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St. Joseph in the Canon of the Mass

 Now that Pope Francis has directed that St. Joseph’s name be added to the other three eucharistic prayers, it’s worth recalling how the saint’s name was introduced into the Roman Canon by Pope John XXIII.

At the discussion of the schema on the liturgy at the first session of Vatican II, at least three bishops proposed that St. Joseph’s name be added to the Canon of the Mass. One of them was Bishop Peter Čule from Mostar, Yugoslavia, whose health had been seriously compromised by his having been sentenced to eleven years of hard labor in one of Tito’s show trials in 1948. As he made his plea for St. Joseph at the Council, he wandered and began to repeat himself, and Cardinal Ruffini, who was presiding that day, finally interrupted him: "I ask you please conclude your very pious sermon. I am sure that we are all very devoted to St. Joseph,” a remark greeted by laughter in the council hall. This rude treatment of a bishop who had suffered severely for the faith under the Communists is said to have irritated Pope John and prompted him to announce three days later, on November 13, 1962, that he had decided that St. Joseph's name was to be inserted into the Canon. For at least 150 years petitions had been sent to Rome for this action, the most recent of which, presented in six volumes to the Pope in March 1962, appears to have persuaded John XXIII to intervene.

Reactions to this move by the Pope were varied.

Robert Kaiser quoted one theologian as saying, "Half the world doesn't even believe in God and we worry about St. Joseph." Yves Congar used it as an occasion to raise questions about modern Catholic devotionalism. In his Council diary he wrote:

The problem is not the fact of having put St. Joseph into the Canon: he is worth far more than Saints Chrysogonus and John and Paul, who may not even have existed. The problem is rather that, while the Council is in session, and when that Council is discussing the liturgy, the Pope, on his own authority, decides something (the appropriateness of which is at least questionable). Good Pope John keeps on combining some lovely gestures with others that are regrettable or retrograde.

Karl Barth had fewer difficulties however, saying that he himself preferred to compare the Church to St. Joseph rather than to the Blessed Virgin.

Joseph, in my opinion, in his relation to Christ, played the same role as the Church should exercise. The Roman Church, I know, prefers to compare her role to that of Mary, which was more glorious. She brings the Gospel message to the world in the same way that Mary gave us the Christ. But the comparison is fallacious. The Church cannot give birth to the Redeemer, but she can and must serve Him with discreet and humble zeal. This was specifically the role of Joseph, who always remained in the background, leaving all the glory to Jesus. This must also be the role of the Church if we want the world to rediscover the splendor of the Word of God (quoted in Antoine Wenger, Vatican II. Volume I: The First Session (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1966), p. 72).

Douglas Horton, dean of Harvard Divinity School and delegate-observer of the International Congregationalist Council, faithfully kept a very informative diary in which he made this record:

One of the signs of the vitality of this old Roman church is (as I have observed before) the delight that its priests take in telling stories on themselves and the ways of Rome. The current saying that is floating about is to the effect that, now that St. Joseph's name has been included in the canon of the mass, we shall presently have promulgated a doctrine of the assumption of the blessed St. Joseph, to parallel the doctrine of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary--that is, of course, direct assumption into heaven--and this on the theological basis that the family that prays together stays together! (Vatican Diary 1962, p. 128.)

(It may be necessary (sigh) to explain the joke. “The family that prays together stays together” was one of the slogans of the Family Rosary Crusade launched by Fr. Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., a notable part of popular Catholic consciousness before the Council.)

About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.



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Here's a good (imho) web site that gives the dates of various forms of recognition of St. Joseph (inclusion in the Divine Praises, etc.) throughout Church history.

It would be nice if more was taught about the life of Joseph -- what it meant to be a "carpenter" in his day, how assiduously he fulfilled an observant Jew's role in bringing up his children, etc., etc.


I like Karl Barth's quote and the theological reasoning behind it. The role of St. Joseph has been underdeveloped both in tradition and even scripture. I personally, tend to agree with the Eastern tradition that Joseph was an older man and a widower and that the siblings of Jesus were Joseph's by a previous marriage. I also think this accounts for Mary's perplexity on becoming pregnant. As delicate as this may be, it may point to the fact that Joseph was not able to perform in a way that could produce a child and Mary, no doubt knew this. However, he was a righteous man and was anxious to protect Mary's reputation and virtue when it was discovered that she was pregnant. He was, no doubt, a very honourable man. And being older, he could pass on to Jesus, the kind of wisdom that only accrues with age and experience.

"I personally, tend to agree with the Eastern tradition that Joseph was an older man and a widower and that the siblings of Jesus were Joseph's by a previous marriage."

There are many who agree that the sound of hoofbeats indicates zebras rather than horses.  

The notion that Mary and Joseph were real people -- Jews -- with real ancestors and real children is repugnant to many.  

