In honor of St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, Pope Benedict XVI yesterday praised the holiness of work, recalling its biblical mandate and manifestation in Jesus himself, but warned that mankind must not become enslaved by it.
On Sunday, the Pope presided at a Mass in the Vatican Basilica on the eve of the feast of St. Joseph--the Holy Father’s own namesake.
A number of important prelates concelebrated with the Pope, including Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome; Bishop Giuseppe Betori, secretary general of the Italian Episcopal Conference; and Bishop Arrigo Miglio, president of the Italian episcopal commission for social and labor problems, for justice and peace.
During his homily, the Holy Father cited scripture, which suggests that, "work is part of the original condition of man," and forms part of "the divine plan."
Pointing out that "The Son of God Himself, becoming like us in all respects, dedicated many years to manual labor, so much so that he became known as the 'carpenter's son'.” Therefore he said, "The Church has always shown, and especially over the last century, particular attention and solicitude to this aspect of society…”
This, he said, is “evinced by the many social initiatives of the Magisterium and the activity of many Christian-inspired associations, some of which are here today to represent the entire world of work."
The Pope said that "work is of primary importance for the fulfillment of mankind and the development of society,” adding that “for this reason it must always be organized and carried out in full respect of human dignity and at the service of the common good.”
“At the same time”, he said, “it is indispensable that men and women do not let themselves be enslaved by work, that they do not idolize it, expecting to find therein the final and definitive meaning of life." Here, he stressed that "biblical teaching on work finds its coronation in the commandment to rest."
"Work”, the Holy Father went on, “must serve the true good of humanity…To this end, technical and professional qualifications, necessary though they may be, are not enough. Nor is it enough to create a just social order attentive to the good of all.”
Rather, he said, “It is necessary to live a form of spirituality that helps believers to sanctify themselves through their own work, imitating St. Joseph who every day had to provide for the needs of the Holy Family with his own hands, and who for this reason is identified by the Church as the patron saint of workers.”
“His witness shows how mankind is both the subject and protagonist of work."
The pontiff concluded his homily by entrusting "those young people who find it difficult to enter the world of work, the unemployed, and all those who suffer due to the widespread labor crisis,” to Joseph.
"Together with his wife Mary,” the Pope prayed, “may St. Joseph watch over all workers and ensure serenity and peace for families and for all humanity. Looking to this great saint, may Christians in all working environments learn to bear witness to the love of Christ, source of true solidarity and of lasting peace."
CNA learned last week that the Holy Father may currently be working on what will be his first social encyclical. According to sources, it will discuss the value of work for mankind.