St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, was a silent saint entrusted with the task of caring and watching over the Virgin Mary and Jesus. He now cares for and watches over the Church and models for all the dignity of human work. He is the patron saint of worker. On May 1st, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. This feast was instituted to foster deep devotion to St. Joseph, celebrate workers, and aid to the understanding of the holiness of human labor.
The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker was instituted in 1955 by Pope Pius XII. He instituted the Feast in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists. The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker invites each of us to return to the true meaning and dignity of work. Since the beginning, human work has been celebrated as a participation in the creative work of God. Through work, the human person both fulfills God’s command to care for the earth (Genesis 2:15) and to be productive in their work. St. Joseph exemplified the reality of work as the carpenter and foster father of Jesus. Before Christ’s public ministry, he worked alongside St. Joseph. He was a worker. We can live out the incarnation in our work, when we unite it to Christ’s. Unjust labor, however, or that which degrades the dignity of the human person is not to be celebrated. In St. John Paul II’s encyclical, Laborem Exercens, he states, “…[T]he Church considers it her task always to call attention to the dignity and right of those who work, to condemn situations in which that dignity and those rights are violated, and to help to guide [social] changes so as to ensure authentic progress by man and society. Human labor can and should be directed towards holiness.
St. Joseph cared for and led the Holy Family. He daily served the Lord through his craft, as well as through his love for his family. Today, we can look upon his life and imitate his virtue. While there are a multitude of virtues we can learn from St. Joseph, we will only highlight a few. St. Joseph was known for his silence, humility, sacrifice, and purity. These are virtues we can bring into every aspect of our lives. St. Joseph was a man of few words. The Gospels do not record a single word of his. How can we practice silence –speaking only what is necessary, true, and for the Kingdom? He knew who he was before the Lord –knowing what he needed to do and listening so to respond. How can we stand before the Lord in humility? What will we find? St. Joseph sacrificed through laying down his plans for God’s, moving to protect his family, and working to provide for them. How can we make sacrifices for the Lord and the ones we love? Finally, St. Joseph is known for his purity. He is often pictured with a lily to symbolize this purity. We can practice and pray for this same purity –perhaps emphasizing purity of intention; letting our actions and words be pure, lacking any motives not directed towards sanctity. Let St. Joseph be a model of virtue for you this month.
St. Joseph is a man for our times. He is a model of prayer, work, and virtue. Let him be a guide for you this month. St. Joseph, pray for us.
You’ve given us an example of holy work in St. Joseph.
Teach us today how to live as St. Joseph lived.
Fill us with the grace and virtues needed to work for the Kingdom.
We ask this in your name,
Choose one of the virtues of St. Joseph. Find three practical ways to practice it this week.
Some of St. Joseph’s virtues include: Justice, Obedience to God, Responsibility, Silence, Humility, Purity (Purity of Intention), Fidelity