Pope Pius IX declares St. Joseph to be the Patron of the Church
In 1870 Pius IX issued “Quemadmodum Deus.” In this document, we see the reality of the Church coming under attack, from all sides and even from within. Pius IX, stricken with grief by the assaults against the Church decided to turn to St. Joseph, not only composing a prayer to him, but going one step further, and proclaiming St. Joseph to be the Patron of the Universal Church! This is no idle gesture in the eyes of those who truly love the Mystical Body of Christ, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us read an excerpt from Quemadmodum Deus:
And now, in these most troublesome times, the Church is beset by enemies on every side, and is weighed down by calamities so heavy that ungodly men assert that the gates of hell have at length prevailed against her, the venerable prelates of the whole Catholic world have presented to the Sovereign Pontiff their own petitions and those of the faithful committed to their charge, praying that he would deign to constitute St. Joseph Patron of the Church. … Accordingly, it has now pleased our Most Holy Sovereign, Pope Pius IX, in order to entrust himself and all the faithful to the Patriarch St. Joseph’s most powerful patronage, has chosen to comply with the prelates’ desire and has solemnly declared him Patron of the Catholic Church. – Pope Pius IX
We see from this excerpt that initially it was the people who wanted St. Joseph’s help for the Church, who petitioned their bishops, who then approached the Holy Father. Humanity was crying out for St. Joseph’s intercession. The Pope lamented that “The Church is beset by enemies on every side…” and this was all too obvious at the time as the 19th century brought much violence against the Catholic Church. How much more does our Church suffer at the hands of the world today. The Franco-Prussian war was being fought; the Italian governments wanted to take over Rome which before then had always been under the Pope’s authority; King Victor Emmanuel II waged open war against Pope Pius IX and the anti-clerical newspapers applauded the taking over of the Papal States.
This is one of the great reasons why Pius IX turned to Joseph, to protect the Papacy and the Church. The proclaiming of St. Joseph as Patron of the Catholic Church was no idle gesture. In times of calamity, the papacy looked to him who had the duty of protecting none other than God the Son and His Blessed Mother.
If we truly believe that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, then we must have a special devotion to St. Joseph who guards this Body! He resembles the cherub who held the flaming sword, appointed by God to guard the Garden of Eden. If we hold to be true that the Holy Father is the Vicar of Christ then we must believe in the Church’s pronouncement of St. Joseph being named Patron of the Catholic Church. When a Pope speaks, his are not just meaningless words: his words are binding.
Amen, I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven… – St. Matthew 18:18
QUEMADMODUM DEUS (Given on December 8, 1870) 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. Indeed, he had as his spouse the Immaculate Virgin Mary, of whom was born by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ our Lord, who deigned to be reputed in the sight of men as the son of Joseph, and was subject to him.
Him 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.
Because of this sublime dignity which God conferred on his most faithful servant, the Church has always most highly honoured and praised blessed Joseph next to his spouse, the Virgin Mother of God, and has besought his intercession in times of trouble.
And now therefore, when in these most troublesome times the Church is beset by enemies on every side, and is weighed down by calamities so heavy that ungodly men assert that the gates of hell have at length prevailed against her, the venerable prelates of the whole Catholic world have presented to the Sovereign Pontiff their own petitions and those of the faithful committed to their charge, praying that he would deign to constitute St. Joseph Patron of the Church. And this time their prayer and desire was renewed by them even more earnestly at the Sacred Ecumenical Council of the Vatican.
Accordingly, it has now pleased our Most Holy Sovereign, Pope Pius IX, in order to entrust himself and all the faithful to the Patriarch St. Joseph’s most powerful patronage, has chosen to comply with the prelates’ desire and has solemnly declared him Patron of the Catholic Church.
He has also ordered that his feast on March 19th by henceforth celebrated as a double of the first class, without any Octave, however, because of Lent. He arranged, moreover, that a declaration to this effect be promulgated through the present decree of The Sacred Congregation of Rites on this day sacred to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, the most chaste Joseph’s Spouse. All things to the contrary notwithstanding.
INCLYTUM PATRIARCHAM (Given on July 7, 1871) The Catholic Church rightly honours with a very full cultus and venerates with a feeling of deep reverence the illustrious patriarch blessed Joseph, now crowned with glory and honour in heaven. On earth Almighty God, in preference to all His saints, willed him to be the chaste and true spouse of the Immaculate Virgin Mary as well as the putative father of His only-begotten Son. He indeed enriched him and filled him to overflowing with entirely unique graces, enabling him to execute more faithfully the duties of so sublime a state.
