The memorial of St. Joseph the Worker has been celebrated liturgically since 1955 on May 1st. Partly, it is a prayer filled response to the May Day communist extravaganzas about the totalitarian State and its attitude towards workers. But there is wonderful theology present too in this memorial about the meaning of human work in God’s plan. Saint Joseph, foster father of Christ, Our Lord, and patron of workers, gives us a most effective witness to the goodness of the Church’s teachings about the meaning of work in human life.
The Second Vatican Council Constitution for the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (GS) offers some deep insights about the nature of work in God’s plan for human life. The document describes that through work, people provide for themselves and their family, associate with others in respectful ways, and become a partner in the work of bringing “divine creation to perfection.” (GS 67).
Our Christian faith tells us that through work offered to God, we associate ourselves with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, whose labour with his hands at Nazareth greatly brought about the dignity of work. The document continues: “this is the source of every person’s duty to work loyally as well as his or her right to work; moreover it is the duty of society to see to it that, according to the prevailing circumstances, all citizens have the opportunity of finding meaningful employment.”
Some people would say that these are just abstract, lofty ideas. Again, we turn to St. Joseph and ponder his life to understand the mystery of God’s Kingdom as we face vexing uncertainties. We are challenged with such things as social unrest over environment concerns versus resources projects, determining just wages, addressing the shortage of housing, and dealing wisely with threats of terrorism, poor leadership from government, disrespect to the sacredness of human life, etc.
Joseph faced great and threatening uncertainties yet he kept up his faith in God and his dedication to his family responsibilities. His faith in God kept him focused on the immediate needs of Jesus and Mary as well as to have an openness and a humble, courageous spirit of cooperation with the graces present in the over-arching plan of God. Joseph never lost hope.
Gaudium et Spes 39 describes what Joseph showed so well in his life: “For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and work, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: ‘a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.’ On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower.”
As we enter the month of May with the memorial of St Joseph the Worker on May 1st, let us turn to Saint Joseph to teach us the awareness of the presence of God in all circumstances. Of course, we also think of the Blessed Virgin Mary to whom we lovingly dedicate the month of May. Jesus is truth and Mary is trust!
Fr. Stanley Galvon
Rector of the Cathedral