This Saturday, May 1 is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. It is also Religious Brothers Day, a day for us all to better understand the vocation of the religious brothers and express our gratitude to them. In our Salesian tradition, we can see how these celebrations beautifully support each other. We recall St. John Bosco’s great devotion to St. Joseph and how he placed the Salesian Brothers under St. Joseph’s protection. In Constitution (Const.) 9, we read, “Don Bosco entrusted our Society in a special way to Mary, whom he made its principal patroness, as well as to St. Joseph and to St. Francis de Sales.” And Const. 18 quotes Don Bosco, “Work and temperance will make the Congregation flourish.”
Jesus was known as the son of a laborer. “Is he not the carpenter’s son?” (Mt 13:55) In his labors, Joseph, the guardian of the Holy Family, reflects the labors of God the Creator. From the first chapters of Genesis, we see that the work of men and women is a continuation of the work of the Creator. Work, animated by this spirit, has dignity and expresses the identity of the human being. Made in the image and likeness of God, we are to carry on the work of creation. We can imagine that St. Joseph understood this and taught the dignity of work to the child Jesus. Joseph, by his example, showed Jesus how work is a cooperation with the plan of the Father in Heaven.
We can also consider St. Joseph reciting the traditional prayers of a righteous Jewish man, allowing the words of Scripture to penetrate his mind and heart. He was truly “contemplative in action” (Const. 12). He lived in communion with God while at prayer and at work. He kept his attention centered on Jesus. As a good husband and father, he knew he was working for his family. He stayed attentive to God’s work in his life and was sensitive to the action of the Spirit, ready to follow God’s plan. He beheld the mystery of the Word made flesh. It’s easy to see why Don Bosco would present St. Joseph as a model to the Salesians; he was a co-worker with God, poor in spirit and rich in grace.
In the struggles and trials of life, in not being able to realize his own plan of life, St. Joseph might have been tempted to bitterness or resentment or at least resignation. However, we don’t find in him any of those sentiments. Instead, he was a man of hope. Through his religious tradition and personal experience, he realized that living according to God’s designs would bring new life. As we continue in this time of pandemic, we might fall into bitterness, resentment, feelings of uselessness, or even hopeless resignation. Instead, let us live like St. Joseph, allowing Christ to make all things new.
I share with you a sentence from Pope Francis, from the General Audience on May 1, 2013. “Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary to teach us to be faithful to our daily tasks, to live our faith in the actions of everyday life and to give more space to the Lord in our lives, to pause to contemplate his face.”
In preparation for Religious Brothers Day, please go to http://religiousbrothers.org. There you will find resources to celebrate Religious Brothers Day. And you can register for this virtual event, at which Br. Rafael Vargas, SDB is a speaker. There are also stories of religious brothers from various congregations.
We remember that Monday, May 3 is the Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles. Please pray for our province, for our Salesian Brothers, and for many vocations to the Salesian Brothers.
Fr. Tim Zak