Reflecting On St. Joseph the Worker May 1, 2020 by Fr. Daniel Manger,OSB.,Cam

Today is a particular feast that as a monk who follows the dictum from St. Benedict’s Rule for monastics, “ era et labora’ or translated work and prayer, St. Joseph the Worker embodies this ideal.

St. Joseph was a faithful Jew and pious in his prayer practice gathering with Mary and Jesus at least 3 times a day to pray the ancient prayer, ‘Hear oh Israel the Lord thy God is one, you shall love the Lord thy God with all your mind, with all your heart. . .” St. Joseph was a skilled craftsman of the first century, working in wood, and Jesus would later be referred to as ‘son of the carpenter from Nazareth in the synoptic gospels. Thus prayer practice and labor were conjoined in St. Joseph’s life and that of his little family. He is known as the quiet saint of the church, humble and a profound invocation to be the protector of families and church, for this, he also was given to do by God. He was a man who knew difficult times, murderous threats against his family and himself and his nation’s oppression under the Roman domination.

Saint Joseph knew of exile being an immigrant to a foreign land to seek refuge for his family. The deep pain of leaving one’s small town behind and taking a long journey to an unknown fate, emerge as a man with deep faith in divine providence, so much so, he discerns his God’s desire to save and mission his life in dreams, which he acts upon. I like to think of St. Joseph as a patron of dreamers, who faced within their lives many an impasse as to what God and their lives mean.

Like so many of us today in this time of the pandemic, amidst its uncertainty of future brought about by its destructive presence, its terror and the various political figures and financial figures who want to take advantage of the situations to victimize or to scapegoat others in our own nation and beyond for it, Saint Joseph is a guide to remember. To remember God looks upon the lowly of this world, hard-working folks, immigrants who pick our crops from the fields, under poor conditions of labor or in factories, homes, and with no safety net of health care. It is to these and many workers in sanitation, hospitals, clinics, soup kitchens, food pantry volunteers and the many other innumerable jobs people labor at risk we must pray and commend to the care of St. Joseph.

As a monk, it calls me to keep more vigilant to the daily simple practices of prayer and work and discover in them what truly pleases God in its keeping. Work is a gift that imitates God the Creator, who the Hebrew Scriptures describe as a worker creating the universe and as humans are created in God’s image, are given the dignity and responsibility to work in creating a just and humane atmosphere of hope for all people and indeed the stewarding of the all creation out of reference and respect for the work of God’s hands.