1 May 2015

May 1st - St Joseph the Worker

Prayer composed by Blessed Pope John XXIII (1958-63). It places all workers under the patronage of St. Joseph the Worker, and asks for his intercession so that we may regard our work as a means of growing in holiness.

A Prayer for Workers

O glorious Joseph! Who concealed your incomparable and regal dignity of custodian of Jesus and of the Virgin Mary under the humble appearance of a craftsman and provided for them with your work, protect with loving power your sons, especially entrusted to you.

You know their anxieties and sufferings, because you yourself experienced them at the side of Jesus and of His Mother. Do not allow them, oppressed by so many worries, to forget the purpose for which they were created by God. Do not allow the seeds of distrust to take hold of their immortal souls. Remind all the workers that in the fields, in factories, in mines, and in scientific laboratories, they are not working, rejoicing, or suffering alone, but at their side is Jesus, with Mary, His Mother and ours, to sustain them, to dry the sweat of their brow, giving value to their toil. Teach them to turn work into a very high instrument of sanctification as you did.   
From About.com Guide:

May 1 has long been celebrated as "May Day," a holiday dedicated to labourers. For many years, May Day was associated with socialism and communism, and the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries held massive rallies and parades to mark the day.

The feast of St. Joseph the Worker was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in order to Christianize the concept of labour and give to all workmen a model and a protector. By the daily labour 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 labourers. "Workmen and all those labouring 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 explanation of todays feast day here.

"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 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.

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