Fr. K., Thanks for the slice of history. More men that I would l have imagined (I am learning in my old age) share a devotion to St. Joseph that is as strong as the devotion to Mary that is generally imputed to Catholics. There is not a lot of scripture or theology on which to build such devotion, but these are not the kind of guys to refer to the New Jerome Biblical Commentary or Denzinger, or even know what they are, before they take to prayer. What they do know is that Joseph led a familly in difficult times, and they can strongly identify with that. They will be happy about Pope Francis' action.


It is not repugnant to me. We can certainly reflect on the evidence presented even on a purely human level.

One central fact remains, and is clear and evident from scripture. Mary was pregnant and Joseph was not the father. The authors of Luke and Matthew each handled that in different ways. There is not disagreement on that central point.

That Joseph would support Mary, and a child that he knew full well was not his own is pretty heroic by any standards. I know very, very few men who would do that. And, I would suspect, even less in the ancient world. Or if there were other children, Jesus, would have been identified as the bastard child and that would have stunted his development and he certainly would not have grown into the man he was.

Even, in our so called enlightened society, a woman with children from multiple fathers is not exactly a catch and certainly not someone who would be respected or revered in the community. I am not saying that is right, just, or even kind. I am just saying that is they way it is.

None of that happened and that, no doubt, has a lot to do with Joseph. From where I sit, Joseph is a very good, honourable, and righteous man. Oh that there were more "real" men like him today!


Like Son, Like Step-Father?

We are so often strongly influenced by the thoughts. words and attitudes of our parents.  (" I remember, my father always used to say . . .").  The following excerpt from Martyn Percy's lecture to  Inclusive Church a few days ago offers some hints about Jesus' upbringing.

[Jesus'] childhood, I think, had probably taught him a thing or two about people, society and God. He grew up in occupied territories, so had seen the good and bad side of that coin – oppression traded off against organisation. His childhood had included a sojourn in Egypt. And we know that by working in Joseph’s trade – carpentry and building (Gk. tekton) – he had, by living in Nazareth, been exposed to the nearby Roman settlement of Sepphoris. This was a Hellenized community of almost 30,000 in Jesus’ childhood, compared to the population of Nazareth, which boasted a mere 300. So Nazareth was a dormitory village supplying labour to a much larger cosmopolitan community nearby. It would have been full of Gentiles of every kind. So, from an early age, Jesus would have been exposed to a world beyond his native parochial Judaism.


The theatre at Sepphoris seated 5,000. It is almost certain that Joseph took Jesus. For Jesus, in his adult life, uses the Greek word ‘hypocrite’ quite a few times, which simply means ‘actor’ – one who is masked, and playing a part. What is significant about this, I think, is this. Jesus’ Kingdom of God project, was, from the outset, supra-tribal. It reached out beyond Judaism to the Gentiles. Indeed, he often praised gentiles for their faith, and often scolded the apparently ‘orthodox’ religion of his kith and kin for its insularity and purity. Jesus saw that God was for everyone; he lived, practised and preached this. 

See the pdf text downloadable from


Seek out also U A Fanthorpe's 4 stanza poem on Joseph, available online


The last stanza-

I am Joseph who wanted

To teach my own boy how to live.

My lesson for my foster son:

Endure. Love. Give.

Recently at a family funeral, one of my cousins told me this story. 

His middle name is Timothy and he wanted to take that name for Confirmation, but the Sister assigned him Joseph.  When he protested (very courageous and he wansn't even confirmed yet) Sister told him that St Joseph was special because he died in the arms of Joseph.

Sister Mary Wood, that lecture is kind of nuts. For one thing, it is exploiting the blank slate that is Jesus`life as a youth in order to postulate a de-Judaized Jesus, which is apparently supposed to be more attractive. Nobody knows anything about Joseph, or if he existed, or what he and Jesus did, and saying things like it's "almost certain" Joseph took Jesus to the theatre in Sephora just steamrolls that lack of knowledge in to let Joseph "rescue" Jesus from "parochial," "apparently orthodox" Judaism. And there's no way that Martyn Percy does not know that the Greek hypokritēs is hardly a word that Jesus--if he knew it--would have used in addressing his audiences. I guess if you don't know anything about someone, then you can make them respresent anything you want.

I'm glad we bumped up St Joseph, even if we don't know much about him; his "Yes" was just as courageous as Mary's. 

My grandmother, who had a saint for every occasion, told me St Jospeh was the one you prayed to for "a good death". 


Well, I doubt that Joseph (an observant Jew) took the family to see plays (pagan) at the theater at Sepphoris, but it's very possible that Joseph and his sons worked on the various building sites at Sepphoris, including, maybe, the theater.  And if they worked there, maybe they observed actors in rehearsal.  

