Whether we love our jobs or endure them to pay the bills, work is what we spend most of our time doing.
Work has always been a fundamental human right, but it was never meant to take over. As good as it is for the body and soul, there’s always the danger of turning our lives into an endless laundry list of tasks that inspire drudgery, instead of health and virtue … enter some wise advice from Saint Joseph.
This liturgical year dedicated to Saint Joseph gives us a special opportunity to get to know the foster father of Jesus on a deeper level. He can teach us how to find deep spiritual and human fulfillment in the work we do.
Here is some advice from Saint Joseph for your daily life:
Carpentry isn’t a glamorous career. We know that Saint Joseph was a carpenter because Jesus is called the “carpenter’s son”.
Did Saint Joseph enjoy his trade? We don’t know. But he provided for his family by doing a craft well and teaching it to his son. He took pride in his work because he was able to support his family and take care of the practical needs of others. The Church even named him the patron of workmen!
We have a saying in my house: we don’t live for the weekend. As tempting as it can be, God doesn’t ask us to slog away at our place of employment so that when Friday night hits, all bets and decorum are off. We can look forward to it, sure, but live for it? We are meant, rather, to live every day to the full, and that includes taking pride in what we do.
There’s a phrase from Martin Luther King that exemplifies this attitude well:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
To take pride in your own work it helps to stop at times in prayer and think of all the people whose live are affected by what you do. The employees and clients and their families, and all the lives they in turn touch. Your job well done has much more impact than maybe you ever imagined.
My husband works a customer service job that would probably drive me legitimately insane. He doesn’t like it any more than I would, but I’m inspired by how he treats his clients and coworkers with the same cheerful love and respect that he treats his family and friends. His secret? Consciously serving God’s sons and daughters.
Did Saint Joseph want to be a carpenter? Again, we don’t know. But surely he made every table and chair with the same gentle love that he showered on Mary and Jesus. That’s precisely the secret to being a Christian: our love for God is shown in the way we treat our neighbor.
Maybe you chose your own career, or perhaps you are still discerning a difficult career choice. Whatever your job is, as a Christian, you have the opportunity to put your work at the service of your love for God. As Mother Teresa used to say:
“Do small things with great love.”
Try smiling at your most annoying coworker. Clean up a mess that isn’t yours. Give a compliment. In short, put people first while doing your work, and you’ll find that this advice from Saint Joseph will make all the difference.
Saint Joseph literally lived with God incarnate, and since his conception spent his entire life adoring him. He was grounded in that relationship no matter what happened in carpentry. We see from the lives of other saints how much strength they drew from time spent with the Blessed Sacrament! How much more Saint Joseph must have thrived as he lived and worked with God incarnate!
This advice from Saint Joseph invites you into a more personal relationship with the Lord and it will affect all areas of your life, including your work and maybe even help you evangelize your coworkers. Spending free time with Him in adoration fills your cup to pour out to your boss, your cubicle buddy and your family. As you seek to follow His will through your work, He will bless you however He sees fit!
Saint Joseph the Worker knew the importance of priorities – was it likely that he worked in the shop at the expense of Jesus and Mary? Or do you suppose he left work at the proverbial five o’clock to be present to his wife and child?
This advice from Saint Joseph reminds us of the need to be present to those around us. Time well wasted, is time well spent. Sometimes we have to push back against a consumer minded worldview in order to dedicate time to doing what matters most – spending time with God and others.
In this year of Saint Joseph, there is an increasing devotion to St. Joseph and the virtues that we can imitate in him.
Maybe consecration has always sounded a little scary for you? That’s okay. I would invite you to prayerfully consider it in this year dedicated to St. Joseph. Maybe now is the right moment.
Fr. Donald Calloway wrote a book on consecration to Saint Joseph. Drawing closer to Jesus’ foster father can only benefit your life. The man who spent his life quietly working and serving but ended up with titles such as “Terror of Demons” and “Patron of the Universal Church” is a man worth getting to know better.
Saint Joseph’s mark on the Church is one that has grown steadily and will only continue to grow. Celebrate this Year of Saint Joseph by practicing advice from Saint Joseph and the virtues of good work! His guidance and paternal love will benefit you in every way as you navigate the challenges of a world.
About the Author
Ella Matthews is an actress and writer who graduated with a Communications Media degree from a film school in California. She lives with her husband in Indiana, loves tea and interior design, and wants to be a mom.