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Ten Years of TAC: Saint Joseph the Worker and Dad

(The American Catholic will observe its tenth anniversary in October.  We will be reposting some classic TAC posts of the past.  This post is from September 1, 2013.)

 

 

 

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

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The Real Sermon on the Docks

This seems appropriate for the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker.

Probably the most powerful sermon ever placed on film, Father Barry speaks of Christ and his crucifixion on the docks.  The best performance Karl Malden ever gave.  Elia Kazan’s masterpiece, On the Waterfront  (1954) was also his response to the criticism he received for naming names before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952.

 

 

The character of Father Barry was based on the actual work on the docks of a hardbitten Irish-Catholic Jesuit Priest, Father John Corridan.  From 1946-1957 he waged a one man crusade in New York against the gangsters who controlled the International Longshoreman’s Association.  One of the bosses who controlled the union was “Tough” Tony Anastasia,  a brother of Albert “The Madhatter” Anastasia, one of the former bosses of Murder, Inc.

In the face of these murderers, Father Corridan, son of a New York cop who had died when Corridan was nine, was completely fearless.  Teaching longshoremen Christian principles in labor\management relations at the Saint Francis Xavier Labor School, Father Corridan faced down a union thug sent to disrupt his class:  “If anything happens to the men I’m trying to help here, I’ll know who’s responsible, and I’ll personally see to it that they are broken throughout this port. They’ll pay and I’ll see that they pay.”

Father Corridan compiled information which eventually filled sixteen filing cabinets on the mobsters who controlled the ports and who made life miserable for honest longshoremen.  He shared this information freely with reporters, including Malcolm Johnson of the New York Sun who won a Pulitzer for his series in 1948 on “Crime on the Waterfront”.  Father Corridan realized the pressure that could be exerted on the mob and the crooked politicians who protected the mob by such stories, and he used every opportunity to expose them in the press.  He wrote scorching articles himself for America and other publications.  Gradually the public began to become aware of the problem of mob domination of the docks.

A turning point came in 1951 when a faction of the longshoremen rejected a union negotiated contract and went on a wildcat strike.  Father Corridan supported them to the hilt.  The strike shut down ports in New York and New Jersey for twenty-five days.  To refute a claim by the mob dominated union that the strikers were communists, Father Corridan held a public prayer service with the strikers.  He also successfully pressured Governor Dewey of New York to address the issue of mob control of the docks.

Father Barry in the movie had his sermon on the docks.  Father Corridan preached many of them and one of them had this memorable statement:  “I suppose some people would smirk at the thought of Christ in the shape-up. It is about as absurd as the fact that He carried carpenter’s tools in His hands and earned His bread by the sweat of His brow. As absurd as the fact that Christ redeemed all men irrespective of their race, color, or station in life. It can be absurd only to those of whom Christ has said, ‘Having eyes, they see not; and having ears, they hear not.’ Because they don’t want to see or hear. Christ also said, ‘If you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me.’ So Christ is in the shape-up.”

The shape up was the system by which the mob completely controlled which longshoremen would work and which would not.  Father Corridan succeeded in having the shape up banned by the time that he left the docks in 1957, and a New York\New Jersey commission was in place to regulate the harbors.

Father Corridan went on to teach economics at LeMoyne College in Syracuse , theology at Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City and was a hospital chaplain in Brooklyn until his death at 73 in 1984.  It is said of Father Corridan that he could swear like a longshoreman himself at the sight of injustice.  If true, then I imagine his language is pure in his final abode.

Saint Joseph the Worker and Communism

 

 

 

 

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.

George Santayana

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.

This Sacred Supreme Congregation has been asked:

1. whether it is lawful to join Communist Parties or to favour them;
2. whether it is lawful to publish, disseminate, or read books, periodicals, newspapers or leaflets which support the teaching or action of Communists, or to write in them;
3. whether the faithful who knowingly and freely perform the acts specified in questions 1 and 2 may be admitted to the Sacraments;
4. whether the faithful who profess the materialistic and anti-Christian doctrine of the Communists, and particularly those who defend or propagate this doctrine, contract ipso facto excommunication specially reserved to the Apostolic See as apostates from the Catholic faith.

The Most Eminent and Most Reverend Fathers entrusted with the supervision of matters concerning the safeguarding of Faith and morals, having previously heard the opinion of the Reverend Lords Consultors, decreed in the plenary session held on Tuesday (instead of Wednesday), June 28, 1949, that the answers should be as follows:

To 1. in the negative: because Communism is materialistic and anti-Christian; and the leaders of the Communists, although they sometimes profess in words that they do not oppose religion, do in fact show themselves, both in their teaching and in their actions, to be the enemies of God, of the true religion and of the Church of Christ;
to 2. in the negative: they are prohibited ipso iure (cf. Can. 1399 of the Codex Iuris Canonici);
to 3. in the negative, in accordance with the ordinary principles concerning the refusal of the Sacraments to those who are not disposed;
to 4. in the affirmative.

And the following Thursday, on the 30th day of the same month and year, Our Most Holy Lord Pius XII, Pope by the Divine Providence, in the ordinary audience, granted to the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Assessor of the Sacred Office, approved of the decision of the Most Eminent Fathers which had been reported to Him, and ordered the same to be promulgated officially in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Given at Rome, on July 1st, 1949.

Those who turn away from freedom inevitably turn away from God.  Something for us all to ponder on this day.

O glorious Joseph!  Who concealed your incomparable and regal dignity of custodian of Jesus and of the Virgin Mary under the humble appearance of a craftsman and provided for them with your work, protect with loving power your sons, especially entrusted to you.

You know their anxieties and sufferings, because you yourself experienced them at the side of Jesus and of His Mother.  Do not allow them, oppressed by so many worries, to forget the purpose for which they were created by God.  Do not allow the seeds of distrust to take hold of their immortal souls.  Remind all the workers that in the fields, in factories, in mines, and in scientific laboratories, they are not working, rejoicing, or suffering alone, but at their side is Jesus, with Mary, His Mother and ours, to sustain them, to dry the sweat of their brow, giving value to their toil.  Teach them to turn work into a very high instrument of sanctification as you did.  Amen.

Pope John XXIII

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Saint Joseph the Worker and Communism

sjg-hc4

 

 

 

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.

George Santayana

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

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Victims of Communism Day: Saint Joseph the Worker, Solzhenitsyn and a Sick West

st-joseph-the-worker

 

 

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

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A Chesterton Poem For Labor Day

Saint Joseph and Christ
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?
Continue Reading

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In Praise of a Carpenter

Saint Joseph the Worker and Christ

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

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Saint Joseph the Worker and Dad

Saint Joseph and Jesus

 

 

 

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

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Divini Redemtoris

“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.'”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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.

Continue Reading

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Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Stone

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.

Continue Reading