Thursday, May 1, 2014

St. Joseph the Worker

Apologies for neglecting to post on St. Joseph's Day (March 19th). This is my chance to make up for it: 
Today we commemorate the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary again, under the title St. Joseph the Worker (Latin, "opifex")[1]. The prayers in the Mass ask for his intercession, of course, and particularly for blessings on our own work: "And let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us: and direct thou the works of our hands over us: yea, the work of our hands do thou direct." (Psalm 89:17 DRV) The epistle reading is from the third chapter of Paul's Letter to the Colossians, including verse 17: "Whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
O God, the author of all things, Thou hast established the law of labor for all mankind: grant, we beseech Thee, that, by the example and intercession of Saint Joseph, we may accomplish the works Thou commandest and gain the rewards Thou hast promised. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit world without end. Amen.
We consider the way in which good St. Joseph approached his daily work as a carpenter, providing for Jesus and Mary; we look to him as a model and patron, asking him to obtain for us the graces to approach our work in the right way for the glory of God and for our own salvation. This prayer, composed by St. Pius X, elaborates further:
Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance for the remission of my many sins; to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations; to work with gratitude and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop, by means of labor, the gifts received from God; to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever recoiling before weariness and difficulties; to work, above all, with purity of intention, and with detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after your example, O Patriarch St. Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death. Amen.
Every time I read or recite this prayer I am struck by the unified force of such a brief treatise on labor and I also notice something new about how I should grow in practicing (at least!) one of the five aspects mentioned.

While we are on this general topic[2], I might as well mention three other classic favorites for "offering up" our work to God in this way:
  • The "Morning Offering," such as this from the Apostleship of Prayer
  • the "Suscipe" of St. Ignatius of Loyola
  • and the "Concede mihi" of St. Thomas Aquinas for ordering one's life well
You probably know them already, but that won't stop me from mentioning them again--most likely because I need to remind myself. Please pray for me.

God bless our work. St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us.

[1] In the so-called “traditional” (1962) calendar, this is a first class feast; in later calendars, it is an optional memorial. While the Christian concept of the dignity of labor (and of St. Joseph as such an exemplar) goes back much further, this feast day was established quite recently (1956), offering a timely reminder of the place of labor in God’s plan for our salvation and an antidote to Marxist and communist observances of International Labor Day (May Day). In the same vein, the Holy See also granted an indult permitting this Mass to be said in the United States on the first Monday of September.
[2] Hardly a new topic, so I won’t bother making up a catchy new slogan for it—anyway, St. Benedict’s “ora et labora” should do quite nicely here.

1 comment:

  1. My middle name and confirmation name being Joseph, and being moved by the stories of the hard-working Josephs from both the Old and New Testament, I am glad to learn more of the prayers for this great feast. Indeed, the quote by St Pius X really does capture the human condition quite well. While we must strive to always improve and have the grace to persevere in our work, it's good to know that even the greatest among us struggle. I am now interested in reading more by this often misunderstood man. We must also keep in mind that though Joseph was a manual laborer, even those of us who are not given to much manual labor, must equally maintain our ethic of hard work, in whatever form it is given to us. In a special way this of course applies to those of us finishing graduate school. I shall certainly pray for you, posting at the end of this feast on which you have worked so hard for this blog, which I hope in time will have even more readership.