant, the Church has always most highly honored and praised blessed Joseph next to his spouse, the Virgin Mother of God, and has besought his intercession in times of trouble.”
“As almighty God appointed Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob, over all the land of Egypt to save grain for the people, so when the fullness of time had come and He was about to send to earth His only-begotten Son, the Savior of the world, He chose another Joseph, of whom the first had been the type, and He made him the lord and chief of His household and possessions, the guardian of His choicest treasures.”–Pope Pius IX in Quemadmodum Deus
Saint Joseph, guide and protect the Church in these difficult and troubling times. Amen.
Image credit: Corinne SIMON/CIRIC