Have you noticed the change at Mass?
Our Holy Father Pope Francis has done something that no pope has done since Blessed John XXIII, back around 1960. He added a line to the Eucharistic prayer of the Mass, simply and completely on his own authority.
The Roman Canon was the only Eucharistic Prayer in the Roman Rite until after the Second Vatican Council, when the Missal of Paul VI was issued in 1970. Then it became Eucharistic Prayer I, and was joined by Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. It had been intact and unchanged since the issue of the Missal of (Saint) Pius V, after the Council of Trent, back in the 1560s. Four Hundred years later, Pope (soon to be Saint) John XXIII decided it was missing something – or, more properly, someone – and set about fixing it.
The Roman Canon has two long lists of saints. The first one, invoked before the consecration, starts with the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, and ends with Lawrence, Chrysogonous, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian. Good Pope John couldn’t help but notice that someone very important – and very dear to him – was missing. So, right after the Mother of God, he added, and blessed Joseph, her (chaste) spouse. And there he has remained ever since.
Now, the newer Eucharistic prayers mention only the Blessed Virgin by name, and then invoke generically the blessed apostles and martyrs, with no names specified. In Eucharistic Prayer III, there is the instruction to insert the name of the patron of the church in which Mass is being said, so here, you’ll hear the name of Saint Bernadette; and the name of the saint of the day, which I try to do even on Sundays when that feast goes uncelebrated. For example, this Sunday is the memorial of Saint John Vianney. You can check and see if he is mentioned at your Mass!
But since last month, when the memo came out of the Vatican in a most matter-of-fact, unceremonious way, now in all the Eucharistic prayers, the priest is to invoke the foster-father of the Lord, adding immediately after the most blessed Mary, Mother of God, and blessed Joseph, her spouse. Father McCabe and I both picked it up very quickly, though I did forget once or twice. The daily Mass crowd has probably already become used to it and no longer notices.
Now, I can’t say what happened at the parishes where you went to Mass while you were away on vacation, but here you will hear this great saint, intercessor, and example, invoked at every Mass, not just the ones with the “long” Eucharistic prayer.
I hope you join me in thinking that this is a good thing. Most of us don’t think of Saint Joseph enough, and he has a lot to offer. May this simple and pious act of our Holy Father draw us more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s life, by uniting us more closely to the one who taught Him how to be a man!
Speaking of joining me in joyous and pious acts, please join me in welcoming back to our happy parish home Father Nick Zientarski, who has come down from New York to help me out now that I am here alone. He also – perhaps even mainly – comes to see all of you, whom he loves, and to celebrate Mass here with you. Show him your delight, and promise him your prayers as he fortifies himself to return to Saint Joseph’s Seminary at Dunwoodie, New York, for yet another year in the grueling role of Dean!