Pope Francis Adds St. Joseph To Catholic Mass, Signals Church Interest In 'Fatherly Care'

06/19/2013 02:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2013
  • Jaweed Kaleem National Race and Justice Correspondent, Los Angeles Times

Pope Francis approved a change in the Catholic Mass to include prayers referencing St. Joseph, the Vatican announced Wednesday.

The additions, which in English amount to five words inserted after the Eucharistic prayer, were issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The new words, "with blessed Joseph, her spouse," follow a mention of Mary and are included in three different versions of the prayer.

The change, in the works under former Pope Benedict XVI before his retirement, reflect the church's growing interest in "fatherly care," said the Rev. Dan Merz, associate director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"It's emphasizing that St. Joseph was someone who protected the Blessed Virgin and who cared for Jesus. We call him the foster father of Jesus, but we have to think of that word in the sense that he fostered the humanity of Jesus," said Merz. "He nurtured and helped Christ grow into an adult."

Merz said priests can immediately start using the new prayer, which is said near the end of Mass before the Lord's Prayer and communion. In addition to English and Latin, the Vatican released text for the new prayers in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, German and Polish. There are several prayers available, though only one is said during each Mass.

"Back in 1962, just as Vatican II was getting started, Pope John XXIII had made the decision to insert the name of St. Joseph into Eucharistic Prayer I. Then following Vatican II, when additional Eucharistic prayers were created -- whether intentionally or because of all the changes being made at the time -- St. Joseph was not included in additional Eucharistic prayers," said Merz.

"When Pope Benedict XVI was pope, we received news that he was getting requests from people around the world asking to have St. Joseph added. He did what was necessary to get it done but left it to Pope Francis to approve," Merz added.

Francis hasn't shied away from his own interest in the saint. He chose March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, as the date for his inaugural Mass, and has a flower on his coat-of-arms symbolizing the saint.

"St. Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak, but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love," Francis said at his inaugural Mass. As pope, Benedict, whose birth name is Joseph Ratzinger, also spoke highly of the saint after whom he was named.

The decree from the Vatican about the new prayers is titled "Fatherly Care," and describes St. Joseph 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."

The new prayers follow major changes made in the last two years to the Roman Missal, the "call and response" that's part of Catholic Mass. The changes also come as Francis continues to broaden his profile on the world stage, fashioning a more subdued personal style than previous popes, making headlines for remarks on supporting a "culture of encounter" with atheists and a Vatican "gay lobby", and speaking strongly against poverty and materialism.

The USCCB provided The Huffington Post with the text of the new prayers, which are shown below. Eucharistic Prayer I has not been changed, since St. Joseph was added to it in the 1960s. New additions are bolded.

Eucharistic Prayer II

Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
with the blessed Apostles,
and all the Saints

Eucharistic Prayer III

so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect,
especially with the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
with your blessed Apostles and glorious Martyrs
(with Saint N.: the Saint of the day or Patron Saint)
and with all the Saints

Eucharistic Prayer IV

that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance
with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
and with your Apostles and Saints in your kingdom.

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