Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

The statue of St. Joseph and the child Jesus is seen at the St. Joseph Shrine at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. COURTESY OF SAINT MEINRAD ARCHABBEY

St. Joseph the Worker: A call for fair wages and working conditions


The feast of St. Joseph the Worker, optionally celebrated on May 1 in the United States, holds significant importance. It is a day dedicated to honoring the dignity of labor and the crucial role of workers in society. Rooted in the life and example of St. Joseph, this feast underscores the intrinsic value of work and the responsibilities of employers towards their employees. It also serves as a poignant reminder of the need for fair wages and just working conditions in accordance with Catholic social teaching.

St. Joseph, known for his integrity, humility, and hard work, epitomizes the virtues of labor and provides a model for workers and employers alike. As a carpenter by trade, he toiled diligently to provide for the Holy Family, embodying the dignity and sanctity of work. His labor was not merely a means of sustenance but an expression of love and devotion to his family and his faith. St. Joseph teaches us that work, when approached with reverence and integrity, becomes a pathway to holiness.

The feast of St. Joseph the Worker also calls attention to the plight of workers throughout history and in contemporary society. It reminds us of the injustices faced by many workers, including exploitation, low wages, unsafe working conditions, and lack of job security. In light of these challenges, the Catholic Church advocates for social and economic justice, emphasizing the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.

Central to Catholic social teaching is the principle of the dignity of work and the rights of workers. According to this principle, work is not merely a commodity, but a reflection of human dignity and a means of participation in God’s creative activity. Therefore, employers have a moral obligation to ensure that workers are treated with dignity and respect, and that they receive fair wages and benefits commensurate with the value of their labor.

Fair wages are essential for the well-being of workers and their families. A just wage enables workers to provide for their basic needs, support their families, and participate fully in the life of the community. It recognizes the inherent dignity of labor and affirms the worth of the worker as a human person created in the image and likeness of God. Additionally, fair wages contribute to social stability and economic development by reducing poverty and inequality.

Catholic social teaching also emphasizes the importance of providing safe and healthy working conditions for employees. Employers have a moral responsibility to ensure that workplaces are free from hazards and that workers are protected from harm. This includes providing proper training, equipment, and support to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of workers. Moreover, employers should promote a culture of respect and solidarity in the workplace, where employees are valued and treated with dignity.

As the Church honors St. Joseph the Worker, let us heed the call to promote fair wages and working conditions in our community and society. Let us emulate the example of St. Joseph, who labored tirelessly for the well-being of his family and lived out his faith through his work. May we strive to build a world where all workers are respected, valued, and able to live with dignity and fulfillment.

Dcn. Jay W. VanHoosier is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Owensboro. For more information visit, email [email protected] or call (270) 852-8324.

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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