That’s the slogan my former employer used on t-shirts for a joint family-employee appreciation day some 20 years ago. ‘Every job is important’ could also be the underlying theme for each celebration of the feast day of St Joseph the Worker. Feast days for Apostles, Martyrs, Scholars, Preachers, Founders of Religious orders abound, but their holy lives are usually too far from our lived experience. However this feast day of St Joseph is different, because absolutely everybody can relate to it and be encouraged by it.
I see it as the great feast day of the laity, but sadly the Episcopal Conferences of Australia, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland do not. Since the last aproved editions of the Divine Office in 1974-76, St Joseph the Worker only ranks as an optional memorial. It is my profound hope that when the next revision of the Divine Office occurs that this celebration will be elevated to at least memorial status. Does it not seem wrong to you that St Athanasius gets a memorial tomorrow and the Apostle Philip and James a feast the day after, but that the man who provided for the Holy Family from the work of his hands and taught the Lord Jesus how to use a carpenter’s tools gets an optional memorial? It does to me.
Because it was an optional memorial today, our priest totally ignored this much loved celebration, despite the facts that we have a statue of St Joseph the Worker within the church walls, a flourishing group of Josephite Associates in the parish (how lay people can connect with the mission of the Sisters of St Joseph founded by St Mary of the Cross MacKillop – Australia’s first Saint) and many others inspired to greater love of St Joseph because of St Mary MacKillop and her nuns. This feast day of the laity and of the immense value of the humble work of St Joseph should not be optional.
As we go about our daily lives shopping, banking, gardening, educating children, fixing things that are broken, doing paperwork, writing letters, paying bills, preparing meals we need to be reminded that every job is important, because then we will remember that in God’s eyes every task done in love has eternal value. I need that encouragement, and that reminder, don’t you?
With St Joseph as our model, we can learn how to sanctifty the activities of each day. A holy garbage man can do untold good. A holy handyman can be the source of untold blessings. A holy commercial traveller can spread the Gospel without words far and wide. A holy check-out operator in a supermarket or store can sprinkle God’s love in every personal interaction. We need holy accountants. We need holy lawyers. We need holy day-care assistants. We need holy nurses. We need holy car mechanics. Following St Joseph’s lead and working to the best of our skills and abilities, offering that work to God, and using the opportunities that our occupations give for showing charity, showing compassion, offering a word of sympathy or encouragement, growing in virtue and accepting the times of monotony,stress and frustration in reparation for sinn, will lead us to true holiness.
Here is what Blessed Pope John Paul II has to say (or repeat) in Redemptoris Custos, Chapter IV: ‘Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth…If the Family of Nazareth is an example and model for human families, in the order of salvation and holiness, so too, by analogy, is Jesus’ work at the side of Joseph the carpenter…At the work bench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption…The importance of work in human life demands that its meaning be known and assimilated in order to ‘help all people to come closer to God, the Creator and Redeemer, to participate in His salvific plan for man and the world, and to deepen… friendship with Christ in their lives”…. “St Joseph is the model of those humble ones that Christianity raises up to great destinies;…he is the proof that in order to be a good and genuine follower of Christ, there is no need of great things – it is enough to have the common, simple and human virtues, but they need to be true and authentic.”"
This prayer to St Joseph the Worker authored by St Pius X says it alll….
O Glorious St Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labour, obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honour to employ and to develop the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty; to work, above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness, having before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain complacency in success, so baneful to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O Patriarch St Joseph! This shall be my motto for all eternity. Amen.
St Joseph the Worker, pray for us.