The first day of May is “May Day” or “Labour Day” in many countries, but the date’s biggest significance in the Italian city-state of Vatican City is that it’s also the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.
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Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary and “adoptive father” of the Lord Jesus Christ, is well known to have been a carpenter who supported the holy family through his daily labours. Roman Catholic tradition hails him as a protector and as a model to all men who earn their own and their family’s provisions through work.
Joseph’s example is used as an occasion for the Roman Catholic church to highlight the concept of work, and the fact that the holy family worked for a living is seen as a point of fellowship with most of the world’s families.
The holy day of Saint Joseph the Worker is of relatively recent origin, having been instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1955, and it is still an “optional” memorial. On or near 1 May, the sitting Pope will likely give a speech in Saint Peter’s Square on the topic of Saint Joseph, the dignity of honest labour, and other similar subjects.