Wherefore, the Roman Pontiffs, Our Predecessors, in order that they might daily increase and more ardently stimulate in the hearts of the Christian faithful a reverence and devotion toward the holy patriarch, and that they might exhort them to implore his intercession with God with the utmost confidence, have not failed to decree new and ever greater tokens of public veneration for him whenever the occasion was fitting.
Among these let it suffice to call to mind Our predecessors of happy memory, Sixtus IV, who wished the feast of St. Joseph inserted in the Roman missal and breviary; Gregory XV, who by a decree of May 8, 1621, ordered that the feast should be observed in the whole world under a double precept; Clement X, who on December 6, 1670, accorded the feast the rite of a double of the second class; Clement XI, who by a decree of February 4, 1714, adorned the feast with a complete proper mass and office; and finally Benedict XIII, who by a decree published on December 19, 1726, ordered the name of the holy patriarch added to the Litany of the Saints.
We Ourselves, raised to the supreme Chair of Peter by the inscrutable design of God, and moved by the example of Our illustrious predecessors, as well as by the singular devotion which from youth itself We entertained toward the holy patriarch, have with great joy of the soul, by a decree of September 10, 1847, extended to the whole Church under the rite of double of the second class the feast of his patronage, a feast which has already been celebrated in many places by a special indult of the Holy See.
However, in these latter times in which a monstrous and most abominable war has been declared against the Church of Christ, the devotion of the faithful toward St. Joseph has grown and progressed to such an extent that from every direction innumerable and fervent petitions have reached Us. These were recently renewed during the Sacred Ecumenical Council of the Vatican by groups of the faithful, and, what is more important, by many of Our venerable brethren, the cardinals and bishops of the Holy Roman Church.
In their petitions they begged of Us that in these mournful days, as a safeguard against the evils which disturb us on every side, We should more efficaciously implore the compassion of God through the merits and intercession of Saint Joseph, declaring him Patron of the Universal Church. Accordingly, moved by these requests and after having invoked the divine light, We deemed it right that desires in such numbers and of such piety should be granted.
Hence, by a special decree of Our Congregation of Sacred Rites (which We ordered to be proclaimed during high mass in Our patriarchal basilicas, the Lateran, Vatican and Liberian, on December 8, of the past year 1870, the holy day of the Immaculate Conception of his spouse) We solemnly declared the blessed patriarch Joseph patron of the universal church, and We ordered that his feast occurring on the 19th of March should henceforth be celebrated in the whole world under the rite of a double of the first class, yet without an octave on account of Lent.
Now, after our declaration of the holy patriarch as Patron of the Universal Church, We think it but proper that in the public veneration of the church each and every privilege of honour should be accorded him which belongs to special patron saints according to the general rubrics of the Roman breviary and missal. Therefore, after consultation with Our venerable brethren, the cardinals of the holy Roman church who are entrusted with the supervision of the sacred rites, We, confirming and also amplifying with Our present letter the aforesaid regulation of that decree, do command and enjoin the following:
We desire that the Creed be always added in the mass on the natal feast of St. Joseph as well as on the feast of his patronage, even though these feasts should occur on some day other than Sunday. Moreover, we desire that in the oration A Cunctis, whenever it is to be recited, the commemoration of St. Joseph shall be added in the following words, “with blessed Joseph,” which words are to be introduced after the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and before all other patron saints, with the exception of the angels and of St. John the Baptist.
Finally, we desire that, while this order is to be observed in the suffrages of the saints whenever they are prescribed by the rubrics, the following commemoration should be added in honour of St. Joseph:
The Antiphon at Vespers:
Behold the faithful and prudent servant whom the Lord has set over his household. V. Glory and riches are in his house. R. And his justice remains for ever.
The Antiphon at Lauds:
Jesus himself, when he began his work, was about thirty years of age, being as was supposed the son of Joseph. V. The mouth of the just man shall meditate wisdom. R. And his tongue shall speak judgment.
O God, who in your ineffable providence was pleased to choose blessed Joseph as the spouse of your most holy mother, grant, we beseech you, that we may be made worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom we venerate as our protector on earth.
Given in Rome at St. Peter’s, under the Fisherman’s Seal, July 7, 1871, the twenty-sixth year of our pontificate.