Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Today is the Feast Day of Saint Joseph the Worker. Pius XII instituted the feast in 1955 as a response to Communist May Day celebrations. In 1949 he issued the Decree Against Communism which excommunicated all Catholics collaborating with Communist organizations. Continue Reading
Today is the Feast Day of Saint Joseph the Worker and Victims of Communism Day. Pius XII instituted the feast in 1955 as an alternative to Communist inspired May Day celebrations and to give workers a saint to look to as they toiled to support their families.
This Victims of Communism Day I would like to recall Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s address at the Harvard Commencement on June 8, 1978. As perhaps the most well know Soviet dissident it was only to be expected that he would attack Communism and he did. What strikes me now however in the address are the pathologies of the West he listed in his speech, his analysis of them and how contemporary to our time they feel. The West in his day was about to experience a new, and and wholly unexpected, burst of good leadership under John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The good work that they accomplished has been to a large extent undone as of late and thus Solzhenitsyn’s critique of 37 years ago might be an editorial tomorrow:
A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
Political and intellectual functionaries exhibit this depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in their self-serving rationales as to how realistic, reasonable, and intellectually and even morally justified it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And the decline in courage, at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood, is ironically emphasized by occasional outbursts and inflexibility on the part of those same functionaries when dealing with weak governments and with countries that lack support, or with doomed currents which clearly cannot offer resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.
Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end? Continue Reading
King Alfred was but a meagre man,
Bright eyed, but lean and pale:
And swordless, with his harp and rags,
He seemed a beggar, such as lags
Looking for crusts and ale.
And the woman, with a woman’s eyes
Of pity at once and ire,
Said, when that she had glared a span,
“There is a cake for any man
If he will watch the fire.”
And Alfred, bowing heavily,
Sat down the fire to stir,
And even as the woman pitied him
So did he pity her.
Saying, “O great heart in the night,
O best cast forth for worst,
Twilight shall melt and morning stir,
And no kind thing shall come to her,
Till God shall turn the world over
And all the last are first.
“And well may God with the serving-folk
Cast in His dreadful lot;
Is not He too a servant,
And is not He forgot?
“For was not God my gardener
And silent like a slave;
That opened oaks on the uplands
Or thicket in graveyard gave?
“And was not God my armourer,
All patient and unpaid,
That sealed my skull as a helmet,
And ribs for hauberk made?
O Glorious St. Joseph, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God, to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties, to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death.
Pope Saint Pius X
Every Labor Day weekend two men always pop up in my mind: Saint Joseph the Worker and my Dad. When I was growing up I always associated Saint Joseph and my father. I thought of Saint Joseph as the strong, silent type. The Gospels recall no speeches or quotes of Saint Joseph, but it does remember his actions: the refusal to expose Mary publicly when he initially assumed that she had betrayed him, his leading his family into Egypt on the warning of the Angel, the years of Christ’s growth to manhood when Saint Joseph labored to support his family. That was my father, a man of actions and not words. My father was not a talkative man, he simply was always there when anything needed to be done. From going off each day to cut steel in the truck body plant where he worked, to repairing broken items around the house, to fixing a furnace for an old widow who couldn’t pay a professional to come to fix it and then asking my mom to buy the widow a sack of groceries because he saw she had no food in her house, to defending me from a child hood bully, I grew up under the protection and inspiration of my silent father. Continue Reading
Something for the weekend. Nothing for a Labor Day weekend seemed more appropriate than a Hymn to Saint Joseph by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles.
“Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this is happening.’ Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some sixty million people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat; ‘Men have forgotten God; That’s why all this happened.'”
Today is the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker, instituted by Pope Pius XII on May 1, 1955 as an alternative to the Communist May Day marches. Today is also the beatification of John Paul II. (I will have much more on Blessed John Paul II tomorrow.) Today is also the Victims of Communism Day. Hattip to Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy who began the campaign to make this day a day to remember the some one hundred million men, women and children murdered by Communist regimes and movements.
On Labor Day it is good to recall Saint Joseph the Worker. When God decided to partake in our humanity, He could have had anyone for His foster father, and He chose a humble carpenter, a man who worked with his hands. Why?
The Bible gives us no indication that Saint Joseph was intelligent, brave or resourceful. He may have been all these things, but the Bible does not tell us. We know that he was of the House of David, but judging from all indications in the Bible he lived in humble circumstances. What made Joseph stand out to God other than the fact of his heritage?
Kindness I think, simple human kindness. This was graphically demonstrated at the very beginning when Saint Joseph first is mentioned in the Gospel of Saint Matthew 1:18 and 19:
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.