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St. Joseph the Worker’s Feast Celebrates the Sacred Dignity of Labor
(This article was originally written and published last year.)
Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Thousands of years before Communism claimed to help laborers, before social justice activists demanded living wages, the Catholic Church was founded by a poor carpenter from an obscure village and his friends, who were largely poor, uneducated fishermen and ordinary workers. Even St. Paul, often the darling of more elitist Christians, was a tent maker who wrote that only those who worked should eat (2 Thess. 3:10). But one of the humble laborers who has too often been overlooked in the great saga of salvation history is the foster-father of Jesus and the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph.
We have no recorded words of Joseph in Scripture. He is the man who silently and immediately does whatever God tells him, the strong but unassuming protector of Mary and Jesus. Jesus spent most of his life in Nazareth, with his public life comprising only about three years of his 33-year life. That means that much of Jesus’s life on earth was spent under the care and tutelage of Mary and Joseph, before Joseph died. St. Joseph was a carpenter from a rural town despised by more well-connected compatriots of his time. Yet he, out of all the world, was chosen to be the guardian of the God-man and Savior of the world.
America was founded with a philosophy very similar to the biblical ideal of valuing work and not accepting a permanent leisure class. Unfortunately, as America gets further from its roots, it is common now to hear even so-called conservatives. denigrating the very laborers among whom Jesus Christ and St. Joseph lived and died, and of whom Joseph and Jesus were members. Manual labor, working for one’s living, is not just a necessity—it is a great and splendid vocation, full of honor if carried out well and for the glory of God.
The dignity of the laborer and the honor due to his work is a fundamental biblical doctrine. On this feast of St. Joseph the Worker, it is a wonderful time to honor all those who work and to reassess our lives to ask if we are working as hard and as well as the example of Joseph and Jesus reminds us we must.
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