John XXIII 50 years ago: St. Joseph added to the Roman Canon

“Something will be done for St. Joseph.”

Thus, John XXIII.

Did you know that a title for St. Joseph is “Terror of Demons”?

I’ve been rereading The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber, about the inner workings of the Second Vatican Council.   Just a few days ago I read about how Council Fathers asked John XXIII to stress devotion to St. Joseph.   During the first month of the Council John added Joseph’s name to the Roman Canon.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Joseph being added to the Canon.

Here is the section from the aforementioned book describing what happened during that first month of the Council and some background:


The last speaker on October 30 was Auxiliary Bishop Ildefonso Sansierra of San Juan de Cuyo, Argentina, who expressed the hope that “the wish of very many bishops and priests” for the inclusion of the name of St. Joseph in the Canon of the Mass would not be forgotten. On November 5, the same request was made at great length by Bishop Albert Cousineau of Cap Haïtien, Haiti, a former superior of the St. Joseph Oratory in Montreal, who asked that “the name of Blessed Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, be introduced into the Mass wherever the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary is mentioned.”

At the end of the eighteenth General Congregation, on November 13, the Cardinal Secretary of State made a special announcement on the subject. He said that the Holy Father, wishing to conform to the desire “expressed by many Council Fathers,” had decided to insert the name of St. Joseph in the Canon of the Mass, immediately after the name of the Most Holy Virgin. This action was to serve for all time as a reminder that St. Joseph had been the Patron of the Second Vatican Council. “This decision of the Holy Father,” added the Cardinal, “will go into effect next December 8, and in the meanwhile the Sacred Congregation of Rites will prepare the necessary documents.”

Cardinal Montini later described this unexpected move as “a surprise for the Council from the Pope.”

In some quarters Pope John was severely criticized for taking what was termed independent action while the Ecumenical Council was in session. Actually, his decree was only the culmination of sporadic but intensive campaigns, dating back to 1815, through which hundreds of thousands of signatures of the hierarchy and the laity had been gathered and sent to the Vatican. The campaigns had become particularly intensive at the announcements of Vatican I by Pope Pius IX, and of Vatican II by Pope John. [NB] Immediately after Pope John’s announcement, Monsignor Joseph Phelan of St. Joseph’s Church in Capitola, California, launched a drive together with his parishioners and netted some 150,000 signatures. [Don’t ever assume that small, localized efforts cannot have a big impact on large matters.]

Chiefly responsible for the action taken by Pope John, however, were Fathers Roland Gauthier and Guy Bertrand, directors of the Center of Research and Documentation at the St. Joseph Oratory in Montreal, who in 1961 composed a seventy-five-page booklet giving the history of these campaigns. They explained that the placement of St. Joseph’s name after that of the Virgin Mary in the Canon of the Mass would, doctrinally and liturgically, give official recognition to St. Joseph’s eminence in sanctity, after Mary, over all other saints. These two Holy Cross Fathers, through collaboration with the Discalced Carmelites of the Sociedad Ibero-Americana de Josefología in Valladolid, Spain, and the St. Joseph Fathers of Blessed Leonard Murialdo of the St. Joseph Research Center in Viterbo, Italy, were able to have their booklet appear in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, and sent copies of it with a petition to the Council Fathers around the world, long before the Council began.

In mid-March 1962, Pope John was presented with six volumes containing the signed petitions of 30 cardinals, 436 patriarchs, archbishops and bishops, and 60 superiors general. While examining the signatures, Pope John said, “Something will be done for St. Joseph.” These signatures confirmed him in his personal desire to do something special for St. Joseph, whom he had venerated from childhood with a very special devotion.

On October 19, three days before the liturgy came up for discussion in the Council hall, Father Edward Heston of the Holy Cross Fathers—who had submitted the petitions in the name of the three centers—was officially informed that Pope John had decided to take action on the proposal, and was going to include the name of St. Joseph in the Canon of the Mass.

November 13, the day on which Pope John’s decision was made public in the Council hall, also marked the end of the long discussion on the liturgy, which had taken up fifteen meetings, with an average of twenty-two speeches a day. It was announced at the end of the morning that discussion would begin on the following day on the schema on the sources of revelation.

Our friends at Rorate have an image of the decree:

The Litany of St. Joseph

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us (after each line)
Saint Joseph,
Renowned offspring of David,
Light of Patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Diligent protector of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most strong,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of artisans,
Glory of home life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the wretched, Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons, [!]
Protector of Holy Church,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. He made him the lord of His house:
R. And ruler of all His substance.

