Of Work and Communists Bearing Gifts

In his 1981 encyclical Laborem ExercensPope John Paul II defined work as ‘any activity of man’, contrary to our modern notion, so immersed in what we might call ‘productive’ labour.  Yet, as the Pope rightly sees it, the primary aspect of work is subjective, perfecting the one who is doing the work, and only secondarily objective, making something external to us of ‘value’. Hence, all of our works, prayers, joys, sufferings, recreation, relationships, eating, drinking, yes, the whole of it, can and should be offered to God, and should all be done virtuously, so that we become better in the process. Whatever you do, do all for the glory to God. If some activity makes us worse off, then to Hades with it. The worst aspect of socialism is not what it does to the economy (see Venezuela for a vivid example), but what it does to the worker or, rather, to those who refuse to work and have no incentive ever to do so, wasting away in an unemployed malaise, on a guaranteed income, or in some governmental sinecure.

This is the primary reason this feast was instantiated in 1955 by Pope Pius XII, as a substitute for the socialist ‘May Day’, or International Workers’ Day, of the communist creed, which values only the productive dimension of work, and, in their benighted minds, to hades with the unproductive worker.

So rejoice on this memorial of Saint Joseph the ‘worker’ whatever you are doing, for his own ‘work’ was far more than being a teknon (in the original Greek, a ‘builder’), but encompassed that was entailed in the broader and more universal sphere of being a husband and father  of the Holy Family, and just being, well, the whole of who Joseph was and was meant to be.  I look forward to meeting him, someday, Deo volente.

While on socialism, what is one to make of the rapprochement between the leaders of North and South Korea, holding their clasped hands high with bro-mantic enthusiasm? There is an old adage about being wary of Greeks bearing gifts, and I think that goes twice or more for blood-died-in-the-wool Communists like Jong-Un. There was a warning about ‘peace, peace’, when there is no peace

But one should have hope, I suppose, and take the hand that is offered, even if one’s radar says otherwise.

And a final economic note, one of those signs of inflation, and that a dollar ain’t what it used tho be, besides the threat of three-hundred-a-barrel and two dollar-a-litre gas: They, that is, those mysterious denizens of Hollywood who make inflated and unwatchable spectacles like Avengers, Infinity War (and it’s difficult to get bigger than infinity, although some have tried) are planning a re-boot of the campy 70’s show the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’, which is now what the top exec at Ontario Hydro gets as his base pay.  No, now a scant few decades on it is the ‘Six Billion Dollar Man’, with sequels, if any, to run into the Trillions or Quadrillions, one might suppose, just like Trudeau’s and Wynne’s budgets, two people who don’t seem to know much about the value of work.

Which brings us back to Saint Joseph, who did.

Pray for us, guardian of the Holy Family, and of the Church.