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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.)

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Here is an article by Enzo Bianchi, prior of the ecumenical monastery of Bose, on the resurrection of the body; http://www.finesettimana.org/pmwiki/uploads/Stampa201306/130623bianchi.pdf  (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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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.