Tuesday, May 01, 2007

St Joseph the Pray-er, St Joseph the Work-er

Is this not the carpenter's son?

So runs today's gospel reading, in honor of the hidden wonder, St Joseph. Pope Pius XII chose in 1955 to uplift Joseph on this day for our consideration in his aspect as a workman. In the background sits the Communist threat of mobilization of the proletariat, with its May Day parades and demands that workers unite. In the foreground is a century old tradition of Catholic social teaching which emphasizes the dignity of work.

I visted the Cathedral of St Joseph the Workman in LaCrosse, Wisconsin to celebrate this day at their noon Mass. During his homily the celebrant mentioned the dual symbol which recurs throughout this 1960's era concrete structure: the lilly and the carpenter's square. You can see an example barely visible beneath the feet of the bas-relief of St Joseph, found over the entrance to the Cathedral.

Here we have distilled the essence of Joseph's life which swirled around both prayer and work, ora and labora. Lilly for the beauty of life lifted up to God, the square for a life dedicated to quiet work in and for the world.

Come to think of it, from this point of view, this Jesus REALLY is the carpenter's Son. His family resemblance lives on the quiet lives of Christians and monastics of all sorts and conditions wherever we work and pray.

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