May 1 is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. St. Joseph was regarded in the Bible as a good and just man and was referred to by his profession (“is this not the carpenter’s son?” Mt. 13:55). The emphasis on Joseph’s work in the Bible and throughout tradition speaks to the importance of our own professional work.
I love this passage from Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s book Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II’s Theology of the Body on the body and work:
The body enables man to respond creatively to the world and to God – and to respond is to be responsible. There is no true freedom without responsibility.
We learn to appreciate the link between freedom and responsibility through work. We can even define work as man’s way of giving the material world a share in the dignity of the human body. To work is to give the world a human shape.
Nevertheless, because we work in our bodies, our labor isn’t purely external to us. Nor is its value simply the sum total of what we produce. The quality of work is not measured only by the quantity of the objects our work may produce. John Paul II, who put in countless hours of manual labor in a Polish factory, was very sensitive to the impact of work on the worker himself and on the development of his character – and impact the pope called the “subjective” dimension of work (Laborem Exercens, 6) Because man works in his body, whenever he transforms the world through work, he is also transforming and molding himself. How, since man’s life is a journey toward God, the work by which he shapes his life is a kind of “liturgy” (which comes from the Greek work leitourgia, meaning “work of the people”). To work is to shape the world into a reflection of our relationship with God; it is to incorporate the world into our worship. Every human action, every work man performs, no matter how humble, has a liturgical dignity. (p.36-37)
Sanctifying ordinary work
-Professional work – and the work of a housewife is one of the greatest of professions – is a witness to the worth of the human creature. It provides a chance to develop one’s own personality; it creates a bond of union with others; it constitutes a fund of resources; it is a way of helping in the improvement of the society we live in, and of promoting the progress of the whole human race…For a Christian, these grand views become even deeper and wider. For work, which Christ took up as something both redeemed and redeeming, becomes a means, a way of holiness, a specific task which sanctifies and can be sanctified (St. Josemaria, Forge 702).
-Before God, no occupation is in itself great or small. Everything gains the value of the Love with which it is done (St. Josemaria, Furrow 487).
St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us!