Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Little Office of Saint Joseph

In the coming days, I hope to post on the now little-used prayers known as the Little Offices. Indeed, the subject for today is so little-used that I am not sure which prayer text is indeed indulgenced. As Wednesday is often kept as a day in honor of St. Joseph, it seems a good idea to start with the Little Office of Saint Joseph. It was initially indulgenced in 1921, and again in 1932. With the reform of the Enchiridion under Paul VI, it was retained as one of the five explicitly indulgenced Little Offices.

I have been unable to guarantee that I am providing the text of the indulgenced Little Office of Saint Joseph. My best guess as to the text of the prayer is found here. The Latin form of this text is also found in the Coeleste Palmetum, while the English translation was used in F.X. Lasance's Prayer-Book for Religious. Thus, I think it is a pretty good guess that this same prayer was later explicitly indulgenced. However, I have been unable to locate the documents issued by the Apostolic Penitentiary which provided the indulgence. If anyone knows where to locate these documents, I would be very grateful. The first was issued May 10, 1921, and the second March 18, 1932. Just as a hunch, I would expect these documents to include the official Latin version of these prayers.

In regard to the prayers themselves, I find the antiphons to be quite noteworthy. Between Prime and Sext, they are texts from Scripture specifically relating to Joseph. Indeed, with the other three antiphons (taken from the psalms) they generally tell the story of Joseph in Salvation History, and his efforts to defend his family, culminating in a period of rest at night. The hymns match the texts of the antiphon, expanding upon their themes.

Recovering this prayer would be excellent not only for Wednesdays, but also for the month of March, traditionally held in honor of St. Joseph. If indeed this short Office is the indulgenced Little Office of Saint Joseph, it would certainly be easy to use for those whose lives are too busy perhaps for the fuller Liturgy of the Hours or Breviary. It may also be good as an additional devotion after each Hour during March or on Wednesdays. It also might be a particularly worthy devotion for fathers, as St. Joseph is a model for and patron of fathers.

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