The editorial of the month

The editorial of the month by Léonie Caldecott

With his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis recalled the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, he proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” from 8 December 2020 to 8 December 2021. This month we feature a special article on this great saint, under a highly significant title celebrated on 1 May: “Saint Joseph the Worker”.

I find it interesting that, in his letter, Pope Francis, when writing of those who are vulnerable at this time in our ­history, refers specifically to those who cannot find work. “It is hard to build a culture of encounter, in which we meet as people with a shared dignity, within a throwaway culture that regards the well-being of the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, and the unborn as peripheral to our own well-being.” For indeed the ability to use one’s hands, to engage meaningfully with the material world, is central to human dignity. Even children need to do some small sort of “work” if they are to feel integrated into the home; the disabled and elderly people also need to feel useful and not side-lined. On the other hand, a human being cannot be measured in pure “productivity”. Or as Saint John Paul II put it forty years ago in Laborem Exercens, “the proper subject of work continues to be man”.

The great Benedictine tradition of alternating work with prayer also reminds us how closely these two components of human life are allied. Prayer feeds work, of course, because it supplies us with divine energy and orients our work towards our creator. But work also feeds prayer, by grounding us in the real, the everyday, and the communities within which we function as human beings. To approach these things prayerfully means to engage with them not as instruments, but as paths to God.