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“Prosper the work of our hands!”

Matthew Harrison

Thursday, May 1, 2008

stjosephicon-1.jpgThough most countries celebrate the feast of our Lord's Ascension today, in Canada that solemnity is transfered from the traditional Thursday to the following Sunday. That means liturgically, the Canadian Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. Joseph the Worker today.
On this feast I am always reminded of a wooden statue of St. Joseph at Westminister Abbey in Mission, British Columbia. The statue of St. Joseph may actually be under the title of 'the Worker,' I can't remember now, but to look at the statue one can almost imagine St. Joseph himself carving it!
The title of 'the Worker' fits so well with Joseph! I see him diligently working at his carpentry, providing for his family, teaching the Christ child his craft. I'm sure it wasn't a glamorous occupation, but similar to the work situation that many men and women pour their lives into everyday, it was a noble one.
Work, in all its many forms, is part of God's plan for His Creation. Work, as John Paul II and many saints have said, is a means of sanctification. John Paul II writes about this in his Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custo:
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)
What an interesting thought: the redeeming of work, the sanctification of work. The Son of God engaging in manual labour that at times may have been stimulating and at other times menial. It's an experience that I'm sure we can all relate to! And from St. Joseph we can find spiritual strength for our working lives. John Paul II continues:
What is crucially important here is the sanctification of daily life, a sanctification which each person must acquire according to his or her own state, and one which can be promoted according to a model accessible to all people: "St. Joseph is the model of those humble ones that Christianity raises up to great destinies;...he is the proof that in order to be a good and genuine follower of Christ, there is no need of great things-it is enough to have the common, simple and human virtues, but they need to be true and authentic." (24)
There is no need for great things to be a follower of Christ... what an important reminder for all of us who feel that we grow in holiness only by being mega-Saints. We grow in simple ways: in clearing a table, in picking up after a child, in treating a co-worker with respect, in peacefully completing a task that we are irritated to be saddled with. True and authentic. Common, simple human virtues. Holiness. These are all things that we can and are called to live. "Prosper the work of our hands!" (Ps 90:17), prays the Psalmist. It's a petition that we should offer to God everyday too.
Today is a good day to be reminded of St. Joseph's example. May his intercession always help us in our work towards sanctification!

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