Looking for beauty in the workaday world Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Sep. 06, 2012 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

As I write this column, we come quickly upon the Labor Day Holiday. It is, in some ways, a rather bittersweet milestone for me each year, as it signals the soon-to-come end of the days of warmth and sun (although this year any break from the extreme heat is not unwelcome!), and before we know it, we’ll be in the midst of winter.

At the same time, with increasing speed each year, Thanksgiving seems to rush upon us after Labor Day, and then Christmas -- which is surely a blessed time.

Labor Day, however, allows us a breath and an opportunity to examine our efforts and, I would propose, to reapply ourselves to using our work -- no matter what it is -- to sanctifying the world around us. Each and every one of our labors, whether it be raising our children, working as a teacher, a salesperson, a lawyer, or a mechanic, should become a means by which we encounter God and witness to His concern for the world -- and that’s my first point.

Co-creators with God

In His providence, God has created men and women in such a way that we are able, with His Grace, not only to sustain our lives and provide for our simplest appetites, but also to be co-creators with Him, building up humanity and elevating our efforts -- however mundane they seem -- to be in harmony with His plan. The labors of men and women can be a sharing in the ecology of human nature, which God has planned from all time and has written into our hearts. Work can be a means of reminding us that we are separate from other creatures and that our destiny is heaven, and not simply this world.

As a side note, this transcendent purpose of work also makes it all the more important that we continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who are unemployed or underemployed. In addition to the reality that they may be struggling to provide for their basic needs, they are also being denied the opportunity to live out fully a part of what makes us uniquely human, by way of fruitful labor for the world.

So then, our work, if directed properly toward the end for which it exists, has the purpose of lifting up our labors and of lifting up the world around us. This doesn’t make hard work any less hard, but it lightens the load by raising each and every effort to a nobler purpose. It’s up to us though, to try each day, (and each moment -- especially when the work is stressful) to dedicate our work to the purposes for which God has intended them.

And it’s not always easy. When you’re in the middle of an early morning feeding of farm animals, or your tenth iteration of a project, your minds may not be drawn immediately to the nobler and ennobling purpose for which the work exists. But through our prayer, and our daily mindfulness, we can be aware of God’s plan and aim to participate in it, and that’s the second point.

Looking at the Year of Faith

Third, however, I want to take the opportunity to reflect in a very preliminary way upon our Church’s Year of Faith, which will begin in one month. In the coming months, I will continue to reflect upon the Year of Faith and the way that it can jump start the “New Evangelization.” I’ll have the opportunity to speak to our priests, to our directors of religious education and other parish leaders, and to each of you by way of these columns and homilies, but I’d like to mention briefly the general theme here, in relation to Labor Day.

For our Year of Faith I am proposing that we, as a diocesan family, consider the way in which true beauty can draw us into God’s presence and can be a means of our evangelization of the world.

In the very same way that what can be seen as mundane activity in terms of our work in this world can be lifted up and raised to a higher purpose, so too should all of creation lift our minds and hearts to the wonder of something far greater than ourselves, to God who is beauty itself.

And just as we can get lost in the workaday world, reducing our labor simply to “getting the job done,” or working for a paycheck, so too can the things around us be reduced to what is less than beautiful, to what satisfies our most basic appetites -- without attention to what points to something higher, something more beautiful.

Finding the ‘something more’

The Year of Faith can provide us with the opportunity to ask ourselves, and to propose the question to the world, “isn’t there something more?” And we’ll be looking for opportunities, as a Church, to offer examples of beauty and mystery to a world in need of beauty and mystery so as to catch the eye or the ear, and to stir the heart, leading us to something more.

As I said, in the months and the year ahead, I will reflect on these themes in much greater depth, but this Labor Day Holiday provides us with a short break, hopefully, and a chance to pause and rest and consider: For what do we labor? Isn’t there something more? And, how can we both find and provide examples of beauty in and to the world?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. May God bless each one of you! Praised be Jesus Christ!