Shepherd's Voice

Pray to St. Joseph for protection of workers

Health care workers, first responders, unemployed especially need his help

In this week’s discussion, Archbishop George J. Lucas and communications manager David Hazen discuss where we can find Christ during the coronavirus pandemic, despite the sacraments not being available. With the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, the archbishop also reminds us that he is an excellent intercessor for those who are now unemployed and those needing extra protection in carrying out their work.

Q: Obviously the pandemic has caused a certain amount of upheaval for everyone in recent weeks. It seems no aspect of daily life has remained untouched. What are you seeing in the challenges of these present circumstances?

This has been a serious moment of crisis in our community, in society, and also in the church. Many structures, customs and social experiences that seemed to be an essential part of life have been suddenly taken away. We are all left to grapple with the question of what really endures and of what is important for the life of the whole person.

One of the things that I have been reflecting on is the presence of the risen Jesus in the living church. He promises to meet us in a powerful way in the celebration of the sacraments, which we hold dear. We have been fasting from that in many ways, and hope it won’t last too much longer. But Jesus is with us and he is active in the church through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the various manifestations of the church that we are still able to experience.

The family is the first one that I think of – we call that the domestic church. I believe that the Lord is providing special graces now to reveal his presence within family life.

Another grace I see being offered is the opportunity to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are in need. As families are experiencing unemployment and other challenges, food banks and food pantries are really being stretched beyond their usual ability to provide. But we see many individuals and businesses pulling together and rushing in to respond to the need for decent nourishment.

Surely the Lord is revealing himself there. He also reveals himself in the face of the hungry, the poor, the isolated. He reveals his power in the individual acts of charity and solidarity that we see multiplying at this time.

Despite the fact that people cannot gather in the usual way, Jesus has not gone away; he is not back in the tomb. He is not defeated by the virus. He is active in those of us who welcome him into our lives. And when we meet him, he sends us out and asks us to notice how we might witness our faith to others in word and especially in deed.

Q: As you mentioned, unemployment is an especially urgent challenge right now. It also happens that May 1 is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, which Pope Pius XII instituted to counter the communist vision of the worker and of human life. How can we look at work and the problem of unemployment as Christians, as people who want to live solidarity with our brothers and sisters?

We often think of work as a necessary evil. But that is because of the brokenness that we experience as a consequence of original sin. In the earliest pages of the Bible, Adam and Eve are driven from the garden, and work is thereafter experienced as hard and burdensome.

Yet it is also very clear in the Scriptures that in the work that we do to support ourselves and our families, we build up the common good. We reflect (albeit in an imperfect way) the image of God who creates.

We have to use well what is before us in the work that we do. It is part of the stewardship of creation that God has given man and woman; we do not just use up resources for ourselves. We work individually and together to provide for our families, our neighborhood, our community.

In modern society, there is a great division of labor. So we depend on a lot of other people every day to have the kind of life that we are used to living, whether that has to do with food or electricity or healthcare or the building that we live in or work in. Lots of people and their talents are necessary to make all of this possible. We each make our contributions to that.

In the early 20th century when the communist philosophy and communist dictatorships were taking over in some significant parts of the world, the leaders of those movements preached that the human person existed to serve the state. Each individual person was a piece of the puzzle that made the state good and powerful, but in practice, made it particularly secure for those who were in leadership.

There was not a sense that work was part of God’s plan, nor a sense that it really was a way to enhance and express the dignity of each human person involved in work, that work was a good for the individual’s own sake.

So that is why the church decided to give St. Joseph another feast day. We celebrate his primary feast on March 19. But the feast of St. Joseph the Worker is beautiful because it honors St. Joseph who used his skill, his labor, his energy, the sweat of his brow to support the Holy Family and to contribute to the betterment of his community. He is a great patron for all who have to go to work every day, who strive to contribute to the welfare of others.

We have certainly seen unprecedented rises in the level of unemployment over these last several weeks, dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Many segments of the economy have ground to a halt. And that looks bad enough on a graph, but it is really a terrible experience for the people who are now out of work without a clear path into the future for their own security and for their families.

This is a real effect of the pandemic, and it may turn out to be a long-lasting one. So the feast of St. Joseph the Worker gives those of us who do have work the chance to notice and give thanks. It is also a chance to notice those who really are working hard for the rest of us, often heroically, during this time.

But we shouldn’t take them for granted – healthcare workers particularly. We all pray we do not get sick, but I think we live in confidence that there will be somebody there to take care of us if we do.

We should think also of our first responders and people who keep our lights on and pick up the trash, people who keep the grocery store shelves stocked. There are so many in the community whom we can take for granted day by day, but we count on them. This is a time to notice that their labor is a benefit to all of us.

We ask St. Joseph to watch over them and protect them, especially as they might encounter some kind of danger. We should also ask the help of St. Joseph for those who are out of work right now, that they be reminded by the rest of us of the dignity that they have, and that through his intercession they would be able to have dignified work before long.

In this week’s discussion, Archbishop George J. Lucas and communications manager David Hazen discuss where we can find Christ during the coronavirus pandemic, despite the sacraments not being available. With the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, the archbishop also reminds us that he is an excellent intercessor for those who are now unemployed and those needing extra protection in carrying out their work.

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A Prayer to St. Joseph the Worker

Heavenly Father, we put our trust in you. We ask the intercession of St. Joseph under his title of the Worker to be open to your divine plan even in difficult and uncertain times and circumstances. We ask that through his intercession and following his example we may come to understand our place in your plan and exercise our responsibility for the welfare of others, especially those close to us who depend on us.

We pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in these weeks before Pentecost so that your plan might be clearer to us, and that our desire to follow it would be more wholehearted. We ask all this through Christ our risen Lord. Amen.