the times in which we live…are scarcely less deplorable for the Christian religion than the worst days, which…were most full of misery to the Church. We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft…the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity.
Difficult Times Within the Church
The foregoing quote actually is over 100 years old. Pope Leo XIII wrote it in his encyclical, Quamquam Pluries, in August 1889. Yet it sounds like it could have been written just yesterday, doesn’t it? Certainly, within the Roman Catholic Church, there seems to be no end to the scandals and intrigue among high-ranking clergy. Questions abound as to who knew what, when, and so on. As well, obfuscation and outright denial of Catholic teaching appear to be de rigueur for many high-profile members of the clergy. We shouldn’t be surprised if we were to see poll results showing the credibility of the episcopate at lower levels than some heretofore stereotypically scorned professions. Nor should we be surprised if the current crisis were to continue well beyond our lifetime.
Troublesome Times Outside the Church
And outside the Church, of course, circumstances are no better. Just how many routes can a society take that lead down the path to perdition? Is there no limit to the creative ways we collectively thumb our nose at God? Consider the following for just a handful of examples at the time this is written:
- A recent Gallup poll shows that nearly half of Americans would vote for a socialist candidate (even though some don’t seem to understand what “socialism” really is).
- The Democratic Party contenders for the presidency wear their pro-abortion status like a badge of honor.
- Multiple states within the U.S. have mandated LGBTQ training, some for all grades, from K – 12
- Public libraries sponsor drag queen story hours for little children.
- Divorce rates for the over-50 crowd are growing higher.
- Cohabiting couples are on the increase.
- Suicides also are trending upward.
- Belief in God is decreasing.
If conditions were bad in 1889, they clearly are worse at this time. And the prospect of changes for the better does not seem to be good in the near term.
A Solution for the Times–Both Then and Now
Pope Leo XIII wrote Quamquam Pluries to urge Christians to pray more fervently to God for His assistance, invoking the intercession of both Mary and Joseph. He timed this encyclical so that it would precede October, the month of Our Lady of the Rosary. In doing so, he suggested that we pray to both Our Lady and to St. Joseph, her chaste spouse, for their intercession. The Pope recognized that strong devotion to St. Joseph already existed at that time. In 1870, under Pope Pius IX, The Sacred Congregation of Rites previously had declared St. Joseph the Patron Saint of the Universal Church.
But why did Leo XIII place such a strong emphasis on praying to St. Joseph? As the spouse of Mary and foster father of Jesus, next to Mary, St. Joseph “…approached nearer than any to the eminent dignity by which the Mother of God surpasses so nobly all created natures…” Joseph was the guardian, the head, of the Holy Family, protecting Jesus and Mary, the mother of the Church. Now, St. Joseph serves as the guardian of the Church, “the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth,” in Pope Leo’s words. So why wouldn’t we now want to pray with zeal for his intercession, together with that of Our Lady’s?
Pray To St. Joseph After Each Rosary
In his encyclical, Pope Leo XIII urged the faithful to include a special prayer to St. Joseph with their recitation of the Rosary. He even added a partial indulgence for those who do so. The possibility of a partial indulgence still applies to this practice (Manual of Indulgences, conc. 19). Yet, currently, there does not seem to be widespread recognition of either the prayer or of the available indulgence. It’s time to reintegrate this prayer into our collective Catholic spirituality. According to the USCCB, the prayer to St. Joseph may be said after the customary Salve Regina and concluding prayer, and/or used to conclude other Marian devotions:
Pope Leo XIII’s Prayer to St. Joseph
To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our tribulation, and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke your patronage also.
Through that charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.
O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; O most loving father, ward off from us every contagion of error and corrupting influence; O our most mighty protector, be kind to us and from heaven assist us in our struggle with the power of darkness.
As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril, so now protect God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity; shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your aid, we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.
During these harrowing times, let’s make an effort to pray the Rosary more frequently and more fervently. And let us, as well, begin or reinstitute our prayers to St. Joseph in connection with the Rosary. We need the power of the Rosary, together with the guardianship of St. Joseph, now more than ever in our Church and in our world.
Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us.
St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us.