Canon Stein is a member of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a Roman Catholic society of apostolic life with an emphasis on the traditional Latin Mass. The Institute was invited to St. Joseph’s Church in Detroit in 2016 to revive what was then a struggling Church community.
(What is a “canon,” you ask? “In layman's terms, if you take a monk on the one hand, and a diocesan priest on the other, and smoosh them together, you get a canon,” Canon Stein said.)
“When there was every material reason to shut it down (not enough funds, not enough faithful, a crumbling building), we’re very grateful that Archbishop Vigneron had a much grander vision (for the parish),” Stein told CNA.
“He created a win-win situation by unmerging St. Joseph’s (from a cluster of three parishes), making it its own parish within the archdiocese, and then inviting the Institute of Christ the King to come live here and breathe daily parish life back into it from scratch, and that’s exactly what we’ve done for the past two years,” he said.
One very visible sign of that new life in the parish is the beautiful St. Joseph’s procession, which the Institute has organized since 2017.
The appeal of the photo, and of the procession (which this year included 500 people), goes deeper than aesthetics, Stein said.
“I think it’s safe to say there’s a profound theological and spiritual reason why that photo resonates so much with our hearts,” he said.
“We are the religion of the Incarnation. God became man, the invisible God became visible, he sanctified the material world and elevated these visible, tangible signs to communicate invisible graces and to convey eternal truths.”
“This is my parish; this is what we do,” said Daniel Egan told The Detroit Catholic about the procession.
“This is a perennial St. Joseph Day tradition. St. Joseph Parish has been here for almost 150 years, so this isn’t new to this area. Maybe it fell out of practice for the last 30, 40 years, but we are showing we are Catholic, as we are called to,” he said.
“As Catholics, we’re told to live our faith in season and out of season, in the public square and in private, and that includes the city streets. If we’re not Catholic out there, we are truly failing to be authentically Christian.”
The photo of the procession includes the Knights of St. John in full uniform (a Catholic charitable organization with a very long history), as well as parish vicar Canon Adrian Sequeira, ICRSS, leading the procession in full choir habit, which is used when the order chants the Liturgy of the Hours together. The spots of blue throughout the photo symbolize the order’s total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Stein said.
St. Joseph speaks to the hearts of today as a gentle and loving man and father and worker, Stein told CNA.
(Story continues below)
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Part of the homily from the feast day, he said, explained that God sends saints for the times - either holy people of the time who are witnessing to the Gospel, or saints of old who are re-presented and raised up as intercessors for the times.
“It only takes a quick glance around the world to see a fatherless society, and to see either a slothful or workaholic society, or a lack of an appropriate understanding of manliness,” Stein said.
“It’s neither brute nor effeminate, it’s faithful, it’s steadfast, it’s courageous and gentle. And we find all those things in St. Joseph, so I think that’s another part of the power of that picture.”
The procession, which traveled for less than a mile, stopped rush-hour traffic in the city, with the collaboration of Detroit police. It travelled to the Eastern Market, an iconic makers market in Detroit that has remained in the city since the 1800s, where workers can sell their wares and fathers can support their families - two things of which St. Joseph is the patron, Stein noted.
“So all the workers got to see their patron processing through the streets, whether they knew it or not,” he said.
The procession was part of numerous events celebrating St. Joseph that took place in both St. Joseph’s parish and throughout the archdiocese. In addition to the procession, St. Joseph’s parish had three Masses, an Italian dinner, and a running litany of other activities and devotions throughout the day.