Editorial | St. Joseph and the importance of dignified work

In 1843, Jesuits in St. Louis founded a church at the corner of 11th and Biddle streets in St. Louis. They intended to serve the area’s residential community consisting mostly of German immigrants and named it after St. Joseph.

It’s appropriate then that the Shrine of St. Joseph, as it is known now, was the site of the opening of the Year of St. Joseph celebrations in St. Louis on March 19. The designation was proclaimed by Pope Francis in honor of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal Church. The year honoring St. Joseph extends to Dec. 8.

The Shrine of St. Joseph hosts an annual prayer service and Mass Sunday, May 2, organized by the Greater St. Louis Labor Council. The names of union members who passed away in the years 2019 and 2020, and members who died on the job specifically or from work-related illness or injury during 2019-20, will be recognized at an interfaith prayer service at 8:30 a.m. outside the church. Mass will follow inside the church.

The previous day, May 1, is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. It extends the long relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers. Beginning in the Book of Genesis, the dignity of work has long been celebrated as participating in the creative work of God, including care for the earth. The carpenter and foster father of Jesus is one example of the holiness of labor.

Pope Francis, in declaring the Year of St. Joseph, called him “a carpenter who earned an honest living to provide for his family.” St Joseph also teaches us “the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labor,” he wrote.

Pope Francis refers to work as “a burning social issue” even in countries with a certain level of well-being. “There is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which St. Joseph is an exemplary patron,” the pope writes.

Work, he explains, “is a means of participating in the work of salvation, an opportunity to hasten the coming of the Kingdom, to develop our talents and abilities, and to put them at the service of society and fraternal communion.” Those who work, he states, “are cooperating with God Himself, and in some way become creators of the world around us.” Pope Francis encourages everyone “to rediscover the value, the importance and the necessity of work for bringing about a new ‘normal’ from which no one is excluded.” Especially in light of rising unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope calls everyone to “review our priorities” and to “express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!”

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