The Greek word for Joseph’s profession is tekton—a “worker of hard materials.” So it’s likely that Joseph worked with more than just wood and probably worked with heavy wood, stone, and even metal. In his workshop, he would make furniture, doors, windows, and other necessities for local townspeople. Outside his shop, Joseph might have repaired a plow or wagon wheel, or laid the foundation for a house.
Not only did Joseph’s work give him the means for supporting his family, but it also became part of Jesus’ education. So much so, in fact, that Jesus learned to work with his hands in the same profession and became known as “the carpenter” (Mark 6:3). Jesus actively chose to be known in this way, linking his social position and earthly identity with Joseph and his work.
Jesus learned his profession and livelihood from Joseph for thirty years. “The one who, while being God, became like us in all things (see Hebrews 2:17; Philippians 2:5—8) devoted most of the years of his life on earth to manual work at the carpenter’s bench” (Laborem Exercens, 6).
While all popes in recent times have consistently presented Joseph as the model of workers and laborers, Pope Pius XII instituted this liturgical feast on May 1, 1955. He said: “By family ties, daily communion, spiritual harmony, and divine grace, Joseph, of David’s line, was more closely bonded to Jesus, than was any other man, and yet he was a humble worker.”
We are also called to use our God-given skills and virtues to serve Christ in our home, the Church, and the world. This is the unique role God has prepared for us to play in the story of salvation. This is our life’s work. We can think of these skills and virtues as “tools” for completing our mission.
Pope John Paul II observed that “work was the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth” (Redemptoris Custos, 22). This gives the phrase “labor of love” a whole new meaning, as our jobs provide a way for us to participate in the work of creation and redemption as we seek to answer God’s call. Joseph’s work enabled him to fully participate in God’s plan. Our work can help us do the same.
Do you see your abilities as ways of honoring God and giving him credit for your achievements? Do you see work as an expression of love for God and others? Without that perspective, it’s easy to see work as nothing more than a means of financial reward—an incomplete and shallow definition indeed.
As a patron of workers, Joseph helps those who are out of work, those deciding on an educational or career path, and those in established occupations. Where there’s work to be done, Joseph will protect, equip, and guide us in all our needs. Go to him.
Adapted from Husband Father Worker: Questions & Answers About St. Joseph,
Fr. Larry Toschi, OSJ; Fr. Jose Antonio Bertolin, OSJ; and Rick Sarkisian, PhD; copyright 2012 Liguori Publications (820977). To order, visit Liguori.org or call 800-325-9521.