Memorial for St. Joseph the Worker
In 1955 Pope Pius XII proclaimed May 1st as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Pius wanted to present on this day a true patron and model for all laborers throughout the world. He chose a saint beloved to all Christians, the head of the Holy Family, their protector and provider. And although March 19 is the primary feast of St. Joseph, we may now celebrate him also in our liturgy of today – St. Joseph the Worker, St. Joseph the Carpenter, St. Joseph the Father of the Family.
The preface for the Eucharistic Prayer says it all: "It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, and on the commemoration of Saint Joseph to give you fitting praise, to glorify and bless you.
For this just man was given by you
as spouse to the Virgin Mother of God
and set as a wise and faithful servant
in charge of your household
to watch like a father over your Only Begotten Son,
who was conceived by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit,
Our Lord Jesus Christ."
The gospel passage from Matthew makes clear that Joseph was a carpenter, an ordinary laborer in the village of Nazareth. His townspeople were not about to grant that his son could be in any way better than they. But there is not much written in the Scripture about St. Joseph. We must go to the infancy narratives in Matthew and in Luke, to gather the little we have: – the story of the betrothal, the story of the birth in Bethlehem and the presentation in the temple, of the flight into Egypt, of their return when Herod was dead, and finally the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple. We are not told of the life of Jesus the teenager growing into manhood. We are not even told of Joseph’s death.
But this very lack can become for us a great source of prayer. We can go to Joseph at home in Nazareth in our meditation. We can ask the Holy Spirit to guide us, to take us in our imagination to the house and shop at Nazareth. We can visit there in imaginative contemplation, letting ourselves be just as we are, letting Mary welcome us and take us out to Joseph in his shop. And there we can talk with him, asking him about his struggles in raising Jesus, about their difficulties of understanding each other, and about the ordinary things – like illness and sickness, and getting on with the neighbors. Joseph may have much to tell us if we let ourselves be open to what the Holy Spirit prompts him to say.
Br. Peter A. Fitzpatrick, CFX, a Xaverian Brother, is a Passionist Associate at Ryken House, across the creek from the Passionist Monastery, in Louisville, Kentucky.