Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Easter - 2012
The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
He is rich or poor
according to what he is,
not according to what he has.
( Henry Ward Beecher )
While pondering thoughts about one of the truly mysterious saints in our Church who had such an important role in the history of humankind, I happened upon the word of Henry Beecher. These are words that helped me begin to imagine what St. Joseph looked like.
Being the son of a cabinetmaker myself, and also a priest who finds several saws and other tools among the "things" that help me be a fixer and a maker, I was found in Beecher's words an immediate linking to St. Joseph.
I have know many cabinetmakers in my lifetime. My paternal grandfather, my father, my mother's brother, several Jesuit Brothers who were assigned to the "carpenters' shops, and others who worked in my father's cabinetmaking shop including three of my siblings. So, there is, one might say, a good amount of sawdust in my experience of life. And it is good.
The Church celebrates this day as a reminder to us of the goodness of work, of the value of work and most specially the dignity of work. I am also reminded of a meeting of younger priests taking place in Chicago this week: to establish a program that will focus on the Church's teachings on labor. Surely there is no doubt that this is a time when we can revisit the reality of work in human life. Without work what would our lives be?
Joseph is a model of a worker: usually a worker is looked upon in looked upon by an additional adjective. Some a described as blue collar worker, some others are called white collar workers. To me the primary difference is how a worker is called upon to use his/her hands and mind. Somehow the term "farm worker" seems so very different from the terms "scientist" or "doctor" or even "priest." Usually the word worker doesn't seem to be included with those particular vocations. "Scientist worker" or "Doctor worker" or "Priest Worker" just do not seem to be ways that we look at those vocations and others.
Beecher's reflection does address the many noble people who work. It does not matter how much a worker earns or how many letters follow the surname. What truly matters is the person's personal worth not personal wealth. If you are reading this blog posting today, most likely you are not dressed in a business suit! If you are a blue collar worker, you would not be reading this reflection ... at least not at this hour because you were at work or on the way by 7 AM at the latest.
What makes the worker, regardless of the color of your collar, is who you are! There is a pearl of cowboy wisdom that well provides a universal criteria for a worker: "The best sermons are lived, not preached." Not a word do we have from the lips of the foster father of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Nor do we learn much about him other than the virtues he practiced in his life.
So, might we not ask ourselves today about our work, our estimation of those who work in the same vocation as you as well as your evaluation of those workers who employ their minds and hands in ways different from your own. Do I have the same respect for the work put out each day by a pharmacists or a city worker who takes pride in the work he/she does to make their city shine? Do I respect the worker whose salary scale is much lower than mine or the reverse?
Joseph's life is the answer: He/she is rich or poor according to what he/she is, not according to what he has.