The Feasts of St. Joseph
"Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble." -Pope Francis
Could it be that the Holy Spirit, through Pope Francis, is rekindling an honour and devotion to St. Joseph that was previously lost?
During this Year of St. Joseph, the Vatican has promised to grant "a plenary indulgence to Catholics who recite any approved prayer or act of piety in honor of St. Joseph, especially on March 19, the saint’s solemnity, and May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker." (link)
While the 19th of March was dedicated to the honour of St. Joseph dating back to the 10th century, (link) the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker is younger. In fact, during the years between 1870 and 1955, another feast was celebrated called "Saint Joseph as Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church." As we know, Pope Emeritus Benedict began, and Pope Francis confirmed that "Joseph her spouse" be added to the rest of the Eucharistic Prayers in the Mass (St. Joseph had been added previously to the first Eucharistic prayer- link).
It seems that this devotion to St. Joseph as the patron of the universal Church is being revived? He has been honoured as patron of the universal Church (and of Canada and Poland) for many years, but with this new Year of St. Joseph, it seems the Holy Spirit is at work. As Jesus said (which can be applied to the Church's authority), "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:19)
Between the years of 1870 and 1955, the Feast of Saint Joseph as Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church was the highest feast, a solemnity which in the old church was "originally celebrated on the third Sunday after Easter with an octave." (link) When the feast was renamed the Solemnity of St. Joseph later, but in 1955 was abolished along with its octave. However, Pope Pius XII, who abolished it, also started a new feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, the upcoming feast celebrated on May 1st.
The Communists, of course, celebrated International Workers' Day, or "May Daym" on May 1st. Pope Pius XII, in the wisdom of the Church at the time, wanted to reaffirm the Church's theology of work. The Communists were growing in popularity throughout the world...their promotion of the dignity of workers was appealing, especially to the working class. And yet, the Church had upheld this dignity all along...the main problem with Communism, of course, is that it is by nature atheistic. Karl Marx was hostile towards religion, particularly Christianity, famously calling it "the opiate of the people." As we know from the opioid crisis of today, an opiate is not something to be encouraged, but rather rooted out, destroyed. In creating the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, the pope sought to combat the evil of atheist communism. The battle with communism that continues throughout the earth has proven the creation of this feast day was prophetic.
And yet, a new development seems to be taking place...not only does St. Joseph have two feast days in the Church calendar, and receive honour each Wednesday, this holy Year of St. Joseph seems to be increasing a certain grace in the world. More than ever, people need to be able to turn to someone they can trust, and identify with. Jesus became a carpenter for this reason; Joseph taught Him the blessing and meaning of humble work, work that benefits others, work that a person can pride himself in. God deemed this work so honourable, that Jesus spent the first 30 years of His life in this way.
Whatever the Holy Spirit is doing, it seems to be centered around St. Joseph and the Holy Family...oh Lord let the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, through the prayers of St. Joseph, bring about the spirit of Elijah upon the Church as You promised: "he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers: lest I come, and strike the earth with anathema." (Mal. 4:6) Small wonder that John the Baptist and St. Joseph have traditionally been honoured every Wednesday, along with patron saints.
May St. John the Baptist and St. Joseph ever intercede for us, that we may become people of honour, doing our best to do the work God has called each of us to do, as St. John Paul II said on the 19th of March, 2003:
"According to God's design and will, [work] must serve the true good of humanity and allow "man as an individual and as a member of society to cultivate and carry out his integral vocation" (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 35).
In order to fulfil this mission, a "tested spirituality of human work" must be cultivated that is firmly rooted in the "Gospel of work" and believers are called to proclaim and to witness to the Christian meaning of work in their many activities and occupations (cf. Laborem exercens, n. 26)..."
And as he prayed,
"May St Joseph, such a great and humble saint be an example that inspires Christian workers, who should call on him in every circumstance. Today I wish to entrust to the provident guardian of the Holy Family of Nazareth the young people who are training for their future profession, the unemployed, and those who are suffering from the hardship of the shortage of employment, families and the whole world of work, with the expectations and challenges, the problems and prospects that characterize it.
May St Joseph, the Patron of the universal Church, watch over the entire ecclesial community and, as the man of peace that he was, may he obtain for all humanity, especially for the peoples threatened at this time by war, the precious gift of harmony and peace...." (brackets ours; link)