May 1st: The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

May 1, 2012

By Sister Pat K.

We know St. Joseph as the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus, the patron of fathers, unborn children and a happy death, but perhaps not as the worker. In truth, there is very little Scripture tells us about Joseph at all. He never says a word but he is listed as a descendant of David which accounts for why he and Mary were on their way to Bethlehem in Mary’s last month of pregnancy. 

We do know about Joseph’s dreams to which he paid close attention thus ensuring the story of the Holy Family. We may tend to think he was much older than Mary, thanks more to artists’ renderings than to facts. The Greek gospels describe Joseph as a tecton, a word taken to mean “carpenter” because it evokes an artisan who works with wood. In the picture on the left, Joseph is pictured with a carpenter’s tool, the square, and that is the connection to his role as the patron of workers.

In 1955 Pope Pius XII established the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker to be celebrated on May 1 to counter May Day, a union workers’ and socialists’ holiday, and added Joseph’s name to the Canon of the Mass.

Today, Joseph is venerated as the patron of immigrants, Vietnam and the Philippines and the one to whom one might pray in times of doubt and hesitation. Though there is no record of the origin of the phrase “Go to Joseph” in times of trouble, what we do know suggests that we will find an attentive ear in him.

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