"A man may be passing through a street when they are burning incense to an idol, and he has no wish to smell the incense, but his nose forces him to do so.  So, too, his eye brings him sinful sights, and his ear blasphemous words, against his will, for they too are not under his control."  --Rabbi Levi


If there are great difficulties in the quest for the historical Jesus and even greater ones for the mother of Jesus, they are ten times greater for his putative father.  Beyond the very few things said about Joseph in the NT, it is all so much speculation, hardly more credible than the details presented by Anne Catherine Emmerich.

Agree that everything about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is speculative. We don't even know that Joseph was a carpenter. Jesus was, according to the neighbors in Mark, but nowhere does it say Joseph was. And even his genealogy in Matthew is different from the one in Mark. So we're free to make of him what we want/need.

(Not familiar with the writings of Emmerich. Private revelations, stigmata, anti-Semitism? Another of JPII's questionable beatifications/canonizations?)

(Sorry, I meant the genealogy in LUKE, not Mark.)

Joseph is one among a list of saints in the Roman Canon, but is bumped to excessive prominence by being added to the other EPs. I dislike this gesture, another pastiche of J23, and in the same lowbrow style as his amazing dismissal of Beethoven's Ninth as music for idlers and renaissance princes.

Joseph S. O'Leary,

So, you think that St. Joseph is "bumped to excessive prominence".

I am sure that Jesus and Mary are not amused.

I am guessing that your patron saint is St. Joseph of Cupertino?

FYI, Joseph S. O'Leary:
Joseph of Cupertino, O.F.M. Conv. (Italian: San Giuseppe da Copertino) (June 17, 1603 – September 18, 1663) was an Italian Franciscan friar who is honored as a Christian mystic and saint. He was said to have been remarkably unclever, but prone to miraculous levitation and intense ecstatic visions that left him gaping. He is recognized as the patron saint of air travelers, aviators, astronauts, people with a mental handicap, test takers, and poor students. He was canonized in 1767. (from Wikipedia)

"I dislike this gesture, another pastiche of J23, and in the same lowbrow style as his amazing dismissal of Beethoven's Ninth as music for idlers and renaissance princes."

Sounds like a snore.  It was planned before Francis's election.  See John Allen in NCR this morning:

"Though no one quite said so out loud, the event seemed conceived with the famously music-loving Benedict XVI in mind. The piece was Beethoven's Ninth, and all the vocalists chosen to perform from Italy's Academy of Santa Cecilia were German." 

They should plan an evening of tango for Francis.  See, e.g., this morning's NYT: 



See also:

John Allen's illogical comparison between Benedict's non-attendance at a pop culture Christmas concert in 2005 apparently because it was not his "cup of tea" and the non-attendance of Francis at this concert because he had more pressing concerns to deal with.

Only bloggers who cannot hide their disdain for this new pope, e.g. Fr. Z., insinuate that Francis was rude and showing disapproval of the concert.

"Perhaps this is part of his continuing deconstruction of the papal person: listening to concerts of classical music (this time, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) is not what El Pueblo does, thus he doesn’t do it." (Fr. Z's Blog)

For what it's worth, I am happy with the inclusion of St. Joseph in the Canon of the Mass.Eeverything said about him in the Infancy Narratiives deserves honor. And the unstressed but to be presumed Jewisheness of Joseph is by no means a trivial matter.

It appears that, when St. Joseph was added to the Roman Canon, it was to the prayer of thanksgiving before the institution narrative - the list of saints that also includes Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus et al. It seems that what we praying for in this passage is that we offer the sacrifice in communion with Mary, Joseph and these other listed saints whose memory we especially venerate.

No saints' names are invoked in the parallel passages in EPs II and III. Mary is named in the parallel passage in EP IV, but not in such a way that would admit Joseph without a bit of wordsmithing: "... in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior. Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he shared our human nature in all things but sin." How Joseph figures into that passage is not immediately evident; I'd think some new idea would need to be introduced in order to include him.

So I am guessing that Joseph won't be wedged into those thanksgiving passages. I assume that, under this new directive, St. Joseph will be added to the place where Mary is currently invoked in II-IV, along with apostles and martyrs: after the Institution Narrative, in the intercessory section. EP I has a parallel section (that second list of saints: John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas et al), but neither Mary nor Joseph appears in that list.

So I guess what I take away from all this is that St. Joseph will be added to the other Eucharistic Prayers, but not precisely in the same way as he had previously been added to EP 1. I guess the point is just to get him in. I'm happy to have him, either way.

I meant to include, in my previous comment, this link that helpfully shows the parallels between the four main Eucharistic Prayers.

(For some reason, the icons that enable quoting, linking and so on, aren't available to me at the moment.)

