Pope Benedict XV
Proclamation of Saint Joseph patron of the universal Church.
Encyclical letter of POPE BENEDICT XV
It was good and healthy thing for the Christian people that Our predecessor of immortal memory Pious IX solemnly decreed the title of Universal Patron of the Church to the very chaste spouse of Virgin Mary and guardian of the Incarnated Word, Saint Joseph,; and since the next December will be the fiftieth of this propitious event, we estimate very useful and opportune that it is properly celebrated by all the catholic world.
I. - Naturalism since the modern age.
If we consider the last 50 years, we see an admirable revival of devout institutions witnessing that the cult of the most holy Patriarch has more and more developed among the faithful: if then we consider today’s calamities plaguing human, the opportunity of intensifying such a cult and spreading it in the Christian people appears still more obvious. In fact, because of the tremendous war, in our Encyclical "about reconciliation of Christian peace", we have indicated what lacked in order to re-establish wherever tranquillity of the order, considering particularly the relations between people and people and individual and individual in the civil field.
Now we must consider another much deeper cause of perturbation, which is hidden just in the bowels of the human society, since in that time the flagellum of the came when human people were deeply affected by naturalism, that is that large century plague attenuating the desire of Heaven, extinguishing the flame of the divine charity and delivering the man from the healing and elevating grace of Christ, where it takes root; then without the light of the faith and only with the corrupted forces of the nature, the man is given up to the most insane passions. So it happened many people aimed to the conquer just the earthly assets; and, while the fight between proletarian and masters sharpened, this hatred of class grew more and more with the duration and the atrociousness of the war, which, if on one side it caused between the masses an intolerable economic uneasiness, on the other side gathered fabulous fortunes in the hand of few people.
II. - Upset of the family.
It must be added that the holiness of the married faith and the respect of the paternal authority have been injured by many people because of the war; sometimes the distance of one of the spouses has relax the tie of the duty, sometimes the absence of a guardian has allowed inconsiderateness, especially for women, to live at ones will. Therefore we must realise with true pain that now the people customs are much more depraved and corrupted than before and that therefore the “social question" has been aggravating to such a point to threat irreparable ruins. Such an universal republic, founded on the absolute equality of the people and on the shared assets, where there is no distinction of nationality, no authority of the father on the sons, of the public power on the citizens, of God on the men is no longer recognised. If unfortunately these things were put into effect they would give place to tremendous social convulsions, as it already happens now in a not so little part of Europe. And in order to create also for the other people a same condition of things, we see people excited by the audacious fury of some few and uninterrupted and serious putsches take place.
III. - effective Examples of St. Joseph.
Therefore, as we are particularly worried about the development of the events, we have not omitted to remind the sons of the Church their duties... And now for the same reason, in order to remind our people wherever they are working for earning their daily bread, and in order to save them from Socialism, the worst enemy of the Christian principles, We propose them in particularly S. Joseph, so that they follow him as leader and they honour him as celestial Patron. It in fact he lived a life like theirs, so that blessed Jesus, the only-begotten of the Eternal Father, wanted to be called "the Son of the Father". But of which and how many lofty virtues he could adorn his humble and poor condition! Those virtues which had to shine in the spouse of Immaculate Mary and in the putative father of Jesus Christ.: “For this reason all people have to learn from Joseph to consider the passing present things with respect to the future ones, which last eternally; and, consoling the unavoidable uneasiness of human condition with the hope of the Heaven’s things, they must aim to them with all the forces, accepting the divine will, living moderately, according to mercy and justice. As far as especially workers is concerned, We like to remind the words, which our predecessor Lion XIII said in a same circumstance, as we think they could not be more suitable: "Considered these things, the poor ones, and people earning their life with their work, must be animated by a stronger feeling of fairness; as, if the justice allows them to raise themselves from indigence and to achieve a greater well-being, justice as well as the reason itself do not allow to upset that order, which has been constituted by the divine Providence.
Moreover it is a foolish suggestion to choose violence and to look for improvement through revolts, which instead usually sharpen that uneasiness, than they wanted to mitigate. If the poor ones want to act wisely, they will not rely on the promises of the demagogues, but rather on the example and the sponsorship of S. Joseph and on the maternal charity of the Church, which day by day takes more an more care of them "(Letter Encyclical "Quamquam pluries").
IV. - Devotion to the Holy Family.
The growing devotion of the faithful towards S. Joseph, will also increase, for consequence, their cult towards the Holy Family of Nazareth, of which he was the augustus Head, as these two devotions come one from the other spontaneously, since through S. Joseph we go directly to Mary, and through Mary to the source of every holiness, Jesus Christ, who consecrated the domestic virtues with his obedience to S. Joseph and Mary. We wish therefore that Christian families look at these wonderful examples of virtue and they totally renew themselves. In this way, since the family is the fulcrum and the base of the human consortium, by strengthening the domestic society with holy purity, fidelity and concord, a new strength and even a new blood will circulate in the veins of the human society, to which the restoring virtue of Jesus Christ will give life. A revival not only of the private customs, but also of the public and civil institutions will follow.
V. - Exhortations and prescriptions.
Therefore, relying on the sponsorship of that man, to whom God pleased to entrust His incarnated Only-Begotten and the most Holy Virgin, we lively exhort all the Bishops of the catholic orb, so that, in such troubled times for the Church, they exhort the faithful to strongly apply to valid aid of Saint Joseph. And since there are several ways approved by this Apostolic Seat to venerate this Patriarch, especially on all Wednesdays in the year and in the whole month consecrated to Him, We want that every Bishop requests that all these devotions, as far as possible, are practiced in every diocese. Particularly, since He is thought to be the most effective protector of the dying people, as He died with the attendance of Jesus and Mary, it will be up to the Holy Shepherds to introduce and to sponsor, with all the prestige of their authority, those devout prayers which were instituted for invoking S. Joseph for the dying people, like that one "of the happy death", of he "Transit of S. Joseph for everyday agonizing".
In order to commemorate the aforesaid Papal Decree we order that within one year starting from next 8th December in all the catholic world a solemn function will be celebrated in honour of S. Joseph, Patron of the Universal church; it is up to every Bishop the decision of the form and the date; to all those people who will participate We grant, under the usual conditions, the Plenary Indulgence starting from now.
Given at Rome, in S. Peter’s, on July 25th - the festivity of S. Jacobs Apostle – in the year 1920, the sixth year of Our Pontificate.