Hi to all! As you may have noticed, my blog entries have been a little bit spotty over the past month. This is due to that fact that I took a vacation over two Mondays, and started a new clergy position as a high school teacher/campus minister, leaving parish ministry for the time being. And so, the weekly blog post slipped by the wayside. While it would be good to post even everyday, I simply do not have time to do that. Going forward, I will be posting my blog entries on Sundays, as opposed to Mondays, and the entries will still occur weekly. Thanks for your readership and prayers.
By my understanding, Labor Day is intended to be a day when we honor and reflect upon the meaning and value of our work. For many, it is the last day at the beach or at the amusement park before Fall begins in earnest. It is summer’s last hurrah of sorts. While this is indeed the case, it is important to take time to reflect on the importance of work, and its place in our lives. I wish to make 3 important points about work. These are borrowed from the Social encyclicals of the Church (Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XII and subsequent encyclicals of the Popes) and a wonderful old book by Josef Pieper entitled: Leisure, the Basis of Culture.
1. Work has meaning. So many of us go to work each day and view it as toil. To be sure, there is a lot of toil that happens each day at work – these are tasks that are burdensome, boring, even counter-productive. While it may not be possible to see a greater purpose in every single work task we perform each day (Exhibit A – unjamming the photocopier), our work goals are oriented to a greater good. When we work, we use our strengths and gifts to build something. We hope that our toil for a shared business enterprize will produce something of value to our neighbors. When they use (and pay for) the fruits of our labor, we are able to provide for the basic needs of ourselves and our families. When we buy that which is needed for our own prosperity, that in turn helps the prosperity of others. Value is created and culture progresses. Our business decisions, our working toil, our products made, our consumer choices, and our family lifestyles must be oriented towards God’s law – what is truly good and just. This is largely missing in our economic system today. We need to bring value and purpose back into our work. Because value and purpose are absent, work and its products become oppressive and alienating. This leads to shortages, unemployable people, consumer greed, workplace laziness and exploitation, etc.
2. Work is made for Man, and not Man for Work. We work so that we can live. Human values must be established by culture -by the things that we do when we are not working. Examples would be spending time with family and friends, reading, performing music and theater, prayer and worshipping at Church, going on nature hikes, going on vacation, taking a retreat, formal education, etc. These activities form the basis of culture. Pure work tasking without cultural foundations becomes a mindless machine. Cultivating culture is like laying tracks down in front of a locomotive. No matter how powerful the locomotive is, unless the tracks are laid down ahead, we are in for a wreck. We have to set the foundations of our lives correctly before we work. If we just work all the time, and spend no time on leisure and recreation, then our work slowly becomes absurd, and our culture begins to die from neglect. All work and no recreation is like fixing the mast on a ship while there are holes in the hull. Have you checked your hull for leaks lately? One of the worst consequeces of losing the Sunday observance is that we are losing our culture. Life is more than work tasks. A society of total work becomes a society of greed and poverty.
3. We are called to work in the Lord’s vineyard. We are called to work for God’s Kingdom. We need dedicated layman and women to spread the Gospel in the workplace. We need ethical business leaders and ethical labor leaders. We all need to be modest and responsible with our family households and our economic choices. We also need to be generous with our surpluses to those who truly need our help. Finally, we need Priests, Sisters, and Brothers. We need people who are willing to sacrifice their economic freedoms and place their labors in the hands of the Church. Most are called to work to make the world a more just and human place. Some are called exclusively to fill Heaven with Souls. May we be open to God’s calling us into His vineyard.
Finally, let us pray for all those out of work today, and for an advent of a prosperity which is oriented towards goodness and justice, and provides valuable things for a valuable and prosperous people, worldwide.