Joseph is not important enough to be mentioned in Mark and John. He doesn't even have a speaking part in Matthew and Luke, and the historicity of the infancy narratives is dubious. All Joseph actually does in Matthew is obey instructions he gets in dreams. He does virtually nothing noteworthy in Luke. Jesus never says a word about Joseph. 

Exactly how Catholicism can construct a saint to be venerated out of such slim material is difficult for me to understand, so the idea of "bumping him up" is doubly bewildering. 

It seems to me that the reason St. Joseph now has such a devoted following is because the faithful have found through their own exeeriences and prayers that St. Joseph is a powerhouse in Heaven.  Prayers to St. Joseph are often answered when prayers to lesser saints are not.  This is a case in which the living Tradition speaks louder than Scripture.

<i>Prayers to St. Joseph are often answered when prayers to lesser saints are not.</i>

Is there a list of saints ranked by which answer more prayers? And where do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rank? Is praying directly to Jesus more or less effective than praying to, say, the Holy Spirit or St. Joseph? 

Since answers to prayers of petition are ultimately answered by God (or at least that is my understanding), and since prayers to anyone other than God are prayers requesting intersession with God, does God play favorites? Is he more likely to grant a request to a "greater" saint than to a "lesser" saint? Does anyone suppose that if a person sincerely prays, he or she is less likely to get a satisfactory answer from St. Kieran of Saigir than from St. Francis of Assisi? 

It strikes me as a very odd thought that one can pray to the wrong saint. 


In fact I"m not one to pray much to any of the saints, not even Mary.  But it seems to me from all I've heard and read that the tradition of praying to saints is one of the strongest Catholic ones (so strong that it is a defining one), and those who do pray a lot to saints are convinced that at least sometimes it makes a difference, and that whom you  pray is important.

Why do you think that the whole prayer system is so outlandish?  Do you think that saints lose their humanity in Heaven?  Or that they don't really hear us when we address them?  You must have a very impersonal idea of saints -- and of God too, for that matter.

I have always liked the nativity icon. It shows, St. Joseph, an older man assailed by doubts. The older man next to him is Satan who continues to put doubts in his mind. Mary looks over at Joseph, understanding his anguish, and her prayers help overcome his doubts.

Earlier in this string (June 23, 32:48 p.m.) even the historical reality of St. Joseph was being treated as an open question. Just don't tell that to my old pals who talk to him and hear his answers. Lately David NIckol has taken the position that Joseph may be real, but he may not be all that important. But see Ann Oliver at 3:55 today.

I don't particularly want to debate Joseph's existence with scripture scholars. But I am not going to deny the evidence of my old pals' senses, either.


Tom B. --

I totally agree that other people's religious experiences (or what they *say* are their experiences) have to be taken into account when judging these things.  Yes, no doubt some people are fooling themselves, some stretch the exact truth, etc., etc., but the preponderance of evidence is that prayers to saints do indeed make a difference in many people's lives.  

How sad that small miracles are now thought to be highly unlikely and that the saints play no part in our redemption. Yes, it is miraculous that a dead person should "hear" a live person's prayer. But all our existences are miraculous in the first place.  And how mean of God if He fooled us into thinking that prayer is possible. 

Tom B. --

I totally agree that other people's religious experiences (or what they *say* are their experiences) have to be taken into account when judging these things.  Yes, no doubt some people are fooling themselves, some stretch the exact truth, etc., etc., but the preponderance of evidence is that prayers to saints do indeed make a difference in many people's lives.  

How sad that small miracles are now thought to be highly unlikely and that the saints play no part in our redemption. Yes, it is miraculous that a dead person should "hear" a live person's prayer. But all our existences are miraculous in the first place.  And how mean of God if He fooled us into thinking that prayer to saints is possible. 

Why do you think that the whole prayer system is so outlandish?


My point was not that I think prayer to the saints is outlandish. (I may think that, but that was definitely not the point that I was making.) What I thought was outlandish was that praying to St. Joseph got better results than praying to a "lesser" saint. 

Do you think that saints lose their humanity in Heaven?

I can't for the life of me figure out what a disembodied soul would be like, but Fr. Komonchak has told us that Aquinas said, "Abraham's soul is not Abraham." But I don't think this is the place to get into it.

 Or that they don't really hear us when we address them?

Well, that is a good question. Do all saints hear everything that goes on in the minds of all living humans? I have always had the impression that if the saints do hear prayers addressed to them, it is because God sees to it that prayers addressed to saints are "delivered."

You must have a very impersonal idea of saints -- and of God too, for that matter.

Someone once told me that Catholic heaven has a certain resemblance to the Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire, you did favors for others; others did favors for you. It was often a matter of "it's not what you know, but who you know." I must admit that I think it is kind of wacky to think that praying to St. Joseph or the Virgin Mary is more effective because they have more "pull" with God than lesser saints. I don't imagine Mary saying to God, "David Nickol has asked me to arrange for him to win the lottery. I am asking you to let him. And, you know, I am the Queen of Heaven." 


