An important maxim in Christian tradition affirms simply lex orandi, lex credendi that can be rendered “The law of praying is the law of believing.” Concisely, this affirms the relationship between worship and faith. Moreover, it works both ways: our prayer influences our belief, just as our belief colors our prayer. One finds in this principle the justification of our recent Holy Fathers in placing the name of Joseph in the Eucharistic Prayers that we employ at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
On November 13, 1962, Pope John XXIII directed that the name of St. Joseph be included in the first Eucharistic Prayer (the Roman Canon). Pope Benedict XVI continued that line of thinking; Pope Francis completed the intent by authorizing the insertion of the name of Joseph into Eucharistic Prayers II, III and IV through the decree Paternas vices (May 1, 2013).
Of course, it seems very appropriate that Joseph be joined with Mary in this most central of Christian celebrations, and that he be designated “her spouse.” Secondly, placing Joseph in the midst of our prayer expresses our recognition of him as an important figure in our faith. We sometimes speak of St. Joseph as a hidden figure, but now we call him to mind whenever we break bread as a Catholic community. How appropriate!
Our prayer expresses our faith, but our faith also directs our prayer. We call to mind what we believe and celebrate in our worship.
The Latin maxim mentioned above also receives expression in a slightly longer form, lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi—what we pray about and what we believe receives expression in our living. Therefore, when we include Joseph in our prayer and confess our belief in his contribution to our faith, we resolve to allow his example to influence our lives and thinking.
Adhering firmly to the mystery of God’s design of salvation in its very beginnings, [St. Joseph] 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. (Paternas vices)
The line of influence flows from prayer to faith to action, but it also effectively expresses the reverse of that current: our actions help us to express our faith more forcefully, and this desire to believe more deeply seeks articulation in our prayer.
In this year of St. Joseph, some of the elements that characterize him—such as justice, obedience, and protection—capture our attention. In order to allow these to be more than words as we reflect upon St. Joseph, we can examine our own attitude toward these values. We can be confident that Joseph continues to offer us support and intercession in striving to be the kind of men and women for whom virtues become more than simply words. They are expressions of our faith, sought out in prayer.