Lessons of St. Joseph, Patron of Workers

“Work Must Serve the Real Good of Humanity”

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to St. Joseph on the day of his solemnity.

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1. Today we celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of Mary (Matthew 1:24; Luke 1:27). The liturgy describes him as “father” of Jesus (Luke 2:27,33,41,43,48), ready to carry out the divine plans, even when they elude human understanding. Through this “son of David” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:27), the Scriptures were fulfilled and the Eternal Word was made man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. St. Joseph is described in the Gospel as a “just man” (Matthew 1:19), and he is for all believers a model of life in faith.

2. The word “just” evokes his moral rectitude, his sincere attachment to the practice of the law and the attitude of total openness to the will of the heavenly Father. Even in difficult moments, at times dramatic, the humble carpenter of Nazareth never arrogates to himself the right to challenge the plan of God. He awaits the call from on High and in silence respects the mystery, allowing himself to be guided by the Lord. Once he received his task, he carried it out with docile responsibility: He listens solicitously to the angel when asked to take the Virgin of Nazareth as his wife (see Matthew 1:18-25), in the flight to Egypt (see Matthew 2:13-15) and in the return to Israel (see Ibid., 2:19-23). In a few but significant lines the evangelists describe him as solicitous custodian of Jesus, attentive and faithful husband, who exercises his family authority in a constant attitude of service. The sacred Scriptures do not tell us anything more about him, but in this silence is enclosed the very style of his mission: an existence lived in the grayness of everyday life, but with certain faith in Providence.

3. Every day St. Joseph had to provide for the needs of the family with hard manual labor. For this reason, the Church justly points to him as the patron of workers.

Therefore, today’s solemnity constitutes also a propitious occasion to reflect on the importance of work in the life of man, in the family, and in the community.

Man is the subject and protagonist of work and, in the light of this truth, one can easily perceive the fundamental connection that exists between the person, work and society. Human activity, the Second Vatican Council recalls, derives from man and is ordered to man. According to the design and will of God, it must serve the real good of humanity and allow “man, as an individual and as a member of society, to cultivate and carry out his integral vocation” (see “Gaudium et Spes,” 35).

In order to fulfill this task, a “true spirituality of human work” must be cultivated, anchored with solid roots in the “Gospel of work” and believers are called to proclaim and witness to the Christian meaning of work in their different occupational activities (see “Laborens Exercens,” 26).

4. May St. Joseph, such a great and humble saint, be an example in whom Christian workers are inspired, invoking him in every circumstance. To the provident custodian of the Holy Family of Nazareth I would like to entrust today the young people who are preparing for a future profession, the unemployed and those who suffer the hardship of occupational shortages, families, and the entire world of work with the expectations and challenges, the problems and prospects that characterize it.

May St. Joseph, universal patron of the Church, watch over the entire ecclesial community and, as the man of peace that he was, obtain for the whole of humanity, especially for the peoples menaced in this time of war, the precious gift of harmony and peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father gave the following summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

St. Joseph, whose solemnity we celebrate today, is for us a model of life lived in faith. As protector of the Holy Family, this “just man” (Matthew 1:19) was a humble worker, and a faithful husband and father. His life shows us an unwavering trust in divine Providence.

Joseph readily embraced God’s plan for him and Mary, even if it seemed beyond human understanding.

The Church also celebrates Joseph as the Patron Saint of Workers. In today’s world of globalization, it is important to remind ourselves that the dignity of the human person must be of primary importance in all social and economic development. As a man of peace, we pray to St. Joseph for those threatened by war and we invoke the precious gift of harmony upon the whole human family.

I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including the groups from England, Denmark, Korea, Japan, and the United States and, particularly, to the Choir of St. Cecilia Parish in Houston, Texas. May your visit to Rome be a time of spiritual enrichment. Upon all of you, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[Original text: English]

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