Just don't tell that to my old pals who talk to him and hear his answers.


Tom Blackburn, 

I have read a great deal of testimony on various web sites that if your house is on the market, it will sell much faster if you bury a statue of St. Joseph in the yard. (Some say the statue must be buried up side down.) You don't even have to be Catholic!

Who am I to say it doesn't work? Why would they lie? It must be true.

Is it right that a pope can change the liturgy by simple fiat? What happened to collegiality


The cult of St Joseph is used to bring back old-fashioned privatized and sentimentalized piety, which finds the Eucharistic Prayers too dry for its purposes. The pope appealed to popular devotion in his very first words after his election, and is unlikely to do much to renew a deeper biblical sensibility among Catholics.


And of course this is yet another distraction, more panis et circenses for the crowd, not a step to any authentic Christian renewal of the ailing church.

Will he bring back the prayers to St Michael at the end of mass, as many have demanded? He's the pope, so he can do anything he likes, as his predecessor showed in declaring that the 1962 liturgy had never been rescinded, including the prayers for the "perfidious Jews"..

It would be interesting to explore what the folks here believe Heaven is -- and isn't.  If it's the dehumanized place some here seem to think it is, I can' imagine wanting to go there (whatever "there" means in this context).  Sure, God is the main thing and the best of Heaven will be the no-doubt mystical union with Him, but surely there will be re-unions with loved ones and maybe introductions to some other people, not to mention angels.  And if that's possible, then why assume that those who have gone before have lost interest in us "down here"?  And if they haven't lost interest in us, why wouldn't God make prayer possible?

I'm constantly amazed at how some in the younger generations will buy the possibilities presented by science fiction  and yet can't bring themselves to believe that God can not only dream up different sorts of worlds and our relationships with them but also make them happen.  Is God infinitely loving and creative or not? 

The Communion of Saints is a very beautiful as well as ancient doctrine, which we enact when we pray to and through the saints or when we pray for our lost ones (or pray to them, as some are able to do). "He is not the God of the dead but of the living" so we may hope and trust that in some way Abraham and all the other departed live to God. I only say mass in English for old sisters who have been spared the horrible new translation, and I suppose we no longer have the beautiful words, "who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. May these and all who sleep in Christ find in your presence light, happiness, and peace". (No chance of Francis addressing the translation fiasco, since Pell is one of his right hand mend)

If we seek a providence for the darkness over futurity, find it in the impossibility of living this world if it were a transparent antechamber to the next.

I'm constantly amazed at how some in the younger generations will buy the possibilities presented by science fiction  and yet can't bring themselves to believe that God can not only dream up different sorts of worlds and our relationships with them but also make them happen. 


Here's what C. S. Lewis said about heaven in A Grief Observed:


. . . . But don’t come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.


Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions “on the further shore,” pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! “Things on the other side are not so different after all.” There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored. . . .

I have no idea what heaven is like, or even if there is a heaven, but it seems to me what you envision is just a simple extension of life as we know it. I have been to only one really formal family reunion. It had it's good side and its bad side, and I don't think I would want to spend all eternity in a similar situation—especially because one of the best things was the food, which would be of little use to a disembodied soul.


Of course, as almost always happens in discussions of the afterlife, we seem to be forgetting that "heaven" isn't the final destination. Heaven is a temporary holding place for disembodied souls until the resurrection of the dead. 


Exactly how disembodied souls are supposed to recognize each other, I am not sure. I'm not not all that good with faces, pretty bad with names, and doubt that I will recognize disembodied souls. 


As I said, it has been noted that Catholic heaven is a lot like the Roman Empire. I need a favor from someone Very Important, so I go to someone more important than me and ask them to intercede with the VIP for me. It's really not very imaginative at all. 

He's the pope, so he can do anything he likes, as his predecessor showed in declaring that the 1962 liturgy had never been rescinded, including the prayers for the "perfidious Jews"..

Yes, he's the pope, and he has wide authority and latitude to amend the liturgy.  

But your comment about "perfidious Jews" is incorrect.  John XXIII had the word translated as "perfidious" stricken from the missal in 1959.  What's more, in response to some hullaballoo in the wake of Benedict's decision to permit the 1962 missal to be used more widely, Benedict had that particular prayer revised again.  Here is the text to be used when the 1962 missal is used for Good Friday celebrations:

Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. (Let us pray. Kneel. Rise.Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen

Here is how it read in 1955:

Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us pray. Let us kneel. [pause for silent prayer] Arise. Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen

Here is how it reads in the current missal (Roman Missal 3rd edition):

Let us pray also for the Jewish people, to whom the Lord our God spoke first, that he may grant them to advance in love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. [Prayer in slience.  Then the Priest says:] Almighty ever-living God, who bestowed your promises on Abraham and his descendants, graciously hear the prayers of your Church, that the people you first made your own may attain the fullness of redemption.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


There are cigars in Heaven.

