Richard Salbato - May 1, 2009


May 1, 2009 is the feast of St. Joseph, the Worker, and my favorite day of the year.  Everything good that ever happened in my life, happened on this day.  Before Saint Joseph started helping me, I had to learn that I was born with Dignity and this dignity was not given to me by other people or earned by myself. 

My dignity is not derived from my social standing, my achievements, my wealth, my talents, or any other way society might consider me useful. Rather, it is not derived at all; it is inherent.

I was born with dignity because I was born in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1: 26-27).  I cannot add anything to this dignity by my own work.  But by not understanding this dignity I can loose some of this dignity.  Other people can only take away my dignity but cannot add to it. 

All of Catholic Social Teaching begins and ends with the issue of human dignity. Because the focus of these teachings is on the human person and on human inter-relations, there can really be no other starting and ending point than human dignity.

Our dignity flows from our relationship with our Creator (and thus we are irreversibly related to one another), but if we truly believe that we share a relational bond then we are called to look deeper into how our actions affect each other's dignity.

If we “put-up” with one another, then we can all live peacefully. This is a very good civil response, which is both pragmatic and utilitarian; however, God calls us to COMPASSION and UNITY – this is far beyond merely "putting-up" with each other. It is a relationship of embrace so that we can live in a community of justice, peace, and love — a community where the dignity of each individual is held with esteem.

If we truly believe that we share a relational bond then we are called to look deeper into how our actions affect each other's dignity.

When I was very young I did not understand my own dignity, but I did know when people disrespected my dignity, and never let this happen.  Sometimes this was in violence and sometimes it resulted in great losses in my life.  No one forced me to do anything, not even the government.  One time I lost $1,800,000 in wealth because the government tried to get me to do what I knew was not right or even moral.   Another time I lost a $52,000.00 a year job because there was too much control of my personal life, and I would not allow that.  Once I walked away from a project I started and invested $1,400,000 because people wanted to force me to do what they wanted without considering what I wanted.  Again I once spent $1,400,000 to fight against people who were slandering me, even though I knew I could not get my money back. 

Throughout these years I did not know why I was so stubborn and even willing to give up years of success for my pride.  After I became very religious I looked into why I was so stubborn or even prideful. 

However, after years of studying Moral Theology I now realize that I was right, even if I did not know why.  Even when I got into real physical fights, I was right because the reason was always to protect others or myself, from bullies that wanted to force others to do what they did not want to do.

Even if what people want to force you to do something that is good, they have no right to force. You and I have free will and even God will not take away that free will by force or any other method.  God will ask, reason, even threaten the ramifications of my bad actions, but He will not force me to do what He wants of me.

God created the Virgin Mary without original sin, and She had no sin in Her lifetime.  She was only a creature of God, just like me, but God did not force Her to do anything.  In fact, God sent an angel to Her and asked Her if She would become the Mother of God.  He did not force Her, He asked Her. 

The first Kingdom of God on earth was nothing more than a small family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  But because God created a chain of authority, the least of these three people was the greatest in authority, and Joseph was the head of this family. 

If you dishonor God’s chain of authority, you dishonor the very dignity of man.  Before the world was created God knew if you were going to become a Pope, a President, a father, a mother, an owner of a company, and this was all in God’s plan.  “You would not have authority over me, unless that was given to you by my father.”   Dignity is not increased by having authority, but it does become harder to protect it, because now we not only have to demand the dignity of the person, but also the dignity of the God given office of authority. 

John Paul II did not want to become Pope, but once he was in the feet of Peter and the vicar of Christ on earth, he demanded that we not only respect him as a person, but more so the office of Pope. 

 If we allow people to disrespect our dignity as a person or our place in authority (even to keep the peace) we are allowing them to sin against God’s laws and His creation.  This is not love or prudence, because we are allowing them to sin. 

Another thing we must consider and this is very important.  When we disrespect someone and try to force them into doing something, instead of trying to convince them, and we do this in front of others, we teach them to do the same.  Now we are sinning twice. 

Christ and Mary never did anything to take away the dignity of Joseph, as a person or as a father, and I guess that is why this feast is so special to me.  Honor and dignity - demand it, give it, love it, and you will never regret it.  Do what is expedient and you will advance in this world but you will hate yourself.

Rick Salbato