Easter: May 1st
The feast of St. Joseph the Worker was established by Pope Pius XII in
1955 in order to Christianize the concept of labor and give to all
workmen a model and a protector. By the daily labor in his shop, offered
to God with patience and joy, St. Joseph provided for the necessities of
his holy spouse and of the Incarnate Son of God, and thus became an
example to all laborers. "Workmen and all those laboring in
conditions of poverty will have reasons to rejoice rather than grieve,
since they have in common with the Holy Family daily preoccupations and
cares" (Leo XIII).
St. Joseph the Worker
"May Day" has long been dedicated to labor and the working man.
It falls on the first day of the month that is dedicated to the Blessed
Virgin Mary. Pope Pius XII expressed the hope that this feast would
accentuate the dignity of labor and would bring a spiritual dimension to
labor unions. It is eminently fitting that St. Joseph, a working man, who
became the foster-father of Christ and patron of the universal Church,
should be honored on this day.
The texts of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours provide a catechetical
synthesis of the significance of human labor seen in the light of faith.
The Opening Prayer states that God, the creator and ruler of the
universe, has called men and women in every age to develop and use their
talents for the good of others. The Office of Readings, taken from the
document of the Second Vatican Council on the Church in the modern world,
develops this idea. In every type of labor, we are obeying the command of
God given in Genesis 2:15, and repeated in the responsory for the Office
of Readings. The responsory for the Canticle of Zechariah says that
"St. Joseph faithfully practiced the carpenter's trade. He is a
shining example for all workers." Then, in the second part of the
Opening Prayer, we ask that we may do the work that God has asked of us
and come to the rewards he has promised. In the Prayer after Communion we
ask: "May our lives manifest your love; may we rejoice for ever in
The liturgy for this feast vindicates the right to work, and this is a
message that needs to be heard and heeded in our modern society. In many
of the documents issued by Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, the Second
Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II, reference is made to the Christian
spirit that should permeate one's work, after the example of St. Joseph.
In addition to this, there is a special dignity and value to the work
done in caring for the family. The Office of Readings contains an excerpt
from the Vatican II document on the modern world: "Where men and
women, in the course of gaining a livelihood for themselves and their
families, offer appropriate service to society, they can be confident
that their personal efforts promote the work of the Creator, confer
benefits on their fellowmen, and help to realize God's plan in
history" (no. 34).
Excerpted from Saints of the Roman Calendar by Enzo