Sunday, May 1, 2016
Dignity of Work
Many people look upon work as a drag, as a chore, as something to be avoided. That is a natural feeling, especially if your job or work that you do is stressful and overwhelming at times. Everyone counts down the hours on Friday afternoons to 5:00, and they turn around on Sunday night and dread the coming of Monday.
But if it is man's lot in life to work, then there must be some other way of looking at it. There must be something intrinsically good about it, or rather something good that comes out of it. Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Pope Pius XII established this feast day in 1956 in response to the Communists degrading the human person and his role in the work place. (Among many other things).
Thus, our work does not define us. It may say something about us, and our response to work and how we do it does in a sense define us. But, work is always a means to an end. What is that end?
In the Litany of Saint Joseph, one of the verses is "Model of all who labour, pray for us." Why is St. Joseph a model for workers? Because he labored in the presence of Jesus and Mary and with Jesus and Mary. This is how we ought to work. In the company of our Lord, our Lady, and all the angels and saints. Our work is meant to be a means of sanctification. Everything that we do, especially our day-to-day work, when done for the love of God has infinite value.
There is a great dignity to work. There is the sense of accomplishment in completing our work, there is the possibility of enjoying the work we do, there is feeling of fulfilling our purpose when we are doing something that makes us better people. But most of all, no matter what the work is we are doing, we can find union with God through it.
Let us look to St. Joseph who is the "mirror of patience" and "solace of the afflicted" so that, if we find life wearisome and our work difficult, we may instead find patience and consolation in our sufferings for "he who perseveres to the end, he will be saved."
One final note, He Leadeth Me by Fr. Cisek is an extraordinary book. If you haven't read it, read it. In those pages, Father describes how he found God in the midst of work even in the Siberian prison camps, where he was sentenced to work because of being a priest. And Cisek fulfilled that work to the best of his ability. Why? To please the Communists? To better their regime? Far from it. Father Cisek found in that work a way to please God. To better God's kingdom by using every moment of those days to love Him better and serve as an example to others. Father describes through his own experiences how to find God's will in the everyday moments and the everyday sufferings, even when they are extraordinarily difficult.
Our work is a means to union with God, for whatever our work is, it has value when done for love of Him.
Sancte Joseph, Exemplar opificum, ora pro nobis!
Saint Joseph, Model of all who labor, pray for us!