ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

Saint Joseph the Worker

Reflections on the man who is a model for all the world’s carpenters.

Like countless men and women from the earliest ages until our own, St. Joseph earned his living with his hands. And anyone who has ever known the sweet, clean smell of freshly sawed wood, or run a finger along the smooth surface of a planed board, can understand the kind of work Joseph did. It was work that was close to the heart of life, for Joseph took the raw materials provided by God and turned them into the simple but necessary objects that furnish a home. Chairs and tables, benches and boxes – Joseph understood their humble beauty and fashioned them with patience and skill. His was an honorable and timeless craft, and he must have felt a quiet satisfaction as, day by day, he taught it to his foster son.

But more than the kind of work Joseph did, it was the spirit he brought to it that pleased God and made the carpenter from Nazareth a model for all the world’s workers. Hammer, saw, chisel and adze were the tools with which Joseph expressed his obedience to God and his submission to God’s will. He did not always understand the things he was asked to do, and perhaps he did not know until after his death how important a part he had played in Christ’s work of redemption, but he carried out his responsibilities faithfully and well and placed his full trust in God. So far as we know, Joseph lived a quiet, simple life, but his obedience was no less complete than that of the greatest martyrs and missionaries. Like them, he did the work God had set for him with all his heart. Every worker who tries to do the same, regardless of his occupation, is following in Joseph’s footsteps.

Today it may seem as if time and science have taken us far from the simplicity of Joseph’s workshop at Nazareth. But time cannot alter in the least the spirit that Joseph brought to his work, the spirit of humble service that runs unbroken through ages of men’s toil and is sometimes apparent in its fullness only to God. Joseph’s patronage and protection extend to all, from those whose work is menial to the most highly trained members of a profession. For the value of their work is measured not by the standards of men, but by those of God. And work that is offered to Him in joy and humility, as Joseph’s was, merits the grace that filled the shop at Nazareth and lights every other place where men and women turn their hands and hearts and heads to the service of God.

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