Work is often treated as a four letter word; something to be avoided. Understanding what the value of work is today is rather complex due to the ideology we’ve been subjected to since at least the 19th century as a result of industrialism, Communism and Socialism.
One of the many beautiful things John Paul II wrote about is the human person and how the person is meant to thrive, not just exist. His ideas about what and who the person is understood in what he taught about subjectivity, meaning that there is “the ground on which the dynamic relation, or rather inter-relation, between the person and the action is actualized. The failure to recognize man´s subjectivity would deprive us of the level on which can be grasped all the aspects of this interrelation.”
Ok, what does this mean? What does it mean “to fulfill oneself means to actualize, and in a way to bring to the proper fullness, that structure in man which is characteristic for him because of his personality and also because of his being somebody and not merely something; it is the structure of self-governance and self-possession”? In the pre-papal period of John Paul he wrote that “human actions once performed do not vanish without a trace: they leave their moral value….”
Soon after being elected to the Chair of Peter, John Paul published Redemptor Hominis, where he writes:
The man of today seems ever to be under threat from what he produces, that is to say from the result of the work of his hands and, even more so, of the work of his intellect and the tendencies of his will. All too soon, and often in an unforeseeable way, what this manifold activity of man yields is not only subjected to ‘alienation,’ in the sense that it is simply taken away from the person who produces it, but rather it turns against man himself, at least in part, through the indirect consequences of its effects returning on himself. It is or can be directed against him (RH, 44).
This is what today’s feast of Saint Joseph the work means for us: the alienation between person and work is eradicated through the grace of God working in the life Joseph. The sainted father of Jesus showed us how to cooperate with Divine Initiative. Saint Joseph shows us that, like bees, there is value and dignity in the work of our hands.