St. Joseph the Worker

Who is St. Joseph?

St. Joseph the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:16), was the father of Jesus on earth. We know St. Joseph was a carpenter, not one of the powerful men in town, as some were shocked when they witnessed Jesus’ teachings in the temple and said, “Is this not the carpenter's son?” (Matthew 13:55). This shows that Joseph was an ordinary man who lived a simple life. St. Joseph was an honest worker and therefore known to be the ‘Patron saint of Workers’. Due to this, the church celebrates a second feast day, May 1st for ‘St. Joseph the Worker’.

The Bible on St. Joseph

Mathew 1:19 specifically refers to Joseph as a ‘righteous man’.

This means that St Joseph was a caring man of justice. When he found out that Mary was pregnant, he wanted to divorce her secretly, so she does not suffer the consequence of being stoned to death, which was the punishment at that time. Although, things did not happen in fairness to Joseph, he cared about Mary and did not want to expose her to shame or cruelty.

At the same time the Gospel of Matthew 1:20-25 tells us that Joseph was a strong man of faith. He just trusted God and carried out the request made by God. When the Angel appeared to him in a dream and told him the story about Mary and the Child she was carrying, Joseph without any complain took Mary as his wife. This shows Joseph’s unquestioned faith and trust in God.

Joseph was a man who kept the law. He had to travel a long hard journey to Bethlehem with his pregnant wife in order to register his name, a request made by the authority (Gospel of Luke 2:4).

The Gospel of Luke 2:7 states that his family had no room in the inn at Bethlehem. Therefore, Joseph and Mary had to keep their new born baby in a manger. This could mean that they had no money for a room, nor friends of influence. This again shows Joseph’s total trust in the Lord before he set on this journey.

Yet in Bethlehem, Joseph receives visitors – a surprise from God! God’s angel sends them the Shepherds with the good news.

The Gospel of Luke 2:16 states; ‘So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.’

Joseph’s challenges in life did not end. The Gospel of Matthew 2:13-14 tells us that he had to take his family and flee to Egypt like refugees, in order to protect his child .

Again in Matthew 2:19-20 the angel asks him to return back to Israel. These the Bible readings show St. Joseph’s total trust in God’s will for him and his family. In addition, St. Joseph was ever willing to protect his family. No wonder, Catholics name St Joseph as the Protector of families.

Joseph cared for Jesus as his own son. This is proven in the Bible, where the people of Nazareth say, "Is this not the son of Joseph?" (Luke 4:22). Again Joseph is referred to as the father of Jesus; Luke 2:33 states, ‘The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him’.

According to Luke 2:22 and Luke 2:41, He was a man who obeyed the law of the church. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem according to the law of Moses and every year for the feast of the passover.

St. Joseph was a faithful man who went about doing his day-to-day work without complaining. St Joseph was a man who just put total trust in God, and did what he was required to do in order to care for his family.

Why St. Joseph "The Worker"?

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. "May Day" has long been dedicated to labor and the working man. Pope Pius XII expressed the hope that this feast would accentuate the dignity of labor and would bring a spiritual dimension to labor unions. It is eminently fitting that St. Joseph, a working man who became the foster-father of Christ and patron of the universal Church, should be honored on this day.

Prayers to St. Joseph for Workers

Joseph, by the work of your hands
and the sweat of your brow,
you supported Jesus and Mary,
and had the Son of God as your fellow worker.
Teach me to work as you did,
with patience and perseverance, for God and
for those whom God has given me to support.
Teach me to see in my fellow workers
the Christ who desires to be in them,
that I may always be charitable and forbearing towards all.
Grant me to look upon work
with the eyes of faith,
so that I shall recognize in it
my share in God’s own creative activity
and in Christ’s work of our redemption,
and so take pride in it.
When it is pleasant and productive,
remind me to give thanks to God for it.
And when it is burdensome,
teach me to offer it to God,
in reparation for my sins
and the sins of the world.

St. Joseph the Worker