Mentioning Saint Joseph in the Eucharistic Prayers

Date: January 20, 2024
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Question: Do you know why “and blessed Joseph, her Spouse” was not included in the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and for Various Needs? It seems like an omission. Many priests include it anyway. -- O.K., Potomac, Maryland


Answer: I do not think it was an oversight but was done quite deliberately.


The decree adding the name of Saint Joseph to the principal Eucharistic Prayers was promulgated by Pope Francis on May 1, 2012. This brought to conclusion a process already being studied under Pope Benedict XVI, who had previously permitted the name to be added to the other principal Eucharistic Prayers in special cases.


The decree offers as a reason for this change Saint 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 probably what motivated Pope St. John XXIII to add his name to the Roman Canon, practically the first change in the canon in more than 1,000 years. Pope Francis made the practice universal for Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV.


This leaves the question posed by our reader regarding the other Eucharistic Prayers and why I believe it was not an oversight.


First, 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."


Second, 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 Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation or those for Various Needs and Occasions, and we can reasonably presume that the question arose while preparing the decree, their exclusion must be the fruit of a deliberate choice.


I can think of several reasons why the then Congregation for Divine Worship decided not to include them in the decree.


One reason could be that it did not want to give the impression that these Eucharistic Prayers, whose use is restricted to particular occasions and seasons, were on an equal footing with the four principal anaphora. 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.


Also, at the time the decree was published, several countries, representing some of the principal languages, had not yet completed the translation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal issued in 2001 and slightly amended in 2006.


This meant that several countries had not yet incorporated into the missal a translation of the definitive 1991 Latin version of the Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs. This prayer, with four variants, was composed in 1974 for a Synod in Switzerland. Its original version was in the four official languages used in the Helvetic Confederation: German, French, Italian and Ladino.


Several bishops’ conferences sought and obtained approval to incorporate or translate this prayer into their missals, especially those of the original languages and Spanish. In these missals, however, the prayer was sometimes printed in such a way that it became known as Eucharistic Prayer V.


Unfortunately, the original texts contained some ambiguous expressions, especially regarding the Eucharistic epiclesis which asked for a somewhat generic presence of Christ rather than that the gifts be transformed into the body and blood of Christ. Likewise, its origin in the context of a synod meant that it did not always fit well as a general Eucharistic Prayer.


Finally, in 1991 the Holy See stepped in and promulgated an official Latin Text which simplified the original texts and removed the theological ambiguities. It also decreed that these prayers would be henceforth known as the Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions, and their use would be restricted to when one of the Masses for Various Needs could be celebrated.


In 2012, when the decree including the name of Saint Joseph was promulgated, the Holy See provided translations in several major languages regarding how to insert this novelty into Eucharistic Prayers I-IV. In this way it was possible to put the decree into effect almost immediately.


This would have been somewhat difficult for the Prayer for Various Needs, which was still very much a work in progress.


Therefore, the Holy See might have decided to be cautious and made a distinction between the normal four Eucharistic Prayers and the ones for special occasions and reconciliation.


Therefore, for the moment at least, the name of Saint Joseph is not included in these prayers, and priests should not include it on their own initiative.


That said, however, there does not appear to be any stylistic, literary or theological reason to preclude the mention of Saint Joseph in these prayers. It might be that the Dicastery 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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Readers may send questions to 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.

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