If smokers in heaven are not treated like pariahs, I shall rejoice in God's justice.


I can't remember ever having been charged with being a sentimentalist or a romantic, but even so, I find the views that David NIkol and Fr. O'Leary express here, though they obviously differ with each other's, pretty bloodless, bordering on "Angelism." Read the psalms, read Francis of Assissi, John of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux and listen to the hymns and religious songs of the American black community. Are we to ditch all of that because it doesn't pass the muster of some supposedly rigid norm, liturgical or historical, that is supposed to "sanitize" our religious life?

Thanks, but no thanks.


No cigars in heaven and no beer according to the German song, "Im Himmel gibt's kein Bier"

In heaven there is no beer

That’s why we drink it here...



I'd be interested to hear what you think of the C. S. Lewis quote.

I am not sure I understand what you are saying, but if we're talking about what heaven will be like, it will definitely be "bloodless." I am no expert on the Psalms, but I don't think they tell us what the afterlife  is supposed to be like, since there was little concept of the afterlife at the time the Psalms date to. 

My point in response to Ann was intended to be the popular conception of heaven didn't seem very imaginitive to me. And even if we believe in praying to saints and having them intercede for us, the idea that you have a better chance of getting what you pray for if you pray to a prominent saint rather than a lesser-well-known one strikes me as repugnant. 

If there is a heaven, nobody has the vaguest idea what the experience of it will be like. And of course if the whole traditional conception of heaven <i>and</i> hell is correct, the big family reunion will undoubtedly be missing some relatives, who will have gone to hell (although word is it won't bother you if your wife, or son, or daughter, or mother, or father is in hell).


If smokers in heaven are not treated like pariahs, I shall rejoice in God's justice.


Perhaps smokers can be treated differently in heaven, since you won't be able to get cancer and any number of other diseases from breathing their second-hand smoke in the afterlife. 

David Nickol (way back at 12:28 a.m.). At one of our more prominent parishes of this diocese, the religious goods store manager refused to stock St. Joseph statues for home sales. There are some that come in a special kit for that purpose. The real estate agents of the town -- a very upscale group noted for their late model luxury cars and nor conpuicuous on their knees at Guadaloupe -- went to the pastor  in more than high dudgeon and demanded either St. Joseph back on the racks or the manager's head on a platter. To his credit, the pastor consulted with the manager and then told the real estate boys to back off.

I see that as a story in the annals of business, not of superstition.

On the other hand... a friend had his cabin, in a Bible-belt Protestant area of the country, on the market for two months without a look. He buried St. Joseph in the yard and came home. When he got home there was a phone call with an offer. The agent said the lookers walked in and said the house had "the aura of a Catholic home" and they wanted it.

Maybe now priests and bishops and theologians will talk about Matthew 27:52.  Was Joseph one of those saints who were raised from their tombs and appeared to many in Jerusalem?



Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.





Gerelyn:    Here's a poem that says he was among the saints liberated by Christ on Holy Saturday:


Just beautiful.  Thank you, Joseph.

Matthew 13:55 refers to Jesus as "the carpenter's son".


NAB: Is he not the carpenter's son?

RSV: Is not this the carpenter's son?  

David ==

Of course we don't know exactly what Heaven will be like -- "Eye has not seen. . ."  But if it will lack the good things of this world, including those I love (including my cats, by the way) then it will be a disappointment.  How we and they will exist and communicate is another question.  

(I don't remember Lewis believing at the end that he wouldn't be united again with his beloved.  Where does he say that?  I can't find my copy.)  

As far as one saint being more efficatious than another, why wouldn't that be the case?  Surely God loves some people more than He loves me -- I mean the holy ones and for good reason too!  It's right that He love them more -- there is more to them TO love.  And, yes, I would definitely expect that, because they are more loving people, that He would be more likely to grant their requests. (Sure, we're brought up to believe that parents love their children equally, and in some sense I'm sure that's true.  But some kids are more lovable than others, and that's the hell behind sibling rivalry that we don't like to admit.)  

I say all of this about God analogically  --  no one can know thoroughly what God is and how He acts or, especially, why He does.  Whatever His reasons, He is beyond this world, beyond justice, and beyond what we in our tiny way consider to be goodness.  However, this does not imply that the tiny goods that we do know already are not in some way like Him.  And He has made us to love *everything* that is good, infinite or tiny.  That He would ultimately deny us the small goods that we naturally love is beyond belief to me.  The company of loved ones is what we love naturally, so the thought that in the end we won't want the company of our loved ones is just nonsense.  The whole thrust of Christianity is to love *both* God and creatures.  Why would that stop in Heaven, whatever Heaven is?    

