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Pope John XXIII’s 1960 message to workers

Feast of Saint Joseph at the parish of San Giuseppe al Trionfale in Rome

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 05/01/24

"Our heart loves to imagine the serene image of the Guardian of Jesus and Most Pure Spouse of the Blessed Virgin paternally bending over the labors and sorrows of each one, to bless, encourage, support, and comfort."

In 1960, on Sunday, May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Pope John XXIII broadcast a radio message to workers.

As it’s available at the Vatican web site only in Spanish and Italian, Aleteia decided to translate this message and adapt it for readability, as a greeting to our audience today.

Pope St. John XXIII reflected on the image of St. Joseph, attentive to each member of the faithful in all the places we work: in our homes, jobs, society, etc.

“How consoling it is to think that with his help every Christian family, experienced in work, can faithfully reflect the example and image of the Holy Family of Nazareth,” the Pope said.

He insists that work is “a noble mission,” a collaboration with “God the creator.” And he criticizes the ideologies of his day (that continue in some form in our own time!), which try to separate the worker from his great calling.

Here is the holy Pope’s message:


Beloved sons and daughters!

For the second time in the course of the liturgical year, the Church proposes to the faithful the veneration of her universal Patron.

And today St. Joseph is presented under his characteristic figure of a humble artisan, a worker.

It is therefore natural that our thoughts go to individual regions and cities, where everyday life takes place: to homes, schools, offices, stores, factories, workshops, laboratories, to all places sanctified by intellectual or manual labor, in the various and noble forms it takes, according to the strengths and abilities of each.

We think of the families of all of you who listen to us, especially those who open themselves with docility to the will of Providence, or who fearfully conceal a pain, an illness, a trial.

Over all these places, our heart loves to imagine the serene image of the Guardian of Jesus and Most Pure Spouse of the Blessed Virgin paternally bending over the labors and sorrows of each one, to bless, encourage, support, and comfort.


How consoling it is to think that with his help every Christian family, experienced in work, can faithfully reflect the example and image of the Holy Family of Nazareth, in which constant industriousness—even amid the difficulties of life—was united with the most ardent love of God, and with generous adaptation to his lovable will!

This is basically the meaning of today’s feast. By proposing the example of St. Joseph to all men, who find their condition of life marked by the law of work, the Church intends to call them back to the consideration of their great dignity, and to invite them to make their activities a powerful means of personal improvement, and of eternal merit.

For work is a noble mission. It is for man an intelligent and effective collaboration with God the Creator, from whom he has received the goods of the earth, to cultivate them and make them prosper. And whatever there is in it of toil and difficult achievement, is part of the redemptive plan of God. Having saved the world through the love and sorrows of his Only-Begotten Son, he makes human sufferings precious instruments of sanctification, when united with those of Christ.


How much light is shed on these truths by the example of Nazareth, where work is joyfully accepted as the fulfillment of divine will! And what greatness the silent and hidden figure of St. Joseph acquires because of the spirit with which he fulfills the mission entrusted to him by God! For man’s true dignity is not measured by the trappings of resounding achievements, but by inner dispositions of order and good will.

Beloved sons and daughters!

This splendor that comes from the heavenly model reveals to us the attitude and disposition which we should imprint on work, which is the weight and honor of every man’s life.

Unfortunately, erroneous ideologies exalting on the one hand unrestrained freedom, and on the other the suppression of personality, have sought to deprive the worker of his greatness. They reduce him to an instrument of struggle or abandon him to himself. They have sought to sow contention and discord, pitting the various categories of social life against each other.

There has even been an attempt to detach the masses of laborers from God, who alone is the protector and vindicator of the humble and from whom we have life, movement, and existence (Cf. Acts 17:28), as if the condition of workers should exempt them from the duty of knowing, honoring, and serving Him.

St Joseph

Our heart weeps when it considers that so many of our children, though honest and upright, have allowed themselves to be seduced by such theories. They have forgotten that in the Gospel, explained in the social documents of the Roman Pontificate, lies the birth of the solution to all their problems. There lies the eagerness for new reforms combined with respect for fundamental values.

Beloved sons and daughters, look confidently ahead on the paths that are open to you on your journey! The Church is counting on you to spread the doctrine and peace of Christ in the working world.

May your work always be for you a noble mission, of which God alone can be the inspiration and the reward. May true charity, mutual respect, a willingness to cooperate, and a family and fraternal atmosphere reign in the mutual relations of social life. This, according to the luminous suggestions of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, read at today’s Mass:

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:17,23-24).

St. Joseph angels Holy Family Nazareth

Workers know that the Church maternally accompanies them with lively and solicitous affection. She is especially close to those who perform hidden, unrewarding and burdensome work, which others perhaps do not know or do not esteem enough. She is close to those who do not yet have a stable occupation, and are exposed to anguished questions about the future of their growing family; close to those who have been sorely tried by illness or misfortune at work. For our part, we shall spare no occasion to call upon those who have responsibility of power or means, to work to ensure that ever better conditions of life and work are guaranteed to you, and especially that the right to stable and decent employment is assured to all.

And we firmly trust that the sufferings of workers will be understood, with ever more solicitous sensitivity; that their legitimate aspirations as free men, created in the image and likeness of God, will be spontaneously met; and that efforts will be made to alleviate their anxieties in a spirit of justice and charity, and of loyal cooperation in mutual respect of the corresponding rights and duties.

But even the most generous efforts would come to but little without divine help. Therefore we invite you to raise fervent supplications to the Lord on this day, asking that his protection, through the intercession of St. Joseph, may accompany and gladden your efforts and fulfill your desires.

Oh, St. Joseph, Custodian of Jesus, Most Chaste Spouse of Mary, you spent your life in perfect fulfillment of duty, sustaining by the work of your hands the Holy Family of Nazareth. Propitiously protect those who turn to you with confidence.

You know their aspirations, their anxieties, and their hopes: and they turn to you, for they know they find in you one who understands and protects them.

You too experienced trial, fatigue, and weariness. But even amidst the cares of material life, your soul, filled with the deepest peace, exulted with unspeakable joy because of your closeness to the Son of God, entrusted to you, and to Mary, his sweetest Mother. 

Grant that those you protect, too, may understand that they are not alone in their work. May they know how to discover Jesus beside them, welcome him with grace, and watch over him faithfully, as You have done.

And obtain that in every family, in every workshop, in every place of employment, wherever a Christian works, may all be sanctified in charity, in patience, in justice, and in the pursuit of good works, so that the gifts of heavenly predilection may descend abundantly.

Beloved sons and daughters!

With this prayer, We invoke upon you all the Lord’s continued assistance. And so that today’s feast may find in every heart a fervent correspondence of consensus and holy intentions, we lovingly greet you as individuals, the family of each of you, and your places of daily toil with a special, comforting Apostolic Blessing, so that in all and always the Lord’s will may be done.

EconomyPopeSaint JosephSocial Doctrine of the ChurchWork
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