Let us pray.
O God, who in Thine unspeakable [“ineffabili”] providence didst vouchsafe to choose blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Thine own most holy Mother: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may deserve to have him for our intercessor in heaven, whom we reverence as our defender on earth: who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. The Sicilian Woman says:

    I love this information! Thank you.

    St. Joseph is one of my four favorite saints! Regardless of his being Jesus’ adoptive father, I’ve always felt that he’s never received the recognition that such a role would deserve; he’s always seemed in the shadows, except for the Christmas season, perhaps because little is written of him in the Bible?

    Further, in addition to brides offering prayers and recognition to St. Mary (presenting flowers at her statue) during marriage ceremonies, I think grooms should do the same for St. Joseph. (Or is this done already and I’ve never heard of it?) After all, aren’t Sts. Mary and Joseph the perfect role models as husband and wife, mother and father? Wouldn’t something like this hopefully correct the wrong notion that wedding days are “the bride’s day”? (A phrase that makes me cringe.)

  2. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Wiltgen’s book is so far the best I have found on what happened at the Council. If there are other reliable chronicles, I would be pleased to know of them. The others I have found (with one exception) are by people who were not there, and therefore offer a very filtered view. Some of them are quite horrible, with no balance at all.

  3. Jason Keener says:

    Nice post, Father Z. I think it was a good move for Pope John XXIII to have included St. Joseph’s name in the Canon of the Mass. I also see no problem in the Pope having done this apart from the Council, as the Pope always exercises immediate and full authority over Holy Mother Church. St. Joseph is a favorite patron of mine. We should all pray to St. Joseph for the grace of a happy death for ourselves and for our family members.

  4. It is alleged (bitterly by some traditionalists) that John XXIII’s insertion of St. Joseph in the Communicantes was the first change of a single Latin word in the Roman Canon since the insertion of an additional phrase in the Hanc igitur by Gregory the Great (circa 600 AD).

  5. jbas says:

    The 1962 missal I use does not provide this addition.

  6. RomanticTradition says:

    I find it funny how adding St. Joseph’s name to the Canon was a big, meaningful, and gigantic step at the time and few would realize that within only a few years, the Canon would be made vernacular, spliced up and mutilated and completely manufactured Eucharistic prayers would be added. We would do well by learning from the caution of our ancestors.

  7. AvantiBev says:

    Glory of Home Life and Pillar of Families! I like that. Don’t kid yourself that the current state of fatherlessness in our nation does not have its impact on every aspect of society and has tremendous political ramifications. We should pray the Litany asking St. Joseph’s intercession for our sons; that they wish to become MEN not eternal Peter Pans.

  8. catholicmidwest says:

    “Terror of demons” is a great title. St. Joseph is one of my favorite saints.

  9. jbas: Father Z has posted a couple of times in recent years on the subject of a “true 1962 altar missal”–meaning one that includes St. Joseph in the Roman Cannon, perhaps also the appendix including the ad libitum prefaces also added in 1962–such as the reprinted Benziger Brothers 1962 altar missal.

    Perhaps more common (and less expensive) is the so-called Cardinal O’Connor 1962 altar missal, which might better be called a “1961 missal”, since it was originally printed before the July 1962 (preface) and November 1962 (St. Joseph) changes were authorized.

  10. dominic1955 says:

    I have read that the response to this request in the time of Pope Pius VI was that they said no, because the Canon had not been touched since the time of Gregory the Great, i.e. in the time of the Early Fathers. While I certainly love St. Joseph, I think this was a bad move especially at this time. Like others have already said, little did they know (or maybe some of them did) that in short order the whole Mass would be fiddled with almost beyond recognition.

  11. acardnal says:

    I hope St. Joseph isn’t in the “cannon” Henry Edwards. That would be an explosive situation. LOL.

  12. Dismas says:

    Could the adding of St. Joseph by (Bl.) John XXIII have also been influenced by St. Joseph’s Oct. 13, 1917 appearance with Jesus at Fatima?

    After our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus seemed to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands.

    Not only is St. Joseph terror of demons but isn’t he also the perfect example and reminder of fatherhood, something that seems largely lost by many not only within but especially without our Church? I can’t understand anyone’s objection to the addition of St. Joseph to the Canon, especially in regard to timing.

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