The first day of May has much significance in our world and especially in our Church. It is May Day, the day of the worker, and for Christians it is also a day to remember the foster father of our Lord, St. Joseph the Worker.
Blessed John Paul II was beatified on this day two years ago. Early in his pontificate, he reflected on the meaning of human work, something that he thought much about as he performed forced labor in his youth and as he grew resisting a Communist regime’s materialistic understanding of man and his vocation.
In his 1981 encyclical, Laborem Exercens, he noted that the human person works for three main reasons.
First, there is a deeply personal dimension to work. Work is a good thing for man, and through it he realizes himself:
Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being.”
Work also makes family life and providing for one’s family possible. Blessed John Paul II writes that, “the family is simultaneously a community made possible by work and the first school of work, within the home, for every person.”
Finally, work allows the human person to contribute to the common good.
The construction worker builds so that we may live in safe places. The janitor cleans so that we may work in a sanitary environment. The waitress serves so that we can build relationships over a midday meal. The mother gives time so that her children may be well formed. The philanthropist saves so that the needy may flourish.
Blessed John Paul II writes:
All of this brings it about that man combines his deepest human identity with membership of a nation, and intends his work also to increase the common good developed together with his compatriots, thus realizing that in this way work serves to add to the heritage of the whole human family, of all the people living in the world.
Jesus Christ is the son of a carpenter, and He spent much of his life preparing for this trade. No matter the type of work, there is meaning in it for the human person. Let us remember this on May Day this year, praying that every piece of our work brings glory to God.
St. Joseph the Worker, Pray for Us.