St. Joseph Amid Sawdust

Today is a special day! It’s the feast day of St. Joseph, the worker!

This day was actually instituted not too long ago in 1955. The reason? The popularity of May Day as a communist holiday, which celebrates the spirit of the worker. Which is a good thing to celebrate! The problem? Because of the nature of communism, the holiday was set up to worship the state… and not God. In fact, communism sought to wipe out the worship of God entirely.

In response to this communist holiday, in which God was not a part of the holiday at all, the Church set up an alternative holiday to celebrate a similar spirit… except with God. That way, we can properly honor God. And thus, we focus on the industriousness of St. Joseph as a worker!

So, here’s a picture of St. Joseph taking a break from his work!

The Anxiety of St. Joseph, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States. Via
The Anxiety of St. Joseph, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.

This is a picture from James Tissot! James Tissot was a prolific painter who sought to illustrate the entire gospel with poignant watercolors of gospel scenes that were based on his travels to Palestine. In fact, the Brooklyn Museum, which houses many of his paintings, recently put out this compilation of his religious art illustrating the gospel, called James Tissot: The Life of Christ. (Note: the link is an Amazon affiliate link! :))

This picture is one of these illustrations!

The Brooklyn Museum describes this painting as the following:

Betrothed but still unmarried, Mary and Joseph do not yet live together, making the news of her unexpected pregnancy a cause of deep concern for Joseph. Ordinarily industrious, as the curled wood shavings around his feet attest, the carpenter hunches over his bench, lost in thought and unable to work. In the hope of catching a glimpse of Mary, he gazes out at the street as women pass carrying jars filled with the day’s water.

Lost in thought he may be, but the tiny shop still holds ample evidence of his industriousness. For instance, wood shavings are everywhere! My husband loves to do woodworking and frequently this is the state of the shop: sawdust everywhere. In fact, that is currently the state of the shop, since my husband is in the middle of constructing a playground for our kiddos… and of course, he needed to build a platform for our slide!

The slide is a fun project, but sometimes there are not-so-fun projects and things that we regularly need to do out of duty and/or necessity. St. Joseph was a carpenter and provided for his family in that way. My husband does engineering work and provides for our family in that way. As a homemaker, I get to take care of three sick kiddos today, even while being sick myself. These are not necessarily fun things to do, and yet it is our vocation and we are called to do the best we can anyway.

In a world which all too frequently emphasizes pursuing happiness, it can be almost counter-cultural to pursue duty to our vocations, even when they are hard and we feel overwhelmed while doing them.

And yet, that is all the more reason to celebrate work and to cheer on the workers going about and doing their duty, as well as recognize their struggles. And what better way to do this than to call upon St. Joseph for prayers, asking for him to pray for us as we go about and do our duties?

St. Joseph, ora pro nobis!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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