“Look, Mom! That lady is feeding her baby while she drives!” shouted the alarmed voice from the backseat. Confused by this outburst, I looked around to find the woman in question. It didn’t take long for me to put the pieces together. We’d pulled up alongside of a woman who was pumping under a nursing cover, I imagined, as she drove to work. I fist-bumped her, one (former) car-pumper to another. I explained to my daughter that the woman was indeed feeding her baby while she drove, but there was no infant behind the steering wheel (crisis averted).
Today is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. What’s the connection?
There is precious little detail provided in Scripture on Joseph’s life on earth beyond his own “yes,” after the visit of the angel, encouraging him to take Mary as his wife (Matt. 1: 20-21). His brief Scriptural appearances speak volumes about the nature of his relationship with God, as well as his relationship with Jesus and Mary.
Joseph is known as the patron of the Universal Church, fathers, a happy death, and social justice. He is nearly always depicted with a lily, symbolizing purity, or a carpenter’s square, representing his vocation as a carpenter.
How do we integrate the charism of St. Joseph the Worker into our daily lives?
We have so little information on this pivotal character in the story of the life of Christ. What we do have is often presented as a patron Saint for men.
As women, how do we integrate the charism and wisdom of St. Joseph into our daily lives? What do we know about Jesus’ earthly father?
Theologians and Scripture scholars agree that based on the details we have on St. Joseph, there are three clear themes that we can learn from.
1. Working in the Margins
The most clear picture we have is the fact that Joseph worked as a carpenter to support their household. This was a trade he knew, and the trade he would teach to Jesus.
More than likely, this was a job for Joseph that took place within his home, in the margins of their family time. Unlike the schedules of today, where careers are often associated with a particular place and time, Joseph could integrate his work as well as his apprenticing Jesus, to the rhythms of their daily life.
Maybe you are working a job that provides that certain “blue flame” as Jennifer Fulwiler has described. I hope so. So often as women, the callings that give us the most life are the ones that require us to carve out time and space in the folds of our days. Not because we are being paid for them, rather, we simply can’t not do them.
St. Joseph inspires me to integrate the gifts I have to share—somewhere, anywhere they’ll fit in the space of a day.
2. Humbly, in Silence
St. Joseph was entrusted with an incredible responsibility as Jesus’ earthly father. And yet, there is a reverberating humility that surrounds all the details of his life. With all reason to be assured that he was doing the will of God, even influencing the shape of human history, he does it quietly and in the background.
Aren’t there times when our obedience, our “yeses,” our own sacrifices and self-gift feel a little bit as though they might be worth celebrating? And yet, they aren’t. This is a viscerally human experience, and perhaps one Joseph understood well.
Like Jesus, Joseph’s very nature seems to be content to point back to the Lord with the actions and (limited) words of his life. We can learn a lot by emulating him in this quiet way.
Joseph’s role as provider for the Holy Family is likely what he is best-known for. In concrete physical and spiritual ways, he supported the lives of Mary and Jesus. The work of his hands literally put food on their table and bolstered their faith by putting it into practice.
It can be easy to separate ourselves from the lives of the Saints. To put up walls around the holy work done by their hands and to assume we are not called to (or capable of?) the same. But I think this is a misconception. In the same way that St. Joseph understood his particular call to provide materially and spiritually for Jesus and Mary, we too can understand our calling in our day to day experience.
St. Joseph the Worker Animates Our Service to Others
Whether for the Children’s Liturgy of the Word program that you volunteer to teach, the food drive you organize at work, the 5k you run to support a cause close to your heart, the margin-work you make time for because you have a God-given gift to be shared, the precious ounces of breast-milk you pump during your daily commutes, the faith life you support by sponsoring an RCIA candidate, the foster children you open your home to, you are doing the work of the Church.
This is the supporting ministry of St. Joseph the Worker at its finest.
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