Saint Joseph: A Model for Fathers
Tuesday May 1, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
Reading (Genesis 1:26-2:3) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:54-58)
We celebrate, today, the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Once again, we are reminded of the dignity of work and the example Saint Joseph gave to his Son; the example, then, which God puts before all of us to be able to see that we need to work. There are, of course, different types of work. There are those who will do physical labor; there are those who are involved in intellectual work; and, of course, the most important work of all: that of being a parent, of being able to raise children, provide for them, and care for them. In whatever manner that is done, it is critically important.
It is especially important in our day, where we see that the work of the parents is being undermined. It is critical that parents take their role very, very seriously, and guard and protect their children carefully. Make sure that the work that is yours to do as parents is not being done by somebody else, because the people who want to raise your children are not raising them well. They are trying to destroy our young people and they are doing quite a fine job of it, we must admit. They have every means available right there at their disposal. They have an endless supply of money to do whatever they want. They are using the media and all kinds of different means. They are taking the parents out of the home to make sure the kids are on their own or are being raised by somebody else. It is not a good situation. This primary work which has to do with one of the very first of the commandments God gave to humanity: to be fertile and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, must be taken very, very seriously by parents.
We live in a society which tells us that material goods are what is most important: "If both parents are out working full time, you can have more material goods. It will be the fruit of your labor." It is the wrong reason to work. Work is there to support the family, and the support of the family is not to have more stuff. The support of the family is to make sure we are raising saints for God. There are times when both parents must work, that is understandable, but that is not what the norm ought to be. The norm should be that the parents are to be there with their children. The father, in particular, should be providing for his family. If it is a necessity that there be two incomes in order to make ends meet, then, yes, the mother may have to work; but if she does not need to, she ought not to because the most important work she can engage in is that of raising her children, caring for them, teaching them. That cannot be replaced by anybody.
When we see the dignity of the work, we need to be able to put it into context and see that, in our society, it is being twisted. Work is being touted, but for the wrong reason and in the wrong manner. We have gotten to the point where we want work to be a fun, easy kind of thing. Work should be enjoyable, but we are not there just to have fun. Work is there as a labor, and labor is not always easy. We need to make sure that we are fulfilling the duties of our state in life. For those who must go to a job, that means to do the job to the best of your ability. For those who are home with your children, that means to attend to all the details of the duties of the state in life that are yours. All these things are part of work.
Today, the Church holds up before us this feast to remind us of the dignity of work. It is so dignified that God has set aside a special day to make sure that we do not work. It is one of those things - if we do the same thing over and over again, we can lose the importance of it. When we take that day of rest, that day of recreation, it reminds us very clearly of how important the work is. It is another point in our society where Sunday has been eroded terribly. Maybe we can squeeze Mass in around running to the soccer games, the hockey games, the football games and doing all the other things. It is not to be that way. Sunday is the Lordís day, we need to keep it as such so that we can focus on the Will of God; and thereby have the grace and opportunity to be able to carry on the work which is His throughout the rest of the week.
We want to look at our own selves, and ask ourselves, "Have we fallen prey to the lies, to the deception of the evil one that he has put forth in our world? Have we fallen prey to the worldly ways that suggest we need more things and the best we can do for our children is to give them more material things, as if some piece of material junk is worth more than you are, and is worth more than the love of the parents?" Be with your children. Work with your children. That is what is most important. That cannot be taken by anybody else. God has given us children to raise and that is the primary work of a parent. If we have fallen prey to the worldly ways, we need to make sure we are looking at that very seriously and ask ourselves, "Is this a necessity? Or is it a want?" If it is a want, then we need to amend our ways. We need to look at God, we need to ask Him: "What is His Will in this matter? Should we be working at a job? Or should we be working at home?" That is the question we need to look at.
Today, as we look at Saint Joseph, we have the ultimate model for those who must go to a job and work. We have the ultimate model of the work of a father. Then, because of that, we also see reflected the ultimate model of a mother because Our Lady did not have to go to a job. They lived in poverty, they survived, but she did not go out and try to find a job to make more money and to make things easier. She knew that the most important work that was hers was to raise her Son. Saint Joseph supported that entirely. While they did not have much, they had enough. They trusted in God that He would provide. That is the dignity we look at today: the dignity of the family, the dignity of work. Everything that we do is at the support of the family and for the good of the children.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.