A priest told in his homily that a teacher, in one of his Christian Values classes, asked his students to write a brief essay on this topic: What relic of which saint would like to have, if you were to be granted your wish and why? On reading one of the masterpieces later, he brightened up. The budding writer had this to say: “I would like to have in a vial some drops of the sweat of Saint Joseph. Reason: Because his sweat would symbolize honest, humble, honorable work. It is because it was by the sweat of his brow that he was able to feed the Son of God, His Mother and himself.”
Today is the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker, the foster father of Jesus. On May 1, 1955, Pope Pius XII granted a public audience to the Catholic Association of Italian Workers, whose members had gathered in Saint Peter’s Square to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their society. They were solemnly renewing, in common, their promise of loyalty to the social doctrine of the Church, and it was on that day that the Pope instituted the liturgical feast of May 1, in honor of Saint Joseph the Worker to coincide with Labor Day. He assured his audience and the working people of the world: “You have beside you a shepherd, a defender and a father” in Saint Joseph, the carpenter whom God in His providence chose to be the virginal father of Jesus and the head of the Holy Family. He is silent but has excellent hearing, and his intercession is very powerful over the Heart of the Savior (from Heavenly Friends: a Saint for each Day, by Rosalie Marie Levy, Saint Paul Editions: Boston, 1958).
That is why this could be the reason why May 1 is also Labor Day here in the Philippines, a day for workers. This was instituted in 1889. According to a priest in his homily, that it is a red-letter for Communism. This thought developed in reaction to the Industrial Revolution in Europe. Communism wanted to underline the fact that given a number of people who invested capital on machines that increased productivity and trade, the laborers who man the machines and the industries remain to be vital contributors to productivity. Therefore, they argued that profits should not just be for the capital owners. Aside from the day wages that is due to them, the manual laborers must be part sharers of the profit.
May 1 as the feast of St. Joseph the Worker is not only a mere celebration for laborers as workers because the intention of the Church in instituting this feast is for the workers and people in general to see work in the context of relationship, more specifically around the basic unit of society. This is to show also that the Church recognize the basic rights of laborers.
According to Fr. Domie de Guzman, in his homily, that the Church invites us to appreciate labor and work in terms of the following values:
Vocation: Through labor and work, we give meaning to our existence. We realize that we are not just here to waste time and to occupy space. We have a unique role to play; we have contributions to make in our world.
Stewardship: Through labor and work, we show the highest accountability for all the talents and abilities that nature and education endowed on us.
Service: Through our labor and work, we employ our talents and abilities not only to make a living but to meet the needs of others.
St. Joseph the Worker is the patron saint for laborers precisely because in that they are affirmed in their dignity as working persons, they are also reminded to be faithful in their responsibilities not only to society in general but above all to their respective families and especially to God that they worship and believe.
But what kind of a worker or a carpenter was he? The Bible did not say anything. But let us look at Jesus, we can see how good or bad he was. Looking at Jesus, whom St. Joseph molded too and we catch a glimpse of who he was. The people in today’s gospel say something about Jesus whom St. Joseph formed when still a child: “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?” (Matt 13:54-58).
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