1 May 2013

May 1st - Feast of St Joseph the Worker and Catholic Social Teaching - Pope Francis calls for end to trafficking and slave labour

"Joseph, the scriptures love to trace
The glories of thy kingly line;
Yet no succession of thy race,
No long posterity was thine -
Of her the everlasting spouse
Who must a Virgin ever be,
The faithful ruler of His house
Who owns no fatherhood in thee.

And though thy Son were God indeed,
Over that home no angels sang,
But still, through years of toil and need,
Hammer and mallet bravely rang;
And surely 'twas a gracious thing
When, standing at His father's knee,
The world's great Craftsman and its King
Not king but craftsman learned to be."

The feast of St. Joseph the Worker was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in order to Christianize the concept of labor and give to all workmen a model and a protector. By the daily labor in his shop, offered to God with patience and joy, St. Joseph provided for the necessities of his holy spouse and of the Incarnate Son of God, and thus became an example to all laborers. "Workmen and all those laboring in conditions of poverty will have reasons to rejoice rather than grieve, since they have in common with the Holy Family daily preoccupations and cares"(Leo XIII).

More information on the feast day from CatholicCulture.org here and listen to Americancatholic.org for a short explaination of todays feast day here.


The Church's teaching on the dignity of work forms part of the Social Teaching/Doctrine of the church.

Catholic Social Teaching (often referred to as CST) has sometimes been called ‘The Church’s Best Kept Secret”. CST is the Church reflecting on its mission in the world today, helping us to think about how we relate to the world around us and the problems that we face. In fact it is one of the greatest treasures of our Catholic tradition.

Most would accept that CST in its current form began with the encyclical Rerum Novarum – “Of New Things” in 1891 and has continued until the present with Caritas in Veritate - “Charity in Truth” in 2009. Drawing upon the Old and New Testaments, its traditions and its knowledge of social and economic traditions around the world, the Church has produced a formidable body of principles by which social and economic activity can be judged.

One of the principles of CST is the dignity of work. It stresses that the economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in Gods creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.

You can read more about Catholic Social Teaching here and here and in particular about the dignity of work here including several biblical references for reflection and prayer.

You can read the main teaching documents of the church on CST here.

As well as praying for workers and the dignity of workers around the world, it also a day to pray for those who are unemployed with many links and resources HERE.

From Vatican News site:

On feast of St. Joseph the Worker, pope pleads for an end to trafficking and slave labour

"Marking the feast of St Joseph the Worker and World Labor Day this Wednesday May 1st, Pope Francis launched an urgent appeal to Christians and men and women of goodwill worldwide to take decisive steps to end slave labor.

Speaking during the general audience in Italian he said : “I would like to add a word about another particular work situation that concerns me: I am referring to what we could define as “slave labor”, the work that enslaves. How many people worldwide are victims of this type of slavery, in which the person is at the service of his or her work, while work should offer a service to people so they may have dignity. I ask my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat trafficking in persons, which includes “slave labor”.

Taking advantage of bank holiday and the unseasonably hot weather, an estimated 70,000 people descended on St Peter’s Wednesday morning, queuing from dawn to ensure their place in the square for the audience with the Pope.

Many among the pilgrims belonged to Catholic Confraternities from all five continents who are preparing two days of celebration together with the Pope as part of the great events organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization for the Year of Faith.

But the vast majority of those gathered were young people, boys and girls as well as thousands of teens and University students. Speaking directly to them, Pope Francis said: “I would like to speak especially to you young people: be committed to your daily duties, your study, your work, to relationships of friendship, to helping towards others; your future also depends on how you live these precious years of your life. Do not be afraid of commitment, sacrifice and do not look with fear towards the future; keep your hope alive: there is always a light on the horizon”.

The Pope was referring to his earlier reflection on the current employment crisis that is afflicting many nations worldwide. Pointing to the figure of St Joseph the Worker, Pope Francis said:
“Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use an image, “anoints” us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us like God, who has worked and still works, who always acts (cf. Jn 5:17); it gives you the ability to maintain ourselves, our family, to contribute to the growth of our nation. And here I think of the difficulties which, in various countries, today afflicts the world of work and businesses; I think of how many, and not just young people, are unemployed, many times due to a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice."

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