The Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker
brothers and sisters,
took my daily walk a few days ago through a neighborhood, I saw something that caught
my attention: two houses on the same side of a block had their garage doors
open. It was not, however, the open garage doors that intrigued, but rather
what was inside the two garages. Both garages were filled with stuff – junk, I
surmised – to such an extent that no cars could be parked inside the garage.
This curious sight got me thinking.
definition, a garage is “a shelter or repair shop for automotive vehicles.” By etymology, this word is
new to the English language, having been borrowed from French in 1902 from the
verb garer, meaning “to shelter” (I did not know this during my walk).
What got me thinking was the irony of these two garages. Two rooms, if you
will, built for the purpose of sheltering cars were filled with so many unused –
and likely unneeded – possessions that the cars had to be left out in the elements,
as if the homeowners did not know the fundamental purpose of a garage.
as it is possible for us not to know the purpose of a garage, it is also
possible for us not to know the purpose of human life and labor. Just as it is
possible for not to use a garage for its purpose, it is also possible for us
not to human life and labor for its intended purpose. Can you imagine working
so hard to earn so much money that you simply buy so many things that you
cannot even use or take with you beyond the grave? There are a great many people
today who think the purpose of work is to acquire more possessions. In the end,
they do not possess these things; rather, the things end up possessing them. Saint
Joseph provides us with a remedy for such errors and shows us the purpose of
human life and labor, which is why our remembrance of Joseph the Worker is so
important. Saint Joseph can show us these remedies because he, too, was called “to be a disciple of Jesus, dedicating his
life to the service of the Son of God and of the Virgin Mother, in obedience to
the Heavenly Father,” just as we are called to be and to do.
We often think of Saint Joseph’s work as that of a carpenter (cf. Matthew 13:), which, in our understanding, often makes us think of one who builds houses or some such other constructions. But the Greek work that we translate as carpenter, tekton, means something more. It is a word that more closely relates to our word artisan or craftsman. Saint Justin Martyr – who was from Samaria and was beheaded for his faith in Christ about the year A.D. 165 - tells us that Jesus
considered to be the son of Joseph the carpenter; and He appeared without
comeliness, as the Scriptures declared; and He was deemed a
carpenter for He was in the habit of working as a carpenter
when among men, making plows and yokes; by which He taught the symbols of
righteousness and an active life.
would have learned this trade from Joseph and so it is safe to say that Joseph,
too, was in the habit or making plows and yokes and such objects used in
domestic life. From this we can see that Joseph “earned an honest living to provide for his family” and that “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 labor.”
Saint Joseph teaches us that, instead of being a
drudgery, human work is intended to be “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.” This is
something our society has forgotten and needs to learn again. Human labor is
not about acquiring more things, but about “cooperating with God himself, and
in some way [becoming] creators of the world around us.”
But there is yet a more important lesson to be
learned from Saint Joseph the Worker. In
his role as the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the father of Jesus,
Saint Joseph “turned his human
vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and
all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing
to maturity in his home.” Saint
Joseph devoted himself entirely to Jesus and those dear to him. Indeed, we
might say that “more than carpentry, love is St. Joseph’s labor.”
Love should be our labor, as well, love of God and love of neighbor.
Just as love is the purpose of human labor, so is
love the purpose of human life. We might, then, rightly say that the purpose of
Saint Joseph was to be a place of shelter for the Son of God and his Blessed
Mother, in a similar way that a garage is meant to be a shelter for a motor
vehicle. In the same way, you and I are meant to be shelters for one another,
refuges of love who receive love from God. This is the wisdom and the mighty
deed that Jesus taught Saint Joseph and that Saint Joseph, if we learn from his
school, will likewise teach us (cf. Matthew 13:54).
Let us, then, never fail to sit at the feet of Saint Joseph, so that he might teach us the propose of human life and labor. Referring to the Saints of God, Saint Augustine once asked, “What they could do, can you not also do?” Yes, we can learn from Saint Joseph that “entrusting oneself to God means emptying oneself of oneself, renouncing oneself, for only those who accept to lose themselves for God can be called ‘just,’ … that is, can conform their will to God’s will and so fulfill themselves.” May Saint Joseph “guide us in the path of life, obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen.”
 Pope Benedict XVI, Address, 5 July 2010.
 Saint Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 88.
 Pope Francis, Patris Corde, 6.
 Blessed Pope Paul VI, Homily, 19 March 1966.
 Michael Heinlein, “A Labor of Love,” Simply Catholic, 1 May 2021. Accessed 1 May 2021. Available at https://simplycatholic.com/a-labor-of-love/.
 Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, VIII.11.27.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Address, 5 July 2010.
 Pope Francis, Patris Corde, 7.