Thanks, Frank.  Sorry for the mistake.  I was thiking it said that somewhere, but when I looked it up on Blue Letter Bible, I just typed in "carpenter," no apostrophe, no s.  I guess it's more sensitive than I realized.

Glad to know a gospel tells us Joseph was a carpenter.   Jewish parents circumcized their sons, redeemed them, taught them Torah, taught them a trade, found them wives, (and, some say, taught them to swim).

It would be odd for a non-carpenter to teach his sons to be carpenters.  It must have been a nice life for the family with the building boom going on in Sepphoris.

I like this picture of Joseph and Jesus:

Here is an article by Enzo Bianchi, prior of the ecumenical monastery of Bose, on the resurrection of the body;  (It's in Italian but maybe Google translation can give the gist.)

St. Augustine, for all of his Platonic leanings, was a vigorous defender of the belief in the resurrection of the body, which he knew to be a great stumbling-block to many.  He did, of course, stress the soul's beatification through the sight of God and entrance thereby into the fullness of life, after John 17:3: "This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ."  He also looked forward to the day when we would be entirely transparent to ourselves--no heart hidden from itself--and to one another, no heart hidden from another.  


David Nickol, I owe you some response, but thanks to Ann's 1:07 pm of today, I can be brief. First,I don't know C. S. Lewis' work well enough to comment on any part of it.

Second, I agree in the main with what Ann has said here. Let me just add, not too pedantically I hope, that there is any such thing as what you call the "present conception of heaven." Sure, there's lots of talk about heaven, the hereafter, etc. but I doubt that many adults or eeven moderately teens mean whatever they say to be taken literally. For example, I've said that heaven wouldn't not be really heaven unless I could get oyster po-boys, seafood gumbo, and or real turtle soup on demand. If anyone took me to be making a literal comment about food I think is an essential part of heavenly fare I'd be dumbfounded.

I'm glad St. Joseph has been included formally, but he's a great intercessor anyway.  And it is also true you will sell your house if you plant a statue of St. Joseph in your front yard.  Worked for me in what seemed an impossible circumstance.  Just sayin . . .

It isn't easy to think about a life after death. But I sympathize with Anns and Bernard 's reluctance to think of it as altogether disembodied.  St.  Paul 's urgent effort to explain the resurrection of the dead in Corinthians 1:15  speaks to  the kind of problems presented to us ordinary people as we struggle with the seeming impossibility of an after-life that would be spiritual ,yet not altogether, in some sense, unbodied.  He  points out the way " Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep"  and offers the image of the seed sown corruptible, but raised incorruptible to explain ithe mysterious change he knows will be so hard for his audience to grasp. But remember his resounding and challenging conclusion: "This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality."

Bernard --

I don't know if there will be gumbo, etc., in Hevean, but i'm quite sure there'll be something like it, only better.  Analogy, analogy, analogy.

Cecelia --  I believe you.  There's no good reason not to.  (Take that, David Nickol!)

And thanks, Susan for the texts.  Nothing like St. Paul :-)

A bit more about bodies in heaven. As Gabriel Marcel would have put it, I don't have a body. I am a body of a certain sort, a human body. That's consistent with the Aristotelian and Thomistic conceptions of bodies matter and form as the two necessary constituents of any physical entity.

If there is personal human immortality, I can't see how that could be the immortality of a disembodied soul. How to characterized the resurrected human body is beyond me, but I think that our faith requires us to grant that there must be something real that is indeed an individuated body in heaven that is in some sense the same body that the human person was on earth. Otherwise what sense would we make of mary's assumption or, for that matter, of Jesus's ascension.

As I say, I have no answer for the question of how all this is possible or for the question of how these bodily heavenly beings are related to one another spatially, etc. But that just says something about what we human beings can understand during this life. It does not say anything about what God does or how He does it.

Bernard Dauenhauer,

If anybody is still reading this thread . . . 

But according to Christian belief, the soul remains in heaven awaiting the Resurrection of the Dead. Heaven is not the final destination of human beings. There is an interesting piece by N. T. Wright (actually a book excerpt) from 2008 in Christianity Today titled Heaven Is Not Our Home. Here are the opening paragraphs. 


There is no agreement in the church today about what happens to people when they die. Yet the New Testament is crystal clear on the matter: In a classic passage, Paul speaks of "the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:23). There is no room for doubt as to what he means: God's people are promised a new type of bodily existence, the fulfillment and redemption of our present bodily life. The rest of the early Christian writings, where they address the subject, are completely in tune with this.

