Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Now that St. Joseph has been added to Eucharistic Prayers II, III and IV, is it right to extend it to the other Eucharistic Prayers in the missal, such as those for Reconciliation and for Special Needs? I was with some priests and we could not agree on this. — R.H., Mararba, Nigeria
A: It is especially fitting during Christmastide to be able to recall the May 1 decree adding the name of St. Joseph to the principal Eucharistic Prayers.
The decree offers as a reason for this change St. Joseph’s particular role in the history of salvation and in relationship with the Church. To wit:
“Exercising his paternal care over Jesus, Saint Joseph of Nazareth, set over the Lord’s family, marvelously fulfilled the office he received by grace. Adhering firmly to the mystery of God’s design of salvation in its very beginnings, he stands 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. Through these virtues, this Just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed as guardian over God the Father’s most precious treasures. Therefore he has been the subject of assiduous devotion on the part of the People of God throughout the centuries, as the support of that mystical body, which is the Church.
“The faithful in the Catholic Church have shown continuous devotion to Saint Joseph and have solemnly and constantly honored his memory as the most chaste spouse of the Mother of God and as the heavenly Patron of the universal Church ….”
This was what motivated Pope John XXIII to add his name to the Roman Canon, practically the first change in the canon in more than 1,000 years. Pope Benedict XVI had already permitted the name to be added to the other principal Eucharistic Prayers in special cases, and now Pope Francis had followed through in making the practice universal for Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV.
This leaves the question posed by our reader regarding the other Eucharistic Prayers.
First of all, we must consider that the title and the content of the decree is very precise: “Regarding the Mention of the Divine Name of St. Joseph in the Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV.”
Secondly, the decree affirms that “mature consideration” was given to “all the matters” before reaching a decision. It then goes on to mention only Eucharistic Prayers I through IV.
Therefore, if no mention was made of the prayers for Reconciliation or those for Various Needs, then it must necessarily be deducted that the decree does not extend to them. We can hardly presume that the question did not arise in preparing the decree, so it must therefore be a deliberate choice.
I am not privy to the reasons why the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments left out the other Eucharistic Prayers. It would not appear to be for stylistic reasons, as the texts of these prayers would not exclude the insertion of St. Joseph in similar terms as that of the principal prayers.
I could guess — but it is precisely that, a guess — that the congregation did not desire to include the other Eucharistic Prayers so as not to create the idea that these anaphora are on the same level and enjoy equal status with the four principal texts.
The use of the Prayers for Reconciliation and for Various Needs are fairly restricted to concrete situations and Mass formulas. To mention them alongside the other prayers in the same general decree might have induced some priests to believe that they could be used indiscriminately on all occasions.
Therefore, for the moment at least the name of St Joseph is not included in these prayers.
However, since there does not seem to be any particular theological or stylistic reason to exclude St. Joseph from these prayers, it might be that the Congregation for Divine Worship will eventually allow for the insertion by means of a document with less weight than a general decree or simply a separate decree that recalls the restricted use of the prayers.
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Follow-up: Copes, Humeral Veils and Blessings
In the wake of our Dec. 10 column on blessings before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, a reader commented: “After the Sacrament is reposed, is it necessary or appropriate to give a public blessing in the manner of a ‘sending’? The rite is fairly clear: ‘[A]nd the minister then leaves’ — ruling out any further blessing, even as an option. This is a powerful expression of the ultimate blessing, from the Lord himself, which cannot be excelled or equaled, even by the public blessing from an ordained minister. On the other hand, there seems to be some expectation by the congregation for a final blessing, as at Mass, or the Hours, or even many of our public prayer gatherings.”
As our reader has clearly expressed, any other blessing would be an anticlimax with respect to the Benediction received with the Blessed Sacrament.
The rite foresees that it should conclude with the people reciting or singing some acclamations while the celebrant retires.
In some papal celebrations of adoration in Rome, after the Benediction, the Divine Praises are recited, the deacon reserves the Blessed Sacrament while an appropriate Eucharistic song is intoned, and the rite concludes with a Marian antiphon such as the Salve Regina.
This is probably an appropriate way of concluding such a celebration, since another blessing would not usually be expected after such a hymn.
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Readers may send questions to [email protected]. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.