May 1: Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

America’s official Labor Day falls in September, but the world’s Labor Day is May 1. That includes the Church, which celebrates this day as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. As Pope St John Paul II observed in his Apostolic Exhortation on Joseph, Redemptoris Custos:

If the Family of Nazareth is an example and model for human families, in the order of salvation and holiness, so too, by analogy, is Jesus’ work at the side of Joseph the carpenter. In our own day, the Church has emphasized this by instituting the liturgical memorial of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1. Human work, and especially manual labor, receive special prominence in the Gospel. Along with the humanity of the Son of God, work too has been taken up in the mystery of the Incarnation, and has also been redeemed in a special way. At the workbench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption [22].

We might observe that Joseph is a saint for our times in another way. Lest we forget, Joseph, Mary and Jesus became refugees when Herod sought to destroy the Christ Child, and Joseph spent years thereafter as an immigrant worker practicing his trade in Egypt.

BTW, curious about our beautiful Catholic Labor Network artwork on the right? It’s adapted from an image by the Catholic Worker’s Ade Bethune.