The most interesting man in the world?

by Kevin Birnbaum

St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni (1575-1642)

We don’t know a whole lot about St. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, foster father of Jesus, and patron saint of the Universal Church. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that he was a righteous man and that he refused to expose Mary to public shame when he discovered she was pregnant with a child that was not his. But not a single word uttered by Joseph is recorded in the Gospels. It seems Joseph was a quiet, simple carpenter who trusted God and faithfully accepted a rather extraordinary responsibilty: caring for the queen of heaven and God incarnate.

What must he have witnessed and experienced? What stories he could tell!

As a husband and new father, I have a special interest in and affection for St. Joseph, and I pray he will assist me in my duties and watch over my family as he did his own.

Fifty years ago today it was announced that Blessed Pope John XXIII had decided to add Joseph’s name to the Canon of the Mass. Archbishop Thomas A. Connolly of Seattle, who was in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, sent back this report to his diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Northwest Progress, on Nov. 14, 1962:

This morning, Mass in honor of St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, was celebrated by the Auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal Tien of Peking (displaced). Some time ago, St. Joseph was designated as the patron of this Council by His Holiness, and yesterday, Cardinal Cicognani, the former Apostolic Delegate to the Church in the United States and presently secretary of state, announced that the Holy Father had decreed that the name of St. Joseph would be inserted in the canon of the Mass immediately after the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The insertion will go into effect on December 8. This decree was announced during the 18th general congregation of the Ecumenical Council so that it might be a matter of record that the Second Vatican Council so honored its patron. The announcement was greeted by a warm round of applause.

On several occasions during the discussions of the past few weeks, appeals had been made by a number of the Fathers of the Council for the inclusion of the name of St. Joseph in the canon of the Mass and particularly last Saturday, several stirring pleas were made in behalf of this proposal. It has been reported that this is the first change to occur in the canon since the sixth century but I have my doubts about any such claim.

However, this decree of the Pope is sure to please millions of Catholic people in all parts of the world who have a special devotion to and affection for the Foster Father of Our Lord. And, as one episcopal wag has already put it, “The family that prays together should stay together.”

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