St. Joseph, the Worker, inspires and helps workers Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

On May 1st, we Catholics celebrate the Feast of St Joseph, the Worker. St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers.

Throughout our diocese, statues of St. Joseph the Worker show him holding a saw, eager to give another day's work to help support Jesus and Mary. His example reminds us of the graced work, sweat, and sacrifice that go into the building of our churches both physically and spiritually. He reminds us that honest work can be a grace or ladder to God.

In paragraph 2460 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is stated, "By means of labor, humanity participates in the work of creation. Work united to Christ can be redemptive."

As we know, there are times when jobs are scarce and unemployment increases. Such a time is now! According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, in March the nation's unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent, the highest since late 1983.

In paragraph 2436 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it is stated, "Unemployment almost always wounds its victim's dignity and threatens the equilibrium of his life. Besides the harm done to him personally, it entails many risks for his family."

Supporting the unemployed

In the March-April issue of Discipleship Journal, Stacey Shannon shares some little ways that we can encourage and support the unemployed. She learned these little ways when her husband was unemployed for a year.

First, she suggests that it is good to periodically ask how the unemployed are doing and make time to listen. However, she warned against offering advice unless they ask for it.

Second, Stacey Shannon suggests that we can help by planning budget friendly activities. We can invite unemployed friends over for a meal or treat them to a dinner out. We can rent a DVD rather than catching a fully paid movie or hitting the mall.

Third, she suggests that we should be tactful about how we go about offering financial help. Perhaps we can contribute anonymously with cash or giving a gift certificate to a grocery store or restaurant.

Finally, Stacey Shannon says that we can share our prayers. She knew that others prayed for them, but hearing that they did by phone, e-mail, and during visits provided extra encouragement.

The power of prayer

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote that "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie, the faith and prayers of his mother held their family together during years of hard times. They saved her husband's life.  

Others say that if the unemployed has a spouse, we should not neglect him or her. We can give them the opportunity to express how they feel. We might also encourage them to occasionally play, have fun, and try to stay positive.

Despite its hardship, sometimes unemployment can cause us to simplify our lives, discover new talents, deepen our faith, and help us to appreciate what we have and don't have. To do this, we need God's grace.

Intercession of St. Joseph

We can also ask the intercession of St. Joseph for the unemployed because he experienced it. When Herod tried to kill Jesus, Joseph had to leave his thriving carpenter business in Nazareth and flee to Egypt with a minimum of possessions. There he had to begin again to find work and new customers. When he returned to Nazareth, he had to start over again. But he did not do this alone. Mary, his faithful wife, shared his crosses and prayed for and supported her husband.

St. Joseph's example can help to bring meaning to our work. We can also ask his intercession and guidance for the unemployed. We can pray that God gifts them with patience, perseverance, and positive hope.    

May we enjoy a blessed Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker. Have a blessed Easter season!

Fr. Donald Lange is pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.