St. Joseph the Worker

St. Joseph the Worker
Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, which in the Tridentine Calendar actually overrides the 5th Sunday of Easter. This 1st of May is also called ‘May-Day’.
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For centuries, it was a day that celebrated the joy of Spring, the planting of the fields, a day of festivals. After the 1800’s, it also became associated with worker protests and strikes, and by the 20th century, Communists had turned this day into one for showcasing Communism: their armies and weapons and power – a demonstration of the supremacy of their workers. Communists proclaimed that a worker paradise could be achieved through their ideology, which promised a new man and a new society – a society without the need for God or a Savior.
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In a direct challenge to this false view of man, the Catholic Church instituted the feast on this day, of St. Joseph the Worker. Pope Pius XII, in 1955, instituted this Feast in order to expose the lies of Communism, and proclaim that the only truth which can liberate men and women is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Contrary to Marxism, the Church teaches that there is a dignity to human work, not because of the primacy of the State, but precisely because of the dignity of every human worker.
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In the gospel today, it says that Jesus was the son of the ‘carpenter.’ St. Joseph was this carpenter who worked hard for a living; it is certain that his work was done well, because it was done alongside the Son of God. In reality, God is with each of us in our daily work, whether it is difficult, hands-on work like St. Joseph’s, or mental or desk-work.
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Father Plus, in his book ‘How to Pray Always,’[i] tells us that if we wish to pray all day, we must do our work with maximum professional skill, and offer it to God. Even the most mundane task: ironing a shirt, sweeping the shop – these can be made into beautiful gems offered to the Lord, if we only will introduce a supernatural intention; this is surely the way that St. Joseph quietly worked.
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Charles Peguy writes that in his childhood of olden times, he remembered seeing people re-caning chairs as carefully as their forefathers used to cut stones for the Cathedral. There was a painstaking love of perfection for detail he says, a desire for a task well done.
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The Holy Father has lamented the throw-away society that we live in. Have we all not seen very well-crafted furniture from olden times, or that appliance that just keeps on going? Growing up, we had a toaster that just kept on going really my whole life, designed probably in the 50’s. New ones? no way. You throw them out after 5 years.
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The idea of quality craftsmanship is fading away, we often do work, design things, just to get the job out of the way, just to make some cash; St. Joseph for sure never lived like that. We ourselves should do everything with care and precision and professionalism, whether it is designing a microchip or cleaning the windows, all for God’s glory.
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St. Josemaria once wrote: don’t let your professional success or even failure — make you forget what the true aim of your work is: the glory of God! (The Forge, 704)
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There can be a tendency for us to look past our work, at greener pastures, looking for the next thing, the next option. If our duties are boring, we yearn for an exciting career; if we are weighed down by responsibility and stress, we yearn for a simple job. A man who was very well educated and in a lucrative field once said to me: ‘I saw this guy working in a shoe repair shop; his work was simple, uncomplicated; and at 5 o’clock he could just go home.’ He said, ‘I often wish for such a job.’
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We can all yearn for a different kind of work, but God does not ask us to do something different, he asks us to do our work differentLY. Work done well can be a cause for evangelizing others. They notice your work-ethic, they note the quality and they enjoy working with you, then underneath it all, they find a Christian. And they might want to know more.
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Father Plus says, we must all admit that sometimes we slack off and “go on strike”, we don’t put our heart into the quality of our work. But the saints did not behave in this way. Whatever had to be done, they did it to the best of their ability.
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St. Joseph, pray for us, that we will find richness and value in doing our work very well, because we are doing it for the glory of God.

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[i] How to Pray Always, p. 77, 85.

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