St. Joseph gets two feast days. We do not wonder, Why does he get two? We wonder, Is two really enough?
On March 19, we focused on the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster-father of the Nazarene they called “the carpenter’s son.” Today we focus on St. Joseph the steady working man.
Work gets us out of the house, engages us with others, challenges us, and brings out our powers and our talents. Work gives us a worthy venue for spending our strength and our time.
We can make our work into a sacrifice for God: We offer our own personal labors—a small contribution to the great human undertaking of making the earth hospitable and fruitful—we do our little part as our act of submission to the great plan of the provident God Who gave us our time, our energy, and our talents in the first place.
In one of Jane Austen’s novels, the heroine lives with her kindly old invalid father. A minor character asks her, “Don’t you long for a husband or a change of some kind?” Emma replies: “Why should I be unhappy as I am? I do not lack employment.”
Emma didn’t have a “job,” as we would define it. But she had interests and dedication to the common good; she had energy; she had enterprise and style. She got up every day with things to do; she spent her days doing them; and she could while away the evenings comforting her father and then sleep the sleep of the just. She was living the rule of life which St. Benedict made the keystone of holiness for the Western world: “Pray and work.”
Now, many workers suffer unjust abuse of their energies and skills, working under inhuman conditions for inadequate compensation. Others languish in a miserable state of idleness because someone somewhere acted selfishly or meanly—and broke the great chain of relationships that is supposed to keep all able-bodied people working. Other workers have no joy whatsoever in their daily labor, either because they neglected their own education, or because they never had the chance to obtain one.
The good Lord gave us two things in the Garden of Eden, both of which were designed to lead simply to our fulfillment and happiness. As a race, we human beings have managed to make a big mess out of both of them. We have subjected both of them to our self-centeredness and the worst excesses of our capacity to be ignorant and cruel. Sex and work.
May God forgive us for our own personal contributions to this mess.
When the Lord consecrated St. Joseph to participate in the great work of welcoming the Christ into the world, He gave the human race a fresh start in the area of honest daily labor. With our eyes fixed on St. Joseph, then, we have the hope of living our days in the service of God. We have the hope of doing our part to redeem the world from the twin agonies of slavery and unemployment.
May St. Joseph always be our guiding light and keep us employed in the work which does us, and our neighbors, the most genuine good.