Today’s memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, falling on May Day - a day celebrated since the late 19th century by socialists and communists as International Workers’ Day - was established by Pope Pius XII in 1958 to Christianise the concept of labour and to bring it under the patronage of Saint Joseph. From 1970, in the Ordinary Form, it was downgraded to an optional memorial (as it is in the Ordinariate Form also); it remains a feast of the first class in the Extraordinary Form. The following is from a radio address to children by Pius XII in 1958:
‘St Joseph, as you have all learned at home and at school, was a very holy man. He had to be, because he was married to the Virgin Mary, the purest, the holiest, the most exalted of all God’s creatures. More than that, the Eternal Father confided to the care of St Joseph His own only-begotten Son, become man on earth, Jesus Christ. Mary was the Mother of Jesus, the tenderest and most loving of all mothers; and though Joseph was not His father, he had for Him, by a special gift from heaven, all the natural love, all the affectionate solicitude that a father’s heart can know. With Mary, his wife, he shared all the joys and sorrows, the plans and anxieties that come to a mother in bringing up her child sorrows, the plans and anxieties that come to a mother in bringing up her child. Day after, at home and in the carpenter shop, his eyes rested on Jesus; he protected Him against the dangers of childhood; he guided His advancing years, and by hard work and with religious devotedness he provided for the increasing needs of the Mother and the Son.
What a beautiful family life there was at Nazareth! You call it the Holy Family and rightly so. In that small house you find Jesus, holy more than anyone can imagine, Who has come to help you and everybody become holy and pleasing to the Father. There you find His Mother, your Blessed Mother; and, as you know, from the first breath she breathed and all during the days of her life her soul was simply one marvellous, indescribable thing of beauty, like a precious jewel whose every facet reflected clearly, unobstructed, the infinite holiness of God. And then there was Joseph, modest, self-effacing, yet exercising authority over that family. How holy he must have been! Under his fatherly protection and ceaseless, tireless care the young Boy grew into manhood, Who later, on Calvary’s cross, dying, would restore life to man, and draw all men into oneness through grace with Himself. With Him as their Head they should then form one big, big family scattered all over the world. You call that family the Church, the one, true Catholic Church, of which you are members, and that membership is your richest treasure on earth’.
O God, the Creator of all things, who hast appointed for mankind the law of labour: graciously grant that through the example and patronage of Saint Joseph we may accomplish the work that thou hast commanded, and attain unto the rewards that thou dost promise; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saint Joseph the Worker, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon