By Grace Small
On May 1, Holy Church celebrates the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. In a society so driven to work that it has even eclipsed the law of Sunday rest given by God, it is good for us to meditate on the dignity of man and how to properly understand work in God’s plan. We need to invoke the powerful intercession of St. Joseph so that our work can serve to ennoble us, rather than to enslave us to a godless system where man’s existence is reduced to the utility of the State, as in socialism. St. Joseph, the Worker and the terror of demons, will help us fight against the “errors of communism” warned of by Our Lady of Fatima and help us live as children of God under his paternal cloak and protection.
Scripture tells us that Joseph was a carpenter. It was the trade by which Joseph earned his living, by the sweat of his brow, in order to provide for Jesus and Mary. In Nazareth, Jesus worked with Joseph and learned the trade of his foster father. Above all Joseph taught by his example and also learned from the God-man how one is to work — with heart and hands doing all for the glory of God and for love of neighbor. The spirit of holy prayer and adoration animated the hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the domestic church of the Holy House of Nazareth. This a mystery of profound love that requires much meditation and imitation in our own homes and parishes.
Scripture notes that when Jesus had returned to His hometown of Nazareth they could not accept what He said as a prophet because He was familiar to them, a Nazarene like them. “Coming to His hometown, He taught the people in their synagogue, and they were astonished. ‘Where did this man get such wisdom and miraculous powers?’ they asked. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary. Where then did this man get all these things?’” (Mt 13: 55-56). The Old Testament foretells this in Deuteronomy, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him” (Deut 18:18-19)
Even those who could not accept Him could not deny “such wisdom and miraculous powers” much of which He had acquired as the Son of Joseph and Mary. Their astonishment was somewhat similar to that of the scribes in the synagogue when Joseph and Mary had lost Him as a young Child. When Mary asked, “Child, why have You done this to us? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.” “Why were you looking for Me?” He answered. “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49-50). Some translations read “I had to be about My Father’s business.” What then is the work of God? “Jesus answered, and said to them: This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He hath sent” (Jn 6:29). It is to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, in daily work of the heart and hands, and through prayer and sacrifice, do the will of the Father. Not a shallow intellectual faith that is accepted once and done, but a living faith that receives Christ in the Holy Eucharist so that we may abide in Christ and glorify the Father working to build up the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that is not of this world.
Consider further that when St. Joseph passed from this earthly life, Jesus remained with His widowed Mother Mary until He was about 30 years of age and labored for her and glorified the Father in doing so! In fact His prayer and sacrifice even unto the cross was done for her preeminently, for whom He had given the first installment of Redemption in her Immaculate Conception. From the cross forward Mary is proclaimed our Mother when Christ spoke His last words, “Behold your Mother” (Jn 19: 27).
It is perhaps best to remember this great price and work of our redemption that Mary at Fatima urged us to pray the Rosary and offer sacrifices and the penances of our daily work Sanctified so that we may abide in Christ continually. The Mother of God said at Fatima, “Make of everything you do a sacrifice and say, ‘O My Jesus, I offer this for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’” As Scripture tells us we must be “continually recalling before our God and Father your work of faith, your labor of love, and your enduring hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 1:3). Mary cooperated fully in the work of our Redemption by her “fiat” to the Incarnation, but also at every moment of her life to do the Will of God, by depending on Joseph as the head of the Holy Family and by taking him as the protector ordained by God in humble submission. In these times the Church, through Pope Francis, once again urges humanity to imitate Our Lord and Our Lady and “Go to Joseph” and take him as our protector and terror of demons!
This exhortation to have recourse to the powerful intercession of St. Joseph is in continuity with previous popes. In the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Devotion to St. Joseph, Quamquam Pluries, (1889) we read the reasons why we must have recourse to St. Joseph. The pontiff’s words resonate in our own times, “We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity.” In the analysis of the state of those times the Holy Pontiff made a serious exhortation: “It is of high importance that the devotion of St. Joseph should engraft itself upon the daily pious practices of Catholics, We desire that the Christian people should be urged to it above all by our words and authority.” Pope Leo XIII upholds St. Joseph as a model of workers by whom “the poor and those who live by the labor of their hands should be of good heart and learn to be just. If they win the right of emerging from poverty and obtaining a better rank by lawful means, reason and justice uphold them in changing the order established, in the first instance, for them by the Providence of God. But recourse to force and struggles by seditious paths to obtain such ends are madness which only aggregate the evil which they aim to suppress. Let the poor, then if they would be wise, trust not to the promises of seditious men, but rather the example and patronage of Blessed Joseph.” In a time when we see protests, rebellions and movements to overturn the established order, we see how necessary daily devotion to St. Joseph is needed.
Later in the mid-20th century, the Church invoked St. Joseph as the protector against communism. In 1937, Pope Pius XI called upon St. Joseph to protect the Church from the many errors of communism. We remember that these errors were foretold by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917 after showing the children of Fatima the vision of hell: “Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.” The errors of Russia have been understood as the spreading of atheistic communism which was set in motion with the Marxist revolution in Russia October 1917. Dr. Maike Hickson has provided a list of “errors of Russia” we are living through in our own times some of which include:
1. A reductively atheistic materialist world-view which aims at undermining anything Christian in society;
2. An ideology that is disconnected from Truth and reality;
3. A cultural Marxism that later permeated also the West with the help of the Frankfurt School and Antonio Gramsci’s ideas;
4. A revolutionary socialistic spirit that undermines especially major aspects of family life — especially with the help of feminism, divorce and abortion;
5. A Hegelian dialectic philosophy, along with dialectic materialism, which claims that strife and ongoing contention in society are necessary in order to bring about higher and unfolding forms of life; such an approach essentially denies and purportedly transcends the principle or law of non-contradiction.
6. A form of governing “revolutionary socialism” that is also constitutionally called “Democratic Centralism,” the latter formulation meaning that things have the appearance of being openly democratic, yet they are all centrally organized and managed in the background;
7. A disregard for tradition and for the traditional institutions of society as “counter-revolutionary forces”;
8. A deceitful misuse of language with the intent to manipulate the public;
9. A method of branding one’s own opponents with sweeping and demeaning epithets that abstractly categorize them as “right-wing” or “counter-revolutionary” [and what about the most-common term in use among the left: “fascist”?];
10. An approach to ongoing revolutionary changes where there is both “a slow path” and “a fast path” of the Revolution; such is “the Dialectic” and the “dialectical process”;
11. Toward more moderate and compromising opponents, one first tries to incorporate them into the professed new system so as to use them as Lenin’s “useful idiots” in the sense that they help give to the world the illusory idea that nothing has really changed;
12. As a last element — but of course a very important and painful one for those who lived under communism — there is a constant sense of distrust and fear, unto the imprisonment and killing of one’s intransigent opponents.
Pope Pius XI placed “the vast campaign of the Church against world communism under the standard of St. Joseph, her mighty protector.” St. Joseph was to be invoked as the “Terror of Demons” to combat atheistic ideas and practices and in the cause of workers’ rights even as communists wanted to take over May 1 as “Communist Workers’ Day” In response, Pope Pius XII definitively instituted May 1, 1955 to be the Liturgical feast of St. Joseph the Worker. St. Joseph brings to light the malice of the enemies of the family. St. Joseph also brings to light the darkness of seditious movements that seek to strip people of their human dignity and eliminate God from the minds and hearts of families and nations.
In the Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis, we must “Go to Joseph” and consecrate ourselves to St. Joseph, invoking him in our Holy Rosary especially in the Joyful Mysteries and imitating his example. Let us honor him with a special 30-day Novena known as the Cloak of St. Joseph to obtain his particular protection during our life and at the hour of death. Most of all let us do the work of God as St. Joseph did in daily prayer and work, with virtue and love for Jesus and Mary, for the Salvation of our families, our Church, our country and our world.
Grace Small and her husband Bill are parishioners of St. Mary Church in Providence, R.I., and have made their solemn profession as Third Order Franciscans of the Immaculate, through the Franciscans of the Immaculate in New Bedford. Both earned a Certificate in Catechetical Studies through TINE, The Institute for the New Evangelization of the Archdiocese of Boston.