May 1, 2013 – Fr. G. Young
Today’s beautiful and perhaps lesser known memorial of St. Joseph the Worker is needed now more than ever before. More than any other ideology, God grants the greatest dignity to man and his work because from the very beginning He has called man and woman to work together for the common good. Together they become coworkers in the vineyard, together man and woman work as co-creators and parents in the domestic church. And most profoundly God elevates the dignity of work, by His incarnation. Our Lord Jesus was born into the house and domestic life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and his foster-father St. Joseph. As a worker along with St. Joseph in the carpenter shop (some scholars translate the Greek to its english corollary “architect”), Jesus shows the great dignity of work.
Challenges today are not only the withholding of wages, or the the unjust payment of works (real problems even in the 20th century), but also the corruption of the spiritual component of our daily work. Like the Israelites in Egypt, the greatest offense was not simply that Pharaoh forced the people into harsh labour – but that he did not permit them to go and offer their religious sacrifices. Likewise, today fewer and fewer Catholics realize that our work is to glorify God, to provide for the needs of our families, for the Church, and for the poor. Every action, and all our work ought to be consecrated to Jesus, through the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We do not simply work so as to rest. Our rights to property and preparing a good life for ourselves and our own also needs to be defended. This is as necessary today as in 1955 at the rise of Communism. We have new forms of oppression against the true dignity of the worker, the dignity of human person and the unjust appropriation of the “fruits of our labour” by authorities and government.
The great tragedy of our time, and the challenge for my generation, your children, and your children’s children, will be that we continue to spend more and more, receiving less and less from those entrusted with our societies’ governance. Governments, organizations, and even many in Church leadership, continue to spend far in excess to what we collect. More than that, taxation has become exploitation in many cases and countries as the individual worker is taxed anywhere from %30-70 of their income. Little of which is spent for the good of the people, and often lost to corruption, ideological public policies, or the growth of inefficient bureaucratic structures. This too is an abuse of the worker, and an appropriation of the fruits of our labours. Now more than ever, we should be reminded of our forefathers, who spend within their means. Young and old must also be good stewards of their goods – putting aside wealth (planning for the future like Joseph in the old-testament) so as to be prepared for any challenges that may come our way. Furthermore, governments, church leaders and all those entrusted with the collective goods of the community should understand the corruption, inefficiency and waste are an abuse, a sin against the dignity and work of their people. We are to be good stewards of our environment, of our society and our home. Yet to spend beyond one’s means, leading ourselves, our families, our governments and our society into greater and greater debt ought to be seen too as a sin: injustice against the wage earner. Not only do we rob from the worker, the good of the Church and those truly poor or in need, we exploit the future.
Friends, be good stewards of God’s gifts, live without your means, be generous to the Church and the to the poor, and know that all our work is to be consecrated to Jesus through the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The more we glorify God in this way by our work, the more we will be good stewards of our goods and those entrusted to our care.
St. Joseph the worker, pray for us and for the whole Church
(Catechism of the Catholic Church #1867) The catechetical t
radition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: the blood of Abel,139 The sin of the Sodomites,140 The cry of the people oppressed in Egypt,141 The cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan,142 injustice to the wage earner.143
St Joseph the Worker (Catholic Encyclopedia)
The feast of Saint Joseph the Worker is not a mere Catholic copying of the Communist First of May – any more than Christmas is a mere copy of the pagan feast of Saturnalia. The dates are taken over, for obvious reasons; but the content is radically different.
The Christian view of work is the opposite of the materialist view. A worker such as St Joseph is not a mere lump of labour – “1.00 human work units.” He is a person. He is created in God’s own image, and just as creation is an activity of God, so creation is an activity of the worker. The work we do echoes the glorious work that God has done. It may not be wasted; or abused; or improperly paid; or directed to wrong or pointless ends. To do any of these things is not oppression, it is sacrilege. The glory of the present economic system is when it gives so many, of whatever class, the chance to build and create something worthwhile, whether from their own resources, or in collaboration with others, or by attracting investment from others. But its shame is when that does not happen: when people are coerced, by greed or by poverty, into being “lumps of labour.” Whether the labour is arduous or not makes no difference; whether it is richly paid or not makes no difference.
Because she must combat the anti-humanist Communist heresy the Church is sometimes thought to be on the side of capital. Reading the successive Papal encyclicals on labour and society, from Rerum Novarum (1891) onwards, will soon dispel that illusion. The enemies of the Church have no reason to read them; all too often we feel too comfortable in our present economic state and refrain from reading them also.