The Just Man is often presented as a model for fathers – indeed, he is a patron for all fathers. He is a model husband and the protector of virgins. St. Joseph is the Worker, indicating the dignity of human labor (a dignity which is threatened by socialism in all its forms).
Perhaps we may take a moment today to consider how St. Joseph is a model for priests – in particular, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary shows priests how to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass with dignity, reverence, and a manly devotion.
The need for manly devotion in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy
The feminization of the Holy Mass is a serious problem in the modern Church. It is not that the Liturgy must be utterly masculine, especially if this be understood in such a way as to exclude women from participating (remembering, of course, that the truest and most active participation is spiritual and internal). Nevertheless, there is a growing recognition of the fact that the sanctuary is becoming a place where men (and boys) are losing their manhood and becoming more like women – this may then have the odd counter-effect of making some women act like men, but that is a problem for another article.
What are some indications of this feminization of the Liturgy and, together with it, of the men (and boys) who serve at the Sacred Rites? Consider, for instance, the hyper-relational emphasis of the modern Liturgy (rather, of the Liturgy as it is often celebrated in modern times). The focus is all too often turned from sacrifice to salutation, from worship to welcome. Obviously, greeting and welcome have their proper place in the Liturgy, but adoration and sacrifice must not be ignored. This movement from offering adoration through sacrifice to greeting and welcome is certainly an indication of a movement from a masculine to a feminine perspective – not that all men want to offer sacrifice, nor that all women want to build community; but these are certainly underlying drives in each gender, respectively. Nor do we say that one is bad and the other good – it only need be emphasized that the male priest (and the altar boys) are very often pressured to deny the masculine sacrificial focus in order to accentuate a more feminine form of community-building. Indications of this would be the use of modern hymns and modern musical instruments, increased “commentary” and ad lib speaking, the placement of the altar closer to the nave, and (above all else) facing the people throughout the Liturgy.
There is great need in our day for a renewal in manly devotion in the Liturgy generally, but especially in the manner in which the priest conducts himself at Mass.
The “business man” approach will not due
There is, however, another difficulty in modern Liturgy: Even those priests who desire to celebrate the Liturgy well and in a manly fashion, often have little or no idea of what this manly devotion should look like. Having been given poor example from the parish priests of the past generation, younger priests are often lost – they have good intentions, but little ability to bring their good will to fulfillment.
One example of this problem is the “business man” approach to the Liturgy. Fed-up with the silliness of the past forty years, some young priests will offer the Sacrifice in a dry and rough fashion. It is quite likely that these priests are attempting simply to “say the black and do the red” without adding anything – an intention which is certainly good at heart, but which can lead to real problems. These priests will celebrate the Mass in a business-like fashion: They perform the rubrics with precision, but refuse to add any devotion. The result is that some younger priests look like robots at the altar – whether they rush through the Mass (especially the words of institution and the elevations) or they speak in a dry monotone, these priests end up (perhaps unknowingly) detracting from the dignity and reverence of the Liturgy.
St. Joseph teaches the priest how to offer the Mass
Perhaps in our day, young priests ought to look to St. Joseph. Consider that he was very tough – a real man’s man. He worked hard, he was dedicated and faithful, he had a spirit of silent intensity about him. There is no doubt that St. Joseph was no sissy. But, when he comes before the Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child, the Just Man is all tenderness, devotion, and love.
Those strong hands and arms, toned by years of hard labor, held the Child with such care and delicacy! St. Joseph was a manly man, but he knew that there is room also for gentleness and warm reverence.
It is true, the Foster Father was not a priest; but the manner in which he held and caressed the Child Jesus has inspired the Church to present him as a model for all priests, that we might offer the Sacrifice with manly devotion, tender reverence, and pure love.
The priest’s prayer to St. Joseph, before offering the Holy Mass
O Blessed Joseph, happy man, to whom it was given not only to see and to hear the God Whom many kings longed to see, and saw not, to hear, and heard not; but also to carry Him in your arms, to embrace Him, to clothe Him, and to guard and defend Him.
V. Pray for us, O Blessed Joseph.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
O God, Who has given us a royal priesthood, we beseech Thee, that as Blessed Joseph was found worthy to touch with his hands, and to bear in his arms, Thy only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary, so may we be made fit, by cleanness of heart and blamelessness of life, to minister at Thy holy altar; may we, this day, with reverent devotion partake of the Sacred Body and Blood of Your Only-begotten Son, and may we in the world to come be accounted worthy of receiving an everlasting reward. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
O felicem virum, beatum Ioseph, cui datum est Deum, quem multi reges voluerunt videre et non viderunt, audire et non audierunt, non solum videre et audire, sed portare, deosculari, vestire et custodire!
V. Ora pro nobis, beate Iospeh.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
Deus, qui dedisti nobis regale sacerdotium: praesta, quaesumus; ut, sicut beatus Ioseph unigenitum Filium tuum, natum ex Maria Virgine, suis manibus reverenter tractare meruit et portare, ita nos facias cum cordis munditia et operis innocentia tuis sanctis altaribus deservire, ut sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem hodie digne sumamus, et in futuro saeculo praemium habere mereamur aeternum. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.