Yesterday’s celebration of Labor Day got me thinking about workers and the many jobs they work, both menial and skilled, white and blue collar, so many of which are essential to the functioning of our society. Some of us receive accolades for the work we do, while others get waves from young children enamored by our vehicles or some other eye-catching aspect of our jobs. But many of us work dutifully, regardless of praise or recognition. We work as part of our daily lives. As I reflect upon work and workers, my mind turns to numerous quotes by St. Josemaria Escriva, patron saint of ordinary life and the founder of Opus Dei, which translates as “Work of God.”
“Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary work and you will have sanctified it.”
“Any job, no matter how hidden, no matter how insignificant, when offered to the Lord, is charged with the strength of God’s life!”
“In God’s service there are no unimportant posts: all are of great importance. The importance of the post depends on the spiritual level reached by the person filling it.”
“Work with cheerfulness, with peace, with presence of God. In this way you will also do your task with common sense. You will carry it through to the end. Though tiredness is beating you down, you will finish it off well; and your works will be pleasing to God.”
“Before God, no occupation is in itself great or small. Everything gains the value of the Love with which it is done.”
“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.”
“Sanctifying one’s work is no fantastic dream, but the mission of every Christian — yours and mine.”
“Work is part and parcel of man’s life on earth. It involves effort, weariness, exhaustion: signs of the suffering and struggle which accompany human existence and which point to the reality of sin and the need for redemption. But in itself work is not a penalty or a curse or a punishment: those who speak of it that way have not understood sacred Scripture properly.
It is time for us Christians to shout from the rooftops that work is a gift from God and that it makes no sense to classify men differently, according to their occupation, as if some jobs were nobler than others. Work, all work, bears witness to the dignity of man, to his dominion over creation. It is an opportunity to develop one’s personality. It is a bond of union with others, the way to support one’s family, a means of aiding in the improvement of the society in which we live and in the progress of all humanity.
For a Christian these horizons extend and grow wider. For work is a participation in the creative work of God. When he created man and blessed him, he said: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.” And, moreover, since Christ took it into his hands, work has become for us a redeemed and redemptive reality. Not only is it the background of man’s life, it is a means and path of holiness. It is something to be sanctified and something which sanctifies.”
“Work is born of love; it is a manifestation of love and is directed toward love. We see the hand of God, not only in the wonders of nature, but also in our experience of work and effort. Work thus becomes prayer and thanksgiving, because we know we are placed on earth by God, that we are loved by him and made heirs to his promises. We have been rightly told, “In eating, in drinking, in all that you do, do everything for God’s glory.”
“And so, as the motto of your work, I can give you this one: If you want to be useful, serve. For, in the first place, in order to do things properly, you must know how to do them. I cannot see the integrity of a person who does not strive to attain professional skills and to carry out properly the task entrusted to his care. It’s not enough to want to do good; we must know how to do it. And, if our desire is real, it will show itself in the effort we make to use the right methods, finishing things well, achieving human perfection.”
Let us sanctify our work in prayer, making it holy. And let us thank each other for the work we do, as all of our work is sacred. We’re never too old to wave and smile or wish someone a blessed day.