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St. Joseph the Worker was once out of work, too

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By Kevin Jones

Denver Newsroom, Dec 22, 2020 / 04:00 pm MT (CNA).- With mass unemployment still high as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, Catholics can look to St. Joseph as a special intercessor, two priests said.

Citing the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt, devotional writer Father Donald Calloway said St. Joseph is “very empathetic” towards those suffering unemployment.

“He himself at some point would have been unemployed in the Flight to Egypt,” the priest told CNA. “They had to pack up everything and go to a foreign country with nothing. They didn’t plan on that.”

Calloway, author of the book “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father,” is an Ohio-based priest of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

He suggested that St. Joseph “at some point was surely quite concerned: how is he going to find work in a foreign country, not knowing the language, not knowing the people?”

Some 20.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in late November, according to recent reports. Many others are working from home under coronavirus travel restrictions, while countless workers face workplaces where they may be at risk of contracting the coronavirus and taking it home to their families.

Father Sinclair Oubre, a labor advocate, similarly thought of the Flight into Egypt as a period of joblessness for St. Joseph—and also a period that showed an example of virtues.

“He remains focused: stay open, continue to struggle, do not get broken down. He was able to build up a livelihood for him and his family,” said Oubre. “For those who are unemployed, St. Joseph gives us a model of not allowing the difficulties of life to crush one’s spirit, but rather trusting in God’s providence, and in adding to that providence our own attitude and strong work ethic.”

Oubre is pastoral moderator of the Catholic Labor Network and the Beaumont diocese’s director of the Apostleship of the Seas, which serves seafarers and others in sea-based work.

Calloway reflected that most people in life are workers, whether outside or at a desk.

“They can find a model in St. Joseph the Worker,” he said. “No matter what your work is, you can bring God into it and it can be beneficial to you, your family, and society as a whole.”

Oubre said there is much to learn from reflecting upon how St. Joseph’s work nurtured and protected the Virgin Mary and Jesus, and so was a form of sanctification of the world.

“If Joseph did not do what he did, there was no way the Virgin Mary, a pregnant single maiden, could have survived in that environment,” Oubre said.

“We come to realize that the work that we do is not just for this world, but rather we can work to help build the kingdom of God,” he continued. “The work that we do cares for our family members and our children and helps build up the future generations that are there.”

Calloway warned against “ideologies of what work should be.”

“It can become enslavement. People can turn into workaholics. There’s a misunderstanding of what work is meant to be,” he said.

St Joseph gave dignity to work “because, as the one chosen to be the earthly father of Jesus, he taught the Son of God to do manual labor,” said Calloway. “He was entrusted with teaching the son of God a trade, to be a carpenter.”

“We’re not called to be slaves to a trade, or to find our ultimate meaning of life in our work, but to allow our work to glorify God, to build up the human community, to be a source of joy to everyone,” he continued. “The fruit of your labor is meant to be enjoyed by yourself and others, but not at the expense of harming others or depriving them of a just wage or overworking them, or having working conditions that are beyond human dignity.”

Oubre found a similar lesson, saying “our work is always at the service of our family, our community, our society, of the world itself.”

A previous version of this article was originally published on CNA May 1, 2020.

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