St. Joseph, patron of the fight against socialism and communism (Benedict XV)

St. Joseph, patron of the fight against socialism and communism (Benedict XV)

On May 1, 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, giving workers a role model and intercessor in heaven, and confirming the Church's condemnation of atheistic and anti-Christian communism.

In the early years of the 20th century, communism gained the support of many leaders around the world, causing entire nations to succumb to its ideas. Because of the grave danger this nefarious ideology posed to the common good, Pope Pius XI turned to St. Joseph in 1937 to have Jesus' earthly father deliver the Church from the many errors of communism.

He wrote: "We place the great action of the Catholic Church against the atheistic communism of the world under the aegis of the mighty protector of the Church, St. Joseph" (Divini Redemptoris, n. 81).

In response to the Holy Father's words, Catholics began to fervently invoke the intercession of St. Joseph, especially under the title "Terror of Demons", to combat the atheistic ideas of communism. They also asked for his help in the cause of workers' rights, since both issues were of great concern in the first half of the 20th century.

Something related to this, but very little known to the public, is that until the mid-19th century, many countries celebrated a secular holiday on May 1st. It was known as "May Day" and had no religious or political connotations. Unfortunately, the Communists took advantage of the date and "renamed" it "Communist Workers' Day". This was done to emphasize the ideas of Karl Marx and to influence the masses.

This turn of events greatly disturbed the Church, because such a celebration could have a very negative effect on workers, society, and the family in the long run. Not surprisingly, everyone at the time felt the threat of world communism, including the Pope. For this reason, Pius XII, like his predecessor, turned to St. Joseph to denounce the falsehoods of communism and to promote the dignity of work in a very specific way.

On May 1, 1955, the Pope proclaimed that this day would henceforth be the liturgical feast of St. Joseph the Worker. He broke the news to the workers with these words:

“We are pleased to announce our decision to institute — as I am now doing — the liturgical feast of St. Joseph the Worker, to take place every year on May 1st… The humble craftsman of Nazareth not only personifies to God and the Holy Church the dignity of the laborer, but he is also always the provident guardian of you and your families.”¹

On July 25, 1920, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Benedict XV published the Motu Proprio Bonum Sane.

In this new document, the Pope refers to the letter to the Bishop of Bergamo. After describing the advances of immorality and socialist propaganda, he proposes St. Joseph as the heavenly protector against the contagion of socialism:

"Thus we see with real pain that now public customs are much more depraved and corrupt than before, and that therefore the so-called 'social question' has been aggravated to such an extent that it engenders the threat of irreparable ruin. In fact, the arrival of a certain universal republic has matured in the desires and expectations of the most seditious, founded on the absolute equality of men and the communion of goods, and in which there is no longer any distinction of nationality; the authority of the father over the children is not recognized, nor of the public power over the citizens, nor of God over men gathered in civil society. [...]²

"Concerned more than anything about the course of these events, we have not neglected, when the opportunity arose, to remind the children of the Church of their duties, as we did recently with the letter addressed to the Bishop of Bergamo and the Bishops of the Venetian region. And now, for the same reason, that is, to remind men ... who earn their bread by working, to keep them immune from the contagion of socialism, the staunch enemy of Christian principles, We with great solicitude propose to them in a special way St. Joseph, so that they may follow him as their special guide and honor him as their heavenly Patron."²

Pope Pius XI, too, in his encyclical Divini Redemptoris of 1937, placed the Church's action against communism, the most radical form of socialism, under the protection of St. Joseph:

"And in order to hasten the 'Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ', so much desired by all, we place the great action of the Catholic Church against worldwide atheistic communism under the aegis of the mighty Protector of the Church, St. Joseph. He belongs to the working class and has experienced the weight of poverty, in himself and in the Holy Family, of which he was the vigilant and affectionate head; he was entrusted with the Child God when Herod sent his sicarios against him. With a life of faithful fulfillment of daily duty, he left an example of life to all those who have to earn their bread with the work of their hands and deserved to be called the Just One, a living example of that Christian justice which must reign in social life."

The Catholic worker will find in this prayer all the examples of virtues to become anti-communist:

Prayer to St. Joseph (by St. Pius X)

Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who dedicate themselves to work, obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance to atone for my many sins; to work conscientiously, putting the cult of duty above my inclinations; to work with recollection and joy, looking upon it as an honor to employ and develop through work the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever backing down in the face of tiredness and difficulties; to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from myself, always keeping death before my eyes and the account I will have to give of lost time, of unused talents, of omitted good and of vain complacency in success, so harmful to God's work!

All for Jesus, all for Mary, all in imitation of you, O Patriarch St. Joseph! This will be my motto in life and in death. Amen.

Consecrate March 19 as the day of a guardian saint

We take up Prof. Plínio Corrêa de Oliveira's plea in which he wanted the feast of St. Joseph to become a holy day of vigilance: "If the Patronage of the Great Patriarch is of such great value in the Church and for the faithful and all social classes, it is just and even more praiseworthy that in the land of Santa Cruz, in our extreme Brazil, March 19 should be specially and liturgically consecrated as a holy day of vigilance. In this way, we will have the glorious opportunity to contemplate, in all the temples of the cities and streets of our dioceses and states, representatives of all social classes, from children, young men and women to the elderly, fulfilling the precept of the sanctification of the day consecrated to the Glorious Patron. "³


1 Pius XII’s speech on May 1, 1955 as recorded in the Acta Apostolica Sedis.
2 Motu Proprio di Sua Santita Benedetto XV Bonum Sane: La Devozione a San Giuseppe, da Mezzo Secolo Patrono della Chiesa Cattolica. 2/19/2020 10:28 AM