Wednesday, 3 May 2017


Sometimes it’s better late than never.    The celebration of Joseph the Worker, 1st May, has come and gone, and yet I feel compelled to share with you one of the most beautiful events of the early days of my priesthood.

 I was a young   priest   ordained   just two years previously.  Once I had completed   my studies at Blackfriars Priory, Oxford, I, together with my twin brother, Isidore, was provided with tickets to sail to join our Dominican brethren in the small Caribbean island of Grenada. While our heads had been stuffed with  theology  we had been given no pastoral training.

Before long, out of necessity I was required to act as a supply-priest in the  country parish of Tivoli. The incumbent, having decided to have all his teeth extracted, was no use for preaching or anything else!  

1st  May was a public holiday in honour of  Labour  Day –  with the various Trade Unions proudly marching with their  banners and bright T-shirts.  Together they rallied at the Recreational Ground, there to be treated to fiery speeches, boisterous singing, light entertainment and good food.  

1st May was also the celebration of the recently created Feast of Joseph the Worker. In Oxford we made nothing of that feast. In Tivoli it was something else.  Parishioners,  young and old, were  encouraged to turn out for morning Mass  bringing with them  the tools with which they did their daily work. I carried the Holy Water Bucket for the blessing  of  a fine array of  items  together with their owners, the work itself for which they would be used  and, indeed, those who would benefit from their work.

Would that I had had a video camera to catch the grand march   around  the parish church pasture to the sound of drums, the striking of tin cans and  of bottles! One and all danced, pranced and sang hymns.

 Picture to yourselves these holy revelers in their bright clothes – carrying their rolling-pins and frying- pans,  felling-axes and cutlasses, saws, spades and forks, large paint- brushes and masons’ trowels; children with their crayons, their pens and exercise books.      
There was a woman with a small sewing- machine, another with crochet needle   and  a fine piece of  unfinished  work. Never will I forget the  woman with a tray of nuts, sweets, and biscuits finely balanced on her head as her body swayed to the beat of the drums! How can I omit the man with his donkey-cart loaded with fruit and  vegetables?  Add to this refreshments to meet every taste. Need I say more?

 This was a wonderful Induction Course for me about what it should mean for me  to be their priest. I had a glimpse into how they lived, their occupations, their skills,  how they supported themselves and their families.  I saw  this  community, any community, holding together by depending on each other’s skills, their willing availability to each other and and their trust-worthiness.

Surely St. Joseph would easily have fitted into such a village community - not only as a good  artisan but also a good man, a good neighbour, responsible provider for his own home and family. I picture Joseph respecting other people, their trades and occupations.  Surely he would have earned their respect. I also fancy seeing there  Mary and Jesus having a jolly good time!

This Feast of Joseph the Worker causes me to reflect how a most significant role of the Church is to affirm people in their ordinary workaday lives. In these they are to find their sanctity and salvation.

God is glorified by us and we ourselves are glorious in His sight when we  use the  skills and  opportunities He has given us in the interests of other people, and of course of ourselves. We are then a blessing and a boon rather than a burden to our families, our community, even to our nation.

Peter Clarke, O.P.

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