Labor Day reminds us that work is holy Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Sep. 03, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Bill Droel, a Labor Day historian, wrote that Labor Day began in 1882 when machinist Matthew Maguire and carpenter Peter Maguire organized a worker's parade in New York City.

Both were Catholic laymen who were active in the Knights of Labor, the first successful national union in our country. In 1894, Congress voted that Labor Day be a national holiday.

Fr. Sinclair Oubre, a Catholic priest involved in labor advocacy, wrote that Labor Day invites us to reflect on Catholic teaching about work's role in society and in God's plan for humanity. This is important because adults spend the majority of our waking hours during the week working, commuting to work, preparing for work, or resting from work.

Offer our work to God

Father Oubre stressed that workers owe both God and their employer a full day's work for a full day's wages. We can offer our work to God as a prayer.

As workers we are to work as best as we can because through our work, we can participate in God's ongoing creation. Our work can transform creation and touch others in ways that benefit humanity and reflect Christian values.

The worker who makes a crutch or crucifix or writes about poverty can feel good because his or her work benefits someone in need. Those who prepare meals, grow crops, or service cars can be proud because their quality work helps fellow human persons. The same is true of other work.

Supporting human dignity

Pope Francis has stated that work is fundamental to a person's dignity. It helps us to maintain ourselves and our family. It contributes to our country's growth and keeps us from being a burden on our neighbor and depending on others to support us.

It enables us to help those who are less fortunate. Jesus identified himself with our neighbor in need when he taught, "Whatever you did to one of these least brethren, you did to Me."

Scripture teaches that God made us stewards of creation; therefore, we should not pollute the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we live for personal gain.

On Labor Day 2014, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami issued a statement. He emphasized that many young adults throughout the country and the world face under-employment, high debts, and few job opportunities.

To help them, he encouraged support of policies and institutions "that create decent jobs, pay just wages, and support family formation and stability." There is a crucial connection between jobs at decent pay and a healthy family life.

Collaborating with Jesus

Work is necessary for health of body, mind, and spirit. One of life's greatest gifts is finding joy and satisfaction in our work. Occasionally, even the most meaningful job can have its crosses.

In No. 2427 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is stated, "By enduring the hardship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish."

Let us pray, "Loving God, we pray that Labor Day inspires us to praise and thank You through our work and Christ-like relationships with co-workers. We thank you for the health to work and provide food, clothing, and shelter for ourselves and our family as Joseph and Mary did for Jesus.

"Strengthen us to give an honest day's work, even when we don't feel like it and our energy is low. Teach us to see how our work benefits others. We pray that those who are looking for work find jobs that help them provide for themselves and family. May we enjoy a restful Labor Day that renews us and graces us to keep making our work holy. Amen!"


Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.