The Nobility of Work – A Reflection for Labor Day

By Rosemary Thompson, Executive Director, P. Francis Murphy Initiative for Justice and Peace

In late August, the summer light fades and deepens. Time shifts, and the wind’s change reminds us that the golden season is over. Americans cherish one last holiday before the serious work of fall and winter begins.

Labor Day was first proposed as a holiday in 1882 by an Irish Catholic activist. It celebrates the common men and women who toil daily in the trenches of industry to put food on our tables, to care for our frail and elderly, to educate our children, to construct our buildings and roads, to drive our buses and trucks and give our cities safety and order, risking their lives to protect and defend that which we take for granted.

saint joseph the workerAs a child I always thought that St Joseph’s feast day should be moved from the cold days of March to the first Monday in September. St Joseph, the protector of the child Jesus and the Mother of God, is also honored as a laborer—a man who used his hands to make a living for the most precious of families.

I was fascinated how this beloved saint was depicted with a hammer or a carpenter’s square. Little is said about Joseph though we know he left his family well attended. He was an earthly model for the child of God on how humble labor elevates.

In St. Joseph, we discover both the dignity and sacred nature of work.

He is often lost in the background of the Holy Family, like the workers of our culture: essential to the outcome; invaluable and yet almost invisible. St Joseph is a hero and saint, the father protector to the Son of God, and a master tradesman. He taught us all about the value of devotion to family by providing for them using his gifts.

Today it is exciting to see our Church actively involved in worker justice. Income equality is a front-line issue as religious sisters, brothers and priests, as well as laity, are working for the rights and nobility of all workers.

Labor Day 1As troubadour for justice Charlie King says, “Our life is more than our work and our work is more than our job.” God bless the workers. Happy Labor Day 2014.


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