Fr. Toby’s Thoughts

Dear St. James Parishioners,

Tomorrow, March 19th, is what some people call one of the “oases” of Lent. Since tomorrow is the feast day of St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and since this feast day is one of the highest rank – solemnity – it is fitting that one might join the Church’s rejoicing on this occasion by taking a break from one’s Lenten penances for the day. There’s nothing that says you have to indulge in what you gave up for Lent – some people find it helpful to just keep going with their penances – but, since it is such a great day of celebration, you are welcome to take a break from the fast.

I have fond memories of a service trip I did in Jamaica with one of my favorite religious orders, the Missionaries of the Poor, whose motto always strikes me: “Servitium Dulce cum Christo Crucifixo,” or “Joyful Service with Christ on the Cross.” It was Lent 2011, and we happened to be there on March 25th, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord – the other “oasis” of Lent in most years. (This year, since March 25th falls on Palm Sunday, the celebration of the Annunciation has to be pushed back to April 9th, after the Octave of Easter is over.) Not only was March 25th during Lent that year, but it also happened to be a Friday of Lent. However, since the Annunciation is a solemnity, we were not bound to fasting or abstaining from meat that day (cf. Can. 1251 in the Code of Canon Law), and the brothers in the order treated us to a great feast, with meat aplenty. Some of my friends were even given the opportunity to slaughter one of the hogs on the brothers’ farm for the feast. (I was grateful not to be a part of that task.)

The reason that we celebrate tomorrow is the faithful service of St. Joseph, whom the Church has always honored with special devotion. You may not realize that just five years ago, in 2013, St. Joseph was given a “promotion,” so to speak, which has its roots in an even bigger “promotion” that happened in 1962. In 2013, St. Joseph’s name was officially added to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. (The Eucharistic prayer is the part of the Mass that begins with, “The Lord be with you. And with your spirit. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord…” and ends with the priest raising the host and chalice, saying or singing, “Through him, with him, and in him…”) In 1962, Pope St. John XXIII added St. Joseph’s name to the Roman Canon, a.k.a. Eucharistic Prayer I. While this may seem like a small thing at first glance, when you look at it in context, it’s actually huge. Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV, although the were based on ancient prayers, were introduced to the Mass in 1968. Before that, the Roman Canon was the only Eucharistic prayer, and before Pope St. John XXIII’s addition in 1962, no change had been made to the Roman Canon since 1570. Further, the core of the Roman Canon seems to have been in place since the end of the fourth century, such that only minor changes were made to it between then and 1570.

All that liturgical history serves to emphasize the importance the Church gives to St. Joseph, such that his name would be inserted into a largely unchanged, revered ancient prayer. When the Congregation for Divine Worship issued the decree that added St. Joseph’s name to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV, they summarized his importance in this way:

“Exercising his paternal care over Jesus, Saint Joseph of Nazareth, set over the Lord’s family, marvelously fulfilled the office he received by grace. Adhering firmly to the mystery of God’s design of salvation in its very beginnings, he stands as an exemplary model of the kindness and humility that the Christian faith raises to a great destiny, and demonstrates the ordinary and simple virtues necessary for men to be good and genuine followers of Christ. Through these virtues, this Just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed as guardian over God the Father’s most precious treasures. Therefore he has been the subject of assiduous devotion on the part of the People of God throughout the centuries, as the support of that mystical body, which is the Church.”

So, as you celebrate St. Joseph’s solemnity tomorrow, spend some time in prayer getting to know St. Joseph better and asking for his prayers! Also, in these last few weeks of Lent, plan on going to confession if you haven’t already this season. It’s the best way to prepare for Easter! We have a lot of additional times for individual confessions; see the cover for details. God bless!