Happy Labor Day!

In honor of Labor Day, I thought I’d include a quote from St. Josemaria Escriva on work, since he’s the saint with some of the finest writings on the subject. For example, in The Way, he writes, “Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary work and you will have sanctified it” (359). This notion runs throughout his works: the idea that those of us who aren’t called to anything specifically-Catholic are still specifically called to be Catholic in our ordinary work. And one way to do that is to be the best lawyer, best doctor, etc., we can be – for Christ. Doing this things for Him turns it into something more than simply labor.

There’s no way I can choose just one quote from him on work. So here are some of the finest of his meditations, from Chapter 15 of Furrow. Your challenge: choose your favorites (and please, feel free to vote in the comments):

  • 482: Work is man’s original vocation. It is a blessing from God, and those who consider it a punishment are sadly mistaken.
    The Lord, who is the best of fathers, placed t4he first man in Paradise ut operaretur, so that he would work.

  • 483: To study, to work: these are inescapable duties for all Christians. They are means of defending ourselves from the enemies of the Church and of attracting, with our professional prestige, so many souls who, being good, fight in isolation. They are most fundamental weapons for whoever wants to be an apostle in the middle of the world.

  • 485: Jesus’ thirty-three years!…: thirty were spent in silence and obscurity; in submission and work…

  • 489: Let me stress this point: it is in the simplicity of your ordinary work, in the monotonous details of each day, that you have to find the secret, which is hidden from so many, of something great and new: Love.

  • 495: You asked what you could offer the Lord. —I don’t have to think twice about the answer: offer the same things as before, but do them better, finishing them off with a loving touch that will lead you to think more about Him and less about yourself.

  • 496: Here is a mission for ordinary Christians which is heroic and will always be relevant to the present day: to carry out in a holy way all different kinds of occupations even those that might seem least promising.

  • 497: Let us work. Let us work a lot and work well, without forgetting that prayer is our best weapon. That is why I will never tire of repeating that we have to be contemplative souls in the middle of the world, who try to convert their work into prayer.

  • 500: When you started your ordinary work again, something like a groan of complaint escaped you: “It’s always the same!”
    And I told you: “Yes, it’s always the same. But that ordinary job —which is the same one your fellow workers do — has to be a constant prayer for you. It has the same lovable words, but a different tune each day.”
    It is very much our mission to transform the prose of this life into poetry, into heroic verse.

  • 502: You really do need to make an effort and put your shoulder to the wheel… For all that, you should put your professional interests in their place: they are only means to an end; they can never be regarded — in any way — as if they were the basic thing.
    How many of these forms of “professionalitis” make union with God impossible!

  • 517: Sanctifying one’s work is no fantastic dream, but the mission of every Christian — yours and mine.
    —That is what that lathe-worker had discovered, when he said: “I am overwhelmed with happiness when I think how true it is that while I am working at the lathe and singing — singing all the time, on the outside and on the inside — I can become a saint. How good God is!”

  • 518: Your work has become disagreeable, especially when you see how little your colleagues love God and at the same time flee from grace and the good services you want to render them.
    You have to try to make up for all that they leave out. You must give yourself to God in work too, as you have done up to now, and convert it into prayer that rises to Heaven for all mankind.
  • 522: As a student, you should dedicate yourself to your books with an apostolic spirit, and be convinced in your heart that one hour added to another already make up — even now! — a spiritual sacrifice offered to God and profitable for all mankind, your country and your soul.

  • 523: You have a warhorse called study. You resolve a thousand times to make good use of your time, yet you are distracted by the merest thing. Sometimes you get annoyed at yourself, because of your lack of will, even though you begin again every day.
    Have you tried offering up your study for specific apostolic intentions?
  • 527: I have seen many people live heroic lives for God without leaving their own place of work, and I have come to this conclusion: for a Catholic work is not just a matter of fulfilling a duty — it is to love: to excel oneself gladly in duty and in sacrifice.
  • 528: When you come to understand that ideal of fraternal work for Christ, you will feel better, more secure, and as happy as one can be in this world, which so many are bent on making distorted and bitter by following their own selfish aims alone.
  • 531: Place on your desk, in your room, in your wallet… a picture of Our Lady, and look at it when you begin your work, while you are doing it, and when you finish it. She will obtain, I assure you!, the strength for you to turn your task into a loving dialogue with God.

4 Comments

  1. Hmm.

    It’s one thing to say that we would have worked if unfallen — that Adam was a gardener before he fell is an old observation — but another to deny that the drudgery of work is a punishment for sin.

    All the more reason to sanctify it, but the Fall did change it.

  2. I agree completely. I don’t think St. Josemaria would disagree either. I think he’s just pointing out that same thing you said: that even in paradise, man was given work, and that while the drudgery of work is part of the Fall, the work itself is part of the paradisaical blessing of God.

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