Consecration of Canada to Saint Joseph

“The tradition of devotion to St. Joseph goes back to the very beginning of our country, which was officially consecrated to him in 1624… The Jesuit Relations reveal to us how popular this cult was in New France. It was under his patronage that the evangelization of the Indians was accomplished and it was the name usually given to the new converts. The custom was quickly established and has been preserved to this day to choose the name Joseph as the first patronymic at baptism. The study of the mandates of the bishops of Quebec also shows that the encouragement of devotion to Saint Joseph is a constant in our history” (Father Henri-Paul Bergeron, c.s.c.).

It is to the first missionaries of New France, the Recollets (a franciscan order), that belongs the honor of having chosen, by a public vow made in Quebec on March 19, 1624, and to which all the inhabitants associated themselves, Saint Joseph “as patron of the country and protector of this nascent Church. ” The first franciscan missionnaries arrived in Canada in 1615. At first, their missions were not very successful. They struggled learning the native languages, and they struggled finding a way to convert them. It is to the missionnary Father Joseph Le Caron, to whom we owe the choice of Saint Joseph as the first patron of Canada! This Recollet arrived in Quebec City in 1615, celebrated the first mass among the Hurons on August 12, 1615, returned to France the following year, came back in 1617 to exercise his ministry in Tadoussac before setting out again in 1623 to find his Hurons. Le Caron writes a memoir on the customs of the Hurons and the difficulties of the work of evangelization. Father le Caron: “It seems that their sins have spread in them a blindness and an insensitivity for all kinds of religions, which historians do not notice in the other peoples of the world” (Le Clercq, op. cit., I, p. 263-288).

As it was very difficult for the Recollets to evangelize the natives, Father Joseph Le Caron had the idea of consecrating the country to Saint Joseph. Here is what he wrote for March 19, 1624: “We made a great solemnity where all the inhabitants were present, and several savages, by a vow that we made to Saint Joseph, whom we chose as our patron of the country and protector of this nascent church.” Historians believe that St. Joseph’s Day was thereafter celebrated regularly, except perhaps during the occupation of Quebec by the Kirke brothers (1629).

In 1637, the choice of St. Joseph as patron saint of the country was ratified in a more official way. “Pope Urban VIII confirmed this decision, and granted a plenary indulgence for the day of the patronal feast […]. All the inhabitants of New France, after having gathered at the foot of the holy altars to vow themselves anew to the holy Spouse of the Queen of Heaven, took part in the public rejoicing, blessing God for having given them as their protector the very guardian of his divine Son” (c.f. Histoire de l’Église du Canada, pages 23-24). Father Le Jeune wrote in the Jesuit Relations that “There is no place in the world where the feast of St. Joseph is celebrated with more pomp and rejoicing than in Canada.

Confirmation from Heaven:

Even before coming to Canada, St. Mary of the Incarnation saw St. Joseph, along with “the great country” that was shown to her, “He was the guardian of this place. ” Blessed Catherine of St. Augustine herself confided “having, in different circumstances of her life, seen St. Joseph and heard from his mouth the affirmation that God had constituted him father, guardian and defender of the country of Canada”.

Confirmation from Rome:

In 1834, Gregory XVI definitively approved the vow of 1624 and Saint Joseph officially became the first Patron of Canada. Saint Joseph was thus honored as patron and protector of the Church of Canada, before being declared patron and protector of the universal Church by Pope Pius IX, on December 8, 1870.

 

 

Sources: 

-P. Chrétien LECLERCQ, Premier établissement de la foy, I, p. 287 – Les Ursulines de Québec, I, p. 253.

-Histoire de l’Église du Canada, by a nun of the Notre-Dame Congregation, pages 23 and 24

-The Jesuit Relations