Tag Archives: work

Church job or not, ultimately we have the same Employer

August 30, 2013

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Parish sanctuary renovation in progress. Work done directly for the Church or for a secular employer is all work for God.

Parish sanctuary renovation in progress. Work done directly for the Church or for a secular employer is all work done for God.

Renovation of my parish’s sanctuary began this week, and along with fellow parishioners I enjoy checking out the progress. As workers rebuild the altar, lay marble tile and complete other project tasks working directly under the sanctuary crucifix, they clearly are laboring for the Church.

But next month when these workers are laying tile at a car dealership or in a private home, will they still be working for God? What about the rest of us who hold jobs in secular professions, is the Lord in our work as much as He is in that of a priest or others working for the Church?

God and our work

Since Labor Day is about celebrating the economic and social contributions of workers, I thought it would be a good time to look at the role God plays in our work.

Regardless of whether our work is manual or intellectual, religious or secular, we engage our whole selves—body and spirit–in what we do, Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Laborem Exercens (On Human Work.)

There’s much more of a spiritual connection than we might think because ultimately, our work is really a sharing in the Creator’s work, Bl. John Paul wrote:

The word of God’s revelation is profoundly marked by the fundamental truth that man, created in the image of God, shares by his work in the activity of the Creator and that, within the limits of his own human capabilities, man in a sense continues to develop that activity, and perfects it as he advances further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation.

As Creator, God alone can bring something out of nothing, Bl. John Paul wrote in his Letter to Artists. “The craftsman, by contrast, uses something that already exists, to which he gives form and meaning.”

Creator and crafts-person

Even though we’re not all artists or craftspeople, we are co-creating in some way with God when we work. Bl. John Paul illustrates the relationship between Creator and crafts-person/worker by pointing out that the Polish word for craftsman, “Tworca” can be formed from the word for Creator, “Stworca”.

As we share in God’s work, we also need to share in His rest, as Genesis tells us He rested on the seventh day. And we should be aware that we’re participating in God’s activity even in our smallest ordinary tasks.

Work isn’t just about making and improving things, we also improve ourselves by working. We learn, develop our faculties and transcend ourselves, according to the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes. This growth is more important than the value of what we produce and the document goes on to say,

“Technical progress is of less value than advances towards greater justice, wider brotherhood, and a more humane social environment. Technical progress may supply the material for human advance but it is powerless to actualize it.” (35)

As a worker Himself, Jesus undoubtedly made technical improvements in his carpentry work. In his preaching he spoke frequently about ordinary jobs done by men and women. Bl. John Paul writes in Laborem Exercens that we unite with the Crucified Christ when we go through the toil of work and in a way collaborate with Him for human redemption.

A “new good” from our work

Whatever work we do, when we take on our work we accept a small part of the Cross and “accept in it the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted His Cross for us.” As a result, according to Bl. John Paul, a “new good” springs out of our work which is a kind of foreshadowing of heaven.

Sometimes after a long week it’s hard to imagine “new good” springing out of work. But when we consider the Source and object of our work, whether or not it’s directly for the Church, it’s easier to understand its spiritual and temporal value.

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St. Joseph the Worker the virtue of work

April 29, 2013

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StJoseph&Jesus_vertMay 1 is the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker.  Joseph was a carpenter (Mt 13:55) and an exemplary worker.  God wants each of us to be good workers.

Work is a good thing.  God made it so when God worked for six days when God created the world.  On the seventh day, God rested from all of the work he had done (Gen 2:2).

It is part of God’s master plan for the human race that people would work and be partners with the Creator in the ongoing work of creation.  When God placed the man in the garden, God told him to “care for it” (Gen 2:15).  God also said, “By the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat” (Gen 3:19).  Cain and Abel were workers, one a tiller of the soil, the other a keeper of the flocks (Gen 4:2).  Noah was a ship builder.

St. Joseph was a tremendous worker.  Modern Bible translations say that Joseph was a carpenter, but he most likely was a craftsman who worked in both wood and stone.  Joseph invested the talents and abilities that God gave to him (see Mt 25:14-17,19-23).  He delivered a valuable service to his customers and provided for his family.  Since he was a righteous man (Mt 1:19), it is presumed that he was industrious, that he gave an earnest and steady effort, and that he was diligent and conscientious, reliable and dependable, productive and efficient.  As we commemorate St. Joseph on May 1st, it is a time to take note of his positive attributes as a worker, and use these exceptional qualities as an inspiration and guide to help us be better workers ourselves.

Work provides resources to support one’s self and one’s family; contributes to the well-being of others and society; enables a person to share with others, particularly the needy; prevents unnecessary dependency; utilizes one’s unique skills and gifts; keeps a person constructively occupied; reduces gossiping and meddling in the affairs of others; and can be an avenue to personal holiness.

While work is a virtue, sloth is a vice and a capital sin.  The slothful person is lazy, has little ambition, gives little or no effort, is sluggish and apathetic, and avoids work.  Often laxity in work goes hand-in-hand with laxity in the spiritual life.  St. Paul has stern words for lazy Christians:  “If anyone [is] unwilling to work, neither should that one eat” (2 Thes 3:10).

Laziness is a sin against God’s love.  It is the failure to invest talents in a constructive way for the benefit of others and the glory of God.  St. Joseph honored God by being an industrious worker.  His memorial is a reminder that God wants each of us to be good workers.

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For the unemployed, here’s a powerful, prayerful guide from a Catholic who was there

November 7, 2011

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What was Timothy Mullner going to do without his vice-president’s title, a staff to direct and an expense account?

Terminated — by phone yet — the life-long Catholic turned to God to ask where God was calling him.

One of the answers was to write “A Spiritual Guide for the Unemployed.”

This is a book filled with realistic, down-to-earth, from-the-gut emotional releases that will likely resonate with most of the 9-plus percent of the U.S. population that is out of work. Yet it’s a prayerful, powerful work with touches of humor, anecdotes that will make you misty-eyed, and will probably have many of the unemployed among God’s children nodding their heads in agreement.

Easy to read and relate to

Mullner, who once was youth minister at St. Stephen in Anoka, Minn., writes about asking for God’s grace — “Help me be gracious” upon learning that his position was being eliminated. Among the thoughts and questions for reflection at the end of each chapter he suggests “Write a prayer or poem about ‘Hearing the news.” “Don’t think, just write,” he says.

There’s both prose and easy-to-read poetry — prayers in poem form, really — in this unique self-help book. Readers will find it full of understanding. Having been unemployed myself at one time, I could related to thoughts like, “I kept wondering what I could do and whom I could talk with to correct this ‘obvious’ error.”

There’s this great line in a prayer/poem to the Lord: “Your will be done, and quickly wouldn’t hurt.”

Advice and encouragement

Mullner’s unemployment period wasn’t over quickly, however. His 15 months without a job meant selling a house, moving in with friends, and taking a call from an adult son who says, “You’ll be OK, Dad.”

Now employed, Mullner advises, “Choose hope over fear and faith over despair.”

The book’s closing section is a useful “Top Ten List for Finding Your Way Through Unemployment.”

As beneficial as I think that will be, I can’t help but wonder if these words of Mullner’s may not be even more supportive — yet challenging — to those still looking for work: “God is waiting to see what you’ll do with the gifts you’ve been given.”

It’s beautiful writing, not unexpected from Mullner, who contributed to the Catholic Bulletin during his time in Anoka.

Thanks to Liguori for publishing something so helpful.

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