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The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1. Mary Pedersen ponders what Jesus learned about work from His foster father.

Now that they’ve moved into “this old house,” our daughter-in-law Maria expressed gratitude to my husband, Mike, for our son’s carpentry skills: “I’m so thankful you taught Erik. You would be proud of the new steps he built to the basement.” She mentioned how she hoped their son, Bobby James, would learn the tools of the trade.

I responded: “Of course, he will. He’ll naturally gain skills from working with Erik. That’s how Erik learned to build. And Mike learned from his father Fred, who was a carpenter by trade.” And then I said, “Fred reminded me of St. Joseph.” Fred was quiet, thoughtful, gentle, and protective of his family. Like St. Joseph, he taught lessons of life and faith while maneuvering a hammer, saw, plane, or chisel. 



I picture Jesus holding the board steady while Joseph sawed: “Remember, Jesus: measure twice, cut once.” I see Joseph taking up the chisel with caution: “Jesus, watch carefully. Be deliberate and steady. Chisel away as little as possible.” 

But more than carpentry skills, I imagine Joseph teaching Jesus about faith through their daily interactions. While placing pressure on the plane to create a smooth surface, I hear Joseph’s voice:

And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the uneven ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley. (Isaiah 40:4)


When building a sturdy table, Joseph turns to Jesus: “God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to build a firm foundation in us.”

Taking up tools for a simple birdhouse: “Jesus, God cares for even the smallest sparrow or the littlest child. God chose David, a young boy who slayed the giant Goliath, as the greatest king of Israel.” 

homemade birdhouses


When creating a cradle for a neighbor’s new baby, Joseph smiles while remembering Jesus’ birth: “Jesus, I’ll never forget the day you were born and all the angels rejoiced. Your mother’s beauty and grace continue to amaze me. You must honor her all the days of your life.” 

When crafting a gift for a neighbor whose son died, Joseph prays:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)


While pounding a nail into a piece of wood, Joseph whispers Isaiah’s prophecy:

But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed. (Isaiah 53:5)


nail pounded into piece of wood

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From the time of Joseph and Mary to now, apprenticeship serves as the most effective way of passing on the faith. #catholicmom

I imagine Joseph reciting Scripture and speaking of God’s presence while cutting, hammering, and sawing with Jesus. From the time of Joseph and Mary to now, apprenticeship serves as the most effective way of passing on the faith. I’m confident Bobby James, Erik’s young apprentice, will gain carpentry skills, learn to pray, and know the core of our faith from working closely with his dad. I can hear Erik, “Bobby, we tighten the bolt to keep the bench secure. And remember, Jesus keeps us safe whenever we listen to Him.”



Copyright 2021 Mary Pedersen
Images (from top): Gerard van Honthorst (c. 1620), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Canva Pro; Canva Pro; Pixabay (2017)