St. Joseph the Worker, an example of virtue in a time of vice
If you are a practicing Catholic today, you likely are aware of the many crises that have unfolded both in the world and in the Church. These include the sexual abuse crisis, the decline in vocations to the holy priesthood, and public figures and even prelates deviating from Holy Mother Church’s teachings. But one crisis I would like to highlight in this blog post is the epidemic of fatherless homes and the loss of true masculinity.
Over half of marriages, including amongst Catholics, result in divorce or annulment. Children, especially boys, growing up without a father are much more likely to engage in criminal activities and more likely to experience mental health issues. Today, there are biological men who are questioning whether they are even male at all. And many men are out of work and on the streets. Additionally, many boys have fallen away from the faith in their teenage years. It appears that the odds are stacked against us in addressing this crisis. Thankfully, we have a much-needed example of someone that represents true masculinity and a model of faith in a society that is hostile towards these virtues.
One may think of a number of public figures as someone who may be that example to men. Someone who may exhibit unprecedented physical strength and athleticism, like a highly recognized professional athlete. Someone who leads an army on the battlefield and inspires his soldiers, like Alexander the Great. Someone with unmatched intellect or wisdom, such as Albert Einstein. This person I speak of is none of these. In fact, he doesn’t put himself in the limelight or even come to mind for many. That man is St. Joseph.
St. Joseph? He is barely even mentioned in the Bible! He doesn’t even say a single word in scripture! So, how could he be an example of masculinity or a role model? Well, in scripture, he is called a “just” man (Matthew 1:19). What does that mean? In being “just”, he was a man of “righteousness” and “justice”. So, Joseph was a man of immense virtue and was extremely pious in his faith. He was just to the point that he didn’t want to expose Mary to shame for bearing a child while not having relations with a man. So, he planned to divorce her quietly. He did this out of total love for her. But, the Archangel Gabriel announced to him to not be afraid to take Mary into his home, since she is pregnant with the Son of God and he would name Him, Jesus. What tremendous faith he had!
Joseph’s immense faith is ever more present in the way he raised Jesus in his youth. In Luke 2:52, it reads that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”. Joseph was a tremendous spiritual leader in the home, raising our Lord to be a man of faith and to be in favor with God! What an honor it was to be the spiritual teacher to the little boy who would ultimately be Our Redeemer! Joseph was also obedient, following God’s will in times of great adversity, especially in the long, grueling journey to Bethlehem for the census and The Holy Family’s flight to Egypt.
In addition to his virtue and spiritual leadership, St. Joseph shines as an example of working in a spirit of faith and humility. Jesus, in Matthew 13, is called “the son of the carpenter”. Growing up, Jesus learned the trade of carpentry in Joseph’s shop. In 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of St. Joseph the Worker to emphasize the importance of uniting our work with our faith and to increase devotions to St. Joseph. This feast was established to extend the relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers in both Catholic faith and devotion. Throughout scripture, the dignity of human work has been deemed as a participation in the creative work of God. Through work, mankind fulfills the command to be productive in their labors and to be stewards of creation (Genesis 2:15). Joseph is a model of this work. Pope Pius XII emphasized this when he said, “The spirit flows to you and to all men from the heart of the God-man, Savior of the world, but certainly, no worker was ever more completely and profoundly penetrated by it than the foster father of Jesus, who lived with Him in closest intimacy and community of family life and work.”
St. Joseph is truly a role model that is needed amongst men today. If only men would look up to Joseph as a model for being chaste and faithful husbands, being spiritual leaders in the home and in our parishes, as well as fully uniting their labors to God’s creative activity and Jesus’s redemptive work on Earth, the crises would be solved quickly. As men, it is important that we seek Joseph’s example and help other men to discover Joseph as their role model. Speaking for myself, I am not sure where I would be without the intercession of St. Joseph. I have a special devotion to him not only because my middle name so happens to be Joseph, but also that he exhibits every single good virtue there is in a good Catholic man. One habit I have started to develop, and one I would recommend to other men, is to pray the Prayer of St. Joseph the Worker every day before coming in to work, so that I am directed in my work that I may do my work in a spirit of faith, charity, and humility. Interestingly, I write this blog post in the days leading up to my first day at a new job on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker!
It is my prayer that all men will turn to St. Joseph, to seek his much-needed example of virtue in a time of many vices. He is truly an intercessor for every kind of intention and has helped many faithful! As St. Andre Bessette said to people who approached asking for prayers on their behalf: Ite ad Ioseph (go to Joseph)! And I will leave you with a prayer to St. Joseph the Worker, composed by Pope St. Pius X:
“O Glorious Saint Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance for the expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations; to work with thankfulness 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, never shrinking from weariness and trials; to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, keeping unceasingly before my eyes death and the account that I must give of time lost, talents unused, good omitted, and vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thy example, O Patriarch, Saint Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death. Amen.”