Tuesday, February 17, 2009

St. Joseph the Worker

The patron saint of the Catholic Worker movement is St. Joseph the Worker. His feast day is on May 1st, and we plan to do a celebration on that day. It falls on a Friday this year, which lines up conveniently with our regular Friday evenings of prayer. It is a good time for a house blessing and perhaps a naming ceremony. Details will be forthcoming as they unfold.

We are toying with the idea of naming the house after Blessed Margaret of Castello. She is often considered the patroness of the unwanted. How consistent that is with our patron--St. Joseph was a man who was asked to raise a child that was not his, certainly conceived under questionable circumstances. A single, pregnant woman in first century Palestine was a social pariah, and Mary could have faced the death penalty. It was hard to find someone more unwanted. Hospitality is a very ancient, time-honored tradition in the Jewish faith, but you could argue that the first Christian House of Hospitality was right there in a stable in Bethlehem.

The stable wasn't even his own! Joseph probably could have fended for himself a lot better, but he made himself poor to take on this new family. The story just sounds more and more Catholic Worker-ish as I continue to think on it!

It was not his job to get the glory--it was his job to do the work. He didn't see his nose on the baby's face or notice his own mannerisms reflected in the child's behaviors. You could argue that Joseph did eventually get the glory that is due him, being one of our most beloved saints. However, he might have had a tough time seeing that while he was raising this patchwork family. He doesn't say much at all in the gospels, but you can feel his presence. He was holding it all together. The worker.

The Church does a good job of reminding us of the unwanted. The marginalized. Those discarded in some accounting ledger as "collateral damage." The price of doing business. The Catholic Worker--carrying the spirit of St. Joseph--reminds us that there is a space for them at the table, too. St. Joseph didn't seem to give big speeches or make a big deal about it. He was just there when someone absolutely needed him, sharing his own life and home with them. He quietly did his job.

May St. Joseph watch over us and adopt us, just as he watched over and adopted the first family of Christianity. Lean on St. Joseph--just as he raised a family that wasn't his, he will take you in, as well.
May the Catholic Worker always carry his spirit.

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