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Pope Francis: Labor’s True Purpose Should Attend Man (1592)

On the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, the Holy Father reiterates themes promulgated in Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical ‘Rerum Novarum’ and discusses all types of ‘slave labor.’

05/02/2013 Comments (1)
CNA/Stephen Driscoll

– CNA/Stephen Driscoll

VATICAN CITY — Marking the feast of St. Joseph the Worker yesterday, Pope Francis said at his general audience this week that work should serve man and contribute to his dignity, rather than man serving his work.

“How many people worldwide are victims of this type of slavery, in which the person is at the service of his or her work, while work should offer a service to people so they may have dignity?” the Pope said May 1 in St. Peter’s Square.

He added a plea to “my brothers and sisters in faith and all men and women of good will for a decisive choice to combat trafficking in persons, which is a part of ‘slave labor.’”

Rather than a restricted view of “slave labor” focusing only on enslavement and human trafficking, the Pope said that any “work that enslaves” could be considered “slave labor.”

Work should instead respect the inherent worth of the human person, as Christ learned growing up from his legal father, St. Joseph.

“Jesus is born and lives in a family, in the Holy Family, learning the craft of carpenter from St. Joseph in his workshop in Nazareth, sharing with him the commitment, effort, satisfaction and also the difficulties of every day.”

Pope Francis said this is a reminder for us of the “dignity and importance” of labor. “Work is part of God's loving plan,” he said, and the Lord calls us to “cultivate and care for all the goods of creation,” thereby participating in the “work of creation.”

“Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Work, to use an image, 'anoints' us with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us similar to God, who has worked and still works, who always acts; it gives us the ability to maintain ourselves, our family, to contribute to the growth of our nation.”

The Holy Father then reflected on the unemployment afflicting so many, which he said is often due to “a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice.”

In light of this situation, he called for solidarity among all persons, for politicians to encourage employment out of care “for the dignity of the person,” and for people everywhere to maintain hope.

“St. Joseph also experienced moments of difficulty, but he never lost faith and was able to overcome them, in the certainty that God never abandons us,” he remarked.

Pope Francis exhorted young people to be committed to their daily duties — study, work, friendship and aid to others — reminding them that “your future also depends on how you live these precious years of your life.”

“Do not be afraid of commitment, of sacrifice” he told them, “and do not look with fear towards the future; keep your hope alive. There is always a light on the horizon.”

He concluded by reflecting that St. Joseph and Mary both focused their attention on Christ, and they are models for us.

“To listen to the Lord, we must learn to contemplate, feel his constant presence in our lives, and we must stop and converse with him, give him space in prayer,” he said. “Let us remember the Lord more in our daily life.”

Noting that May is dedicated to Our Lady, Pope Francis reminded his listeners that the Rosary and the Hail Mary lead us to contemplate the mysteries of Christ, “that is, to reflect on the key moments of his life, so that, as with Mary and St. Joseph, he is the center of our thoughts, of our attention and our actions.”

“It would be nice if, especially in this month of May, we could pray the Holy Rosary together in the family, with friends, in the parish or some prayer to Jesus and the Virgin Mary,” he suggested. “Praying together is a precious moment that further strengthens family life, friendship.”

Filed under catholic faith, laborem exercens, rerum novarum, true social justice, work