A Working Father


Greetings my sisters and brothers,

I hope your summer is going well so far despite the very warm temperatures in much of California. As I write this article I am in Northeast Pennsylvania and it is a cool 57 degrees and a high of 71 expected. Jealous? Not allowed! This is the advantage of taking a vacation at the right time.

Taking vacation in the summer is a pretty traditional activity, certainly in our country. I remember as a child that my mother and father would bundle us all in the station wagon (we were 8 all together) and off we would go on another adventure. I was happy to be out of school and I am sure my father was happy to be away from his work as a member of the United States Air Force (though spending that time with six rambunctious kids might not have been all the relaxing!) My mother never really did get a vacation from her job which was looking after all of us, but the change of scenery was probably welcome.

Of course, taking a vacation implies that one is working the rest of the time. Work is a part of what it means to be a human being, part of God’s call for each one of us. We are made in the image and likeness of God and God is always at work. In many ways, he never takes a vacation, since he always keeps us and all of creation in existence. However, he did take a break on the seventh day after six days of creating which is like a vacation so we are not wrong in taking time off. Hopefully, taking that time allows us to return to work with a renewed body and spirit, ready to continue to help build up the kingdom of God by our efforts.

Pope Francis, in section 6 of his Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde, considers this aspect of the life of St. Joseph: a working father. He begins by stating that Joseph, with his work, showed Jesus “the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labour”.  The Holy Father then states: “Work is a means of participating in the work of salvation, an opportunity to hasten the coming of the Kingdom, to develop our talents and abilities, and to put them at the service of society and fraternal communion. It becomes an opportunity for the fulfilment not only of oneself, but also of that primary cell of society which is the family”. This is a wonderful vision of how we are called to view the work we carry out. Does it fit the way I look at my work? Do I find value, dignity and joy in it? Is work just a way for me to “make money” or do I see it as a way to “hasten the coming of the kingdom” and be “at the service of society and fraternal communion”? Do I see work as an essential way for me to live out my vocation? Let us ask St. Joseph to intercede for us so that we might share his vision of work and toil.

The Pope takes the opportunity afforded him by this reflection on St. Joseph as a working father, to call us to see the importance of providing opportunities for all to have a dignified work: “In our own day, when employment has once more become a burning social issue, and unemployment at times reaches record levels even in nations that for decades have enjoyed a certain degree of prosperity, there is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which Saint Joseph is an exemplary patron”. May we do all in our power to ensure such opportunities in our local communities.

The Pope concludes his reflection on this aspect of the life of St. Joseph with this exhortation: “Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!” Amen.

Fr. Brian, OSJ