How Joseph got added to the Roman Canon

November 10, 1962, during the first session of the Second Vatican Council:

The aged Bishop Petar Cule (Mostar, Yugoslavia) put in a long plea for the inclusion of the name of St. Joseph in the canon of the mass, but as he talked on, nervously repeating himself, murmurs began to be heard and Cardinal Ruffini was prompted to interject:

“Complete your holy and eloquent speech. We all love St. Joseph and we hope there are many saints in Yugoslavia.” The next speaker launched into a long and tedious sermon on the Virgin Mary, which also brought forth murmurs. He too had to be cut off by Ruffini, who remarked: “One does not preach to preachers” (Praedicatoribus non praedicatur). Winding up the day’s proceedings at 12:45 with the customary Angelus and Gloria Patri, the Cardinal President brought down the house with a loud invocation of the name of St. Joseph.

It was this cutting off of Bishop Cule that prompted Pope John to order the insertion of the name of St. Joseph in the canon of the mass on his own authority (decree announced November 13th, effective Dec. 8, 1962), without waiting for any conciliar recommendation in the matter. This caused great astonishment, but few were aware that the pope, following the debates on closed circuit television in his apartments, knew Bishop Cule personally and also knew that his nervous manner of speaking had a tragic source: he had suffered through one of those long trials made famous by the Communists and was sentenced to four years in a concentration camp in Yugoslavia. He and other prisoners were then put on a train which was deliberately wrecked in an attempt to kill all aboard. The bishop survived, but both his hips were broken. In poor health, he had nevertheless made great effort to attend the Council and speak up for St. Joseph. Thus his wish was fulfilled.

From: Xavier Rynne, Vatican Council II (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999), pp. 75-76


  1. Yet another wonderful story of the goodness of Good Pope John, and very fitting that Good Pope Francis should promulgate this new decree. And how good of my late lamented friend, Xavier Rynne, to record the event ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

  2. If this account is taken at face value, then Pope Blessed John XXIII is open to charges of mere sentiment when it comes to altering the Roman Canon, untouched for centuries.

    Pope Blessed John XXIII fares better when additional information is included. Many bishops and cardinals had spoken in regard to adding St. Joseph’s name to the Canon. Many of these speeches occurred in the early days of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Other clerics collected signatures for similar petitions – one such petition garnering 150,000 signatures in California.

    In any case, Blessed Pope John XXIII inserted St. Joseph’s name into the Canon, changing what been immemorial.

  3. Regarding: “It was this cutting off of Bishop Cule that prompted Pope John to order the insertion of the name of St. Joseph in the canon of the mass on his own authority (decree announced November 13th, effective Dec. 8, 1962), without waiting for any conciliar recommendation in the matter.”

    – Archbishop John xxiii is reported to have had an enduring devotion to St. Joseph. Perhaps his sensitivity for what Bishop Cule attempted and suffered in Council was enhanced by his own perdurable affection for St. Joseph.

  4. Note, too, that Pope John had entrusted the Council to the patronage of St. Joseph (and the announcement about Joseph’s insertion into the Canon came at the close of the first session). Pius IX had declared Joseph patron of the universal church about 80 years earlier. I’d imagine these were important elements in the decision as well.

    An interesting reference is Francis Filas, SJ, St. Joseph After Vatican II: Conciliar Implications Regarding St. Joseph and His Inclusion in the Roman Canon (Alba House, 1969).

  5. Here is a broader look and anecdotes about this episode from
    Rev. Joe Komonchak – some of the stories are priceless:


    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.)

  6. A justification for S. Joseph’s lack of inclusion in the unrevised eucharistic prayer is that he really belonged to the old covenant. This doesn’t make sense to me in that other old covenant figures are alluded to in the same prayer.

    Is there a better explanation?

  7. Thrusting Joseph into the other EPs, which has not lists of saints, gives him a remarkable prominence, and think one that is theologically questionionable. It takes us back to the piety of the 1950s, the “Go to Joseph” boom. Also questionable is the papal fiats altering the liturgy single-handed (as with Benedict’s resurrection of the 1962 liturgy, including “the perfidious Jews”). Tomorrow he could declare that the prayer to St Michael the archangel would come back at the end of Mass. What happened to collegiality?

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