St. Joseph the Worker is the Saint for the Everyday

By Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB

Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB, is a Benedictine monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He co-authored two bestselling books with Fr. Thomas Acklin, OSB. He is the author of Through the Heart of St. Joseph.


We can draw close to St. Joseph by sharing with him the littleness of everyday life. Most of the life of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, does not appear in Sacred Scripture. In fact, the vast majority of His life does not appear in Sacred Scripture. Rather, in the ordinary littleness of everyday life, He simply shared life with Mary and Joseph. In this way, St. Joseph appears as the father of the littleness of ordinariness. He was willing to be there with Jesus in countless experiences that would be lost to history. This encourages us to find St. Joseph as a father and friend in the ordinariness of our own lives. “Each of us can discover in Joseph—the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence—an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.” 

Especially since the Church added a memorial to the liturgical calendar for “St. Joseph the Worker,” many have pointed out how St. Joseph is close to ordinary workers. St. Joseph shares our daily work with us, even when it often feels like a drudgery. We can turn to St. Joseph for help with that work. Perhaps more importantly, we can find in St. Joseph a faithful companion in that work. No worker labors alone. And especially when we feel the pinch of littleness in the ordinariness of our work, St. Joseph appears to us as a father of that ordinariness, and as a good father, he encourages us and strengthens us to persevere. We can ask him whether our work matters and hear that he is proud of us. He reminds us that like his time with Jesus in Nazareth, it is all an essential part of sanctifying this world and preparing it for the kingdom. 

We can also turn to St. Joseph in the ordinary tasks that also contain the unknown. St. Joseph had to do many things that were ordinary for the human race but absolutely new for him. Presuming he never had children, the basic tasks of raising a son were new to him. For that, he had to trust the teaching of the law and the experience of those who had come before him. He did that faithfully, as the Scripture records for us. He circumcised Jesus, he gave Him the name the angel had revealed, he took Him to the Temple for the presentation of the firstborn, and he brought Him again at age twelve, which was the normal time for a bar mitzvah. Considering how strangely everything started out after the betrothal, one can imagine that Joseph was always wondering what else would change, but without receiving further instructions, he simply carried out the expected tasks. 

In fact, it is striking that such an extraordinary man in such extraordinary circumstances actually lived such an ordinary life. Pope Francis recognized the docility and obedience that are the necessary path for the young to be open to the wisdom that comes as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Joseph and Mary guide us along this path and accompany us in our own path. We can risk remaining little, remaining docile and obedient, when we can turn to Joseph and Mary for their love and support. Why is it so hard for us to walk this path of docility and obedience? 

When we set out on the sinless path of Mary and Joseph, living in docility and obedience, we risk living a repetitive, boring life that seems that it will not arrive at the fullness of being. Or conversely, when we are living such an ordinary life, we can look to our right and our left and discover Mary and Joseph walking alongside us. 

In the end, the path of docility and obedience should be seen as a relief. We do not have to create new adventures every day. We do not have to invent new patterns of behavior every day. We do not need to come up with a new law or a new worship or a new plan or a new world. By simply living in the world God gave us and according to the law He taught us and by practicing the religion He revealed in Christ, we have everything we need to make the ultimate journey to the fullness of being and eternal happiness. Most of that journey consists of simply living out each day in docility and obedience, following the schedule, fulfilling our duty, growing in our relationships, and drawing closer to God. If we are living that way, then when God interrupts our plan and calls us in a new direction, we will be alert and ready to respond.  

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Though he speaks no words in Scripture, St. Joseph’s message to us is resounding: he wants to lead us to Jesus. In Through the Heart of St. Joseph, Fr. Boniface Hicks reveals the path St. Joseph has laid.