Journey With a Father’s Heart – Day 8

Day 8 – A Working Father

Excerpt from Patris Corde

An aspect of Saint Joseph that has been emphasized from the time of the first social Encyclical, Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, is his relation to work. Saint Joseph was a carpenter who earned an honest living to provide for his family. From him, Jesus learned the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labour.

In our own day, when employment has once more become a burning social issue, and unemployment at times reaches record levels even in nations that for decades have enjoyed a certain degree of prosperity, there is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which Saint Joseph is an exemplary patron.

Work is a means of participating in the work of salvation, an opportunity to hasten the coming of the Kingdom, to develop our talents and abilities, and to put them at the service of society and fraternal communion. It becomes an opportunity for the fulfilment not only of oneself, but also of that primary cell of society which is the family. A family without work is particularly vulnerable to difficulties, tensions, estrangement and even break-up. How can we speak of human dignity without working to ensure that everyone is able to earn a decent living?

Working persons, whatever their job may be, are cooperating with God himself, and in some way become creators of the world around us. The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new “normal” from which no one is excluded. Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!

Meditation

Who wouldn’t have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that humble carpenter shop in Nazareth?  What must it have been like for Joseph to teach the Son of God his own trade?  We can imagine Saint Joseph taking Jesus’ tiny hands in his, teaching him to feel the grain of the wood, to cut, to fasten, to smooth.  Later on, as Jesus grew, we can imagine his admiration as he watched his son begin to master the trade, the pride he felt as he saw him grow into a skilled laborer.  We can imagine the conversations they would have had, intertwined with long hours of comfortable silence as the two worked side by side, enjoying the gift of each other’s company.

Alongside Saint Joseph, Jesus learned the lessons of hard work and dedication.  As he spent long hours marveling at his father’s capacities as a small boy and learning to imitate them as a young man, he must have felt profound admiration for such a model of honesty, diligence, and fortitude.  He felt an immense love and veneration for the man who reflected to him the greatest virtues of true manhood.  And Saint Joseph, the master, in turn learned from his apprentice, who he watched being forged in the furnace of manual labor.

In our daily labors, we, too, have the opportunity to work alongside Saint Joseph and the child Jesus.  Our home and place of work can become a new Nazareth, where the loving service that characterized that humble workshop can transform our own surroundings into places of encounter with God.  Just as Saint Joseph was contributing to salvation history from his lowly carpenter’s bench, where he and Jesus labored, so too our work united to Jesus is called to be a participation in God’s saving plan.  How different even the most menial of tasks can become when we are aware that we are working alongside Jesus, who is present in an even more intimate way than in Nazareth, for he lives in our very hearts.

Questions for Reflection

  •  “Work is a means of participating in the work of salvation, an opportunity to hasten the coming of the Kingdom, to develop our talents and abilities, and to put them at the service of society and fraternal communion.”  How consciously do I carry out my work as an expression of my Christian vocation?  Could I inadvertently create a type of divide between my Christian life and my professional and/or home life, as if they were not one and the same?  How am I using my talents and abilities to extend Christ’s kingdom through my work, in the small and great ways I seek to build others up and contribute to a more Christian culture and society?  How might Jesus go about the work that I do?  What value would he see in it?
  • The Holy Father invites us to allow the circumstances of this pandemic to move us to review our priorities.  Especially during moments as trying as these, it can sometimes be difficult to see beyond our own struggles to recognize the cry of others with even greater needs than our own.  Bombarded with so much news and sensationalism, we can become desensitized to needs which are perhaps far removed from us and therefore easily forgotten or overlooked.  Is there any small way that I might be able to respond to the plight of so many who have lost their jobs and source of sustenance during this time?  I might not be able to fix the problem, but could I be called at least to pause and contemplate the needs around me in order to allow God to show me how I might be able to contribute to the solution?

 

Prayer

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.

Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.

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