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St. Joseph the Worker

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AmericanCatholic.org., an online Catholic media outreach website writes about tomorrow’s feast day, May 1, regarding St. Joseph the Worker:
“Apparently in response to the ‘May Day’ celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists, Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955.”
This is how, although St. Joseph the Saint has a March 19 feast day, a separate feast day was instituted for his occupation. Feast days in the Catholic Church are meant to remind us of the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, and some feast days help us to focus on a certain aspect of their lives which made the saint holy and exceptional.
What was it about St. Joseph “the worker” that made this humble man’s life so extraordinary? Don’t all of us get up each morning and go to work, slugging through traffic, scarfing down coffee and bagels, and enduring an eight to twelve hour day of labor, meetings, mental fatigue, stress, anxiety, and perhaps certain feelings of accomplishment? Then, we turn around and repeat the process the next day and the day after that. What is so extraordinary about being “a worker?”
Perhaps it is St. Francis de Sales who put the holiness of work into perspective for us by saying such things as “There are no galley-slaves in the royal vessel of divine love -- every man works his oar voluntarily!” He also stated repeatedly that it is important to “Be who you are and be that well.” And perhaps his most validating conviction that “What makes us holy and pleasing to God is what our vocation demand of us, and not what our own will chooses,” an earnest declaration that the work we do for love of God’s will is what helps us grow in holiness.
St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, was a carpenter. We read very little about his life in scriptures but perhaps that is because the predictability of the life of a carpenter bears no detailed account. It was his steadfast devotion to providing a safe environment, food, clothing and the necessities of daily living for God’s plan to be fulfilled through his Son, that makes something as simple as being “a worker” a path to holiness.
What modern Catholics, and people of all faiths, need to ask ourselves is how our work can lead us to holiness? It is no secret that since the industrial revolution, and particularly since the dawn of the technological revolution, that the idea of an honest vocation has taken a back seat to lucrative productivity. In the process of becoming professional workers we seem to have lost the sense of work integrity. Evidence of compromised values in the workplace can be seen in every profession. Is there honesty and objectivity in the media and journalism? Are teachers able to use their God-given talents to educate children or have they been issued a core program of indoctrination to follow? Has the medical profession hit an unprecedented wall with regard to bio-ethics? Where is the integrity in the judicial system, retail business, computer and internet industry? Is it not true that every facet of the modern work force is facing conflicts with maintaining a standard of ethics and integrity? These are the questions to consider on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. How can we, in our current professions, vocations, or interim jobs, do our work in accordance with God’s holy will? It is a safe bet that St. Joseph didn’t “cut corners” in his workshop, not with the God’s own Son watching over him. We should adhere to the same high standard. Do our work and do it well. St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us!

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