LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?

St. Joseph the Worker Extols God’s Gift of Labor

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I trust you have not forgotten that Pope Francis has declared this the Year of St. Joseph. We sure need his example and intercession. We sure need him to bring us closer to Jesus and Mary.
His big feast day is March 19th. Too bad he doesn’t get the attention he merits then, because it’s always during Lent, and two days after St. Patrick’s Day!
So, it’s good he has another feast day, and it’s coming up: May 1 is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
Context helps us appreciate the significance of this celebration. It’s a rather recent addition to our Catholic calendar. It was Pope Pius XII who started this observance in 1955 a decade after World War II.
See, during those years, the communists were gaining much influence in Europe. In Italy, the Marxists were very strong, and they made a particular pitch to the laborers. These communists screamed that workers had to be revolutionaries, and that labor was to be the arena of conflict. The only value of employment, they yelled out, was economic advancement, and the tool of overthrowing government, religion, and culture.
Basta! Enough! That was the answer given these chants by Pope Pius XII.
Labor is a gift from God, an invitation to cooperate with the Lord in His ongoing, providential sustenance of His creation. Work was a means to an end, not the end in itself. The end, the goal of labor, was dignity, the satisfaction of a job well done, the opportunity to use one’s talents for the common good, and the provision for one’s family and future security.
Plus, Pope Pius insisted, work was good, sacred, an occasion of grace. The laborer deserved a living wage, safety, and the right to organize.
And, he observed if we wanted an example of that, look to St. Joseph!
God the Father so esteemed human labor, explained the Holy Father, that He entrusted His only Son, Jesus Christ, to a carpenter! His son was to be raised, not in a palace or a life of luxury and leisure, but in a carpentry shop! Such was God’s seal of approval upon the value of work.
In fact, when Jesus began His public life of teaching, healing, and miracles, the people whispered to each other, “But isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”
I remember an elderly priest telling me that, as a young seminarian in Rome, he had attended the first celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. He was amazed and thrilled as thousands of laborers—farmers, electricians, teachers, health care professionals, street sweepers, bus drivers, factory hands, grocers, and carpenters—proudly processed into St. Peter’s Basilica in the clothes of their trade, with the tools of their jobs, there to praise God for the gift of human labor.
The Communists were deflated!
We behold the statue of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus. We also see his image holding a hammer, a plank of wood, in a work apron.
The two images are hardly contradictory.
St. Joseph the Worker! Pray for us!

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