The traditional picture of people going to either heaven or hell as a one-stage, postmortem journey represents a serious distortion and diminution of the Christian hope. Bodily resurrection is not just one odd bit of that hope. It is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story of God's ultimate purposes. If we squeeze it to the margins, as many have done by implication, or indeed, if we leave it out altogether, as some have done quite explicitly, we don't just lose an extra feature, like buying a car that happens not to have electrically operated mirrors. We lose the central engine, which drives it and gives every other component its reason for working.

David N. ==

I'm very confused.  As I learned it, when we die, if we are saved, we first go to Purgatory for the cleansing of our souls, and there is no body involved there.  All those smelly and painful fires are just metaphors for the cleansing process.  Then the soul is admitted to Heaven, which is generally said to be the happy state of soul which meets God face to face and knows not only Him, but other souls of the dead plus angels.  We used to think of it as a sort of "spiritual space" where everyone there was in contact but purely spiritually.  It was called "Heaven". 

At the end of the world, we were taught, Christ will appear again for the Last Judgment (we weren't told why there needed to be a second judgment).  At that time there will be a resurrection of our bodies which will then be united with our souls again,  Both body and soul will be "glorified", which means they'll morph by the grace of God into some greatly superior state, and the world will also be greatly changed for the better.  We were taught that Heaven would then 'extend'" to include the world as well as to that "spiritual space" where our soul had lived between death and the Last Judgment.  This will be the Kingdom of Heaven at its fullest.  

Maybe i just had some weird religion teachers, but it always has made good sense to me.  

Could a theologian here please tell us what the official teachings were concerning "Heaven" prior to VII.

Ann: how reassuring  it is that your teachers had such a precise knowledge of what would happen when. How do they know all that with such definitive certainty? I have quoted him before, but must recall again the words of the parish priest from my teenage years, one Sunday afternoon after lunch, coffee and brandy: "I am terrified of death. We do not know what happens afterwards. No one has ever come back to tell us what it's like"!!


Claire --

I think it's safe to say that my teachers mainly just accepted what they had been taught.  (I only had high school religion courses -- I didn't go to a Catholic college.)  But it also seems to me that there is a great deal in the New Testament about the after-life.  As I understand the usual pre-VII teachings of about the afterlife, however,  not much about the particulars is known.  For instance, only the disciples who met Jesus in His glorified body after His resurrection had any idea was a glorified body is -- though we're told His could walk through walls, which is pretty spectacular.

I really don't understand why you young people are so quick to reject the Gospel accounts of miracles.  I'll say it again -- if God can create this amazing world from scratch, who am I to say that He can't do miracles?


Ann, the natural world is beautiful and marvelous as it is. It gives us some intuition of God already by being the way it is, and particularly by the natural laws that govern it. Some miracular events are disturbing because they violate God's good ordering. They mar his beautiful construction, and contradict his entrusting the care of the world to Man. A miracle requires a justification as much as when God does something seemingly evil. Was that really necessary? What is the perspective that allows us to fit it in the overall story of the world? The answer that merely says that God is powerful and cannot be understood, therefore can do anything he wants, comes up short (I think we give up on our call to sharing in Christ's divinity when we follow blindly). It seems to me that there is some room for understanding the Gospel miracles marking the passage of Christ  on earth, but I am reluctant to accept claims of contemporary miracles. 

"A miracle requires a justification as much as when God does something seemingly evil. Was that really necessary? What is the perspective that allows us to fit it in the overall story of the world? The answer that merely says that God is powerful and cannot be understood, therefore can do anything he wants, comes up short. . ."

Claire --

As I was taught it, Christianity is what *goes beyond* the necessary, to the gratuitous, the free, the loving.  Justice is the point of the Old Testament, charity is the point of the New, and charity is the gratuitous, the giving beyond what is necessary.  This is as much about a tiny child offering you its half-eaten cookie as it is about God's creation of the beauty of the world by unimaginable power.  It isn't about God doin "anything he wants".  I don't understand that idea either.

Yes, it's possible for us to be gratuitously mean.  But not God, though "nature red in tooth and claw" indicates that He is mean extremely gratuitously.  That is the problem of the suffering of innocents.  How to come to terms with it is another issue, but I'd say that for starters the beauty and goodness of the world outweighs the evil.  Or so it seems, and even that "solution" to the problem is far from a total solution.    

Ann, I guess my choice of words was poor. I wrote "Was that really necessary?" but meant "Why did that have to happen?"

All I know is that when somneone tells me, say, "I prayed St patron-saint-of-games-of-chance to win $100 at the lottery, and did", and calls it a miracle, all I can do is smile demurely and change the topic.

But it's a matter of degree, and I will be the last one to deny the presence of grace everywhere.

Claire --

It's the prayers that are answered *against the odds* that are impressive to some of us.  Sure, lots of people fool themselves about odds and answers, but sometimes the odds against a positive answe are just too great.  (I'd like to hear what Nate has to say about miracles :-)

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