Dignity of Work

News: Commentary
by Benjamin Starnes  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 9, 2021   

Pope Leo XIII provides spiritual insight to labor

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Work, money, bosses and co-workers touch everyone's life to one degree or another. Unless one is a monk living in a self-sufficient monastery that grows its own vegetables and raises its own livestock, then one must provide for one's material needs by either getting a job or owning a business.

Work, whether as a business owner or employee, can be drudgery. The monotony of day-to-day tasks — engaging little to none of the mind's divine capacity to know — can lead to an unwelcome sense of hopelessness and emptiness.

On the other hand, there are those who have discovered the sweet spot. They've found work that suits their personality, talents and desires. These are those happy few for whom "it's not work, but play." Despite challenges that every occupation provides, these people meet each morning with a sense of purpose and youthful anticipation.

They got to that point through sufficient and disciplined self-reflection and humility. And if they are faithful practicing Catholics, they can consider their work as a fitting application of their God-given talents to a world desperately in need of meaning.

They put in the time and effort to find out exactly what they should be doing, and it pays off. These people, should they persevere till the end, need not fear the Lord's rebuke to the slothful servant in the Gospel of St. Matthew who wasted his talent.

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But no matter how a man feels about his job, Pope Leo XIII, in his papal encyclical Rerum Novarum, shares Catholic truth that casts both the joys and travails of work in the proper theological perspective, the true perspective:

As regards bodily labor, even had man never fallen from the state of innocence, he would not have remained wholly idle; but that which would then have been his free choice and his delight became afterwards compulsory, and the painful expiation for his disobedience. "Cursed be the earth in thy work; in thy labor thou shalt eat of it all the days of thy life."

If the sons of Adam and Eve had never been afflicted by Original Sin, work would have always been pleasing with no drudgery involved. This was the original plan of God. But after sin, work became a sort of punishment for the purification of sins.

Both pain and pleasure, then, are tools God uses in the experience of work ... for our own sanctification.

So if someone struggles with meaningless work, he can take solace in the truth that the pain felt serves to draw him closer to God by cleansing iniquity.

And if someone delights in meaningful work, he can be grateful for the Lord's willingness to give a taste of pre-fallen man and possible foretaste of the experience in Heaven.

Both pain and pleasure, then, are tools God uses in the experience of work to purify and inspire mankind — enabling us to use every moment of pain or pleasure for our own sanctification.

So if you are in drudgery, take courage by knowing eventually the drudgery will end. And if you delight in your day-to-day occupations, give thanks. Find a way to help others find meaningful work and share in the blessing the Lord Jesus Christ has given you.

Learn more by watching The Download—Dignity of Work.

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