Tag Archives: Labor Day

Labor Day

Labor Day is our day to sit back and reflect on the virtue and value of work. From the Christian perspective human work ought always be connected with Divine Work. Since the industrial revolution and the false ideologies of the 20th century, work has taken on a dark and weary existence where we are frustrated and weighed down; John Paul II would call this as part of the culture of death. But we know from Scripture and the teaching of the Church the darkness of secularism is not the final word on human labor, nor the force by which we live as adopted children of God: He does not intend work to be inhuman and devoid of Spirit, but a place where we co-create and are sanctified. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami published these words in his capacity as the head of the justice commission for the U.S. Bishops:

Pope Francis continues to rouse our consciences and challenge us to live more thoroughly Catholic lives. Laudato Si’ is, in large part, about something called “integral ecology,” an idea that our care for and relationships with one another deeply impact our care for the environment, and vice-versa. The Pope writes extensively about the importance of work in that context. “We were created with a vocation to work” (no. 128), and “the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others” (no. 141). Reminding us that “called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect,” he calls for a “sense of fraternity [that] excludes nothing and no one” (nos. 89-92).

Labor is one important way we honor our brothers and sisters in God’s universal human family. In the creation story, God gives us labor as a gateway into participation with Him in the ongoing unfolding of creation. Human labor, at its best, is a deeply holy thing that ought to honor our dignity as we help God “maintain the fabric of the world” (no. 124, citing Sir 38:34).

This Labor Day, the violation of human dignity is evident in exploited workers, trafficked women and children, and a broken immigration system that fails people and families desperate for decent work and a better life. How do we participate in this wounding of human dignity, through choices about the clothes we wear, food we eat, and things we buy–most of which is unaffordable to the very workers who make it? Do we give a thought to this truth, that for our wants to be met, economic realities are created that cause others to live in ways that we ourselves would not? How can we advance God’s work, in the words of the Psalmist, as he “secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, [and] sets captives free” (Ps 146:7)? These are difficult questions to ask, yet we must ask them.

Can we ask these questions of our situation? Can we ask these questions of ourselves? My friends, I hope our prayer today could be for the grace to restore our work and relationships to a place of honor by which we bless God.

Blessed Labor Day

“Work is a duty, because our Creator demanded it and because it maintains and develops our humanity. We must work out of regard for others, especially our own families, but also because of the society we belong to and in fact because of the whole of humanity.” Laborem exercens, 16


“The most profound motive for our work is this knowing that we share in creation. Learning the meaning of creation in our daily lives will help us to live holier lives. It will fill the world with the spirit of Christ, the spirit of justice, charity, and peace.” Laborem exercens, 25

St. John Paul II clearly orients our ideas to how we live and work, the sign of a great pastor of souls.

Labor Day 2013

truck-thumb-250x162-13063The Christian finds in human work a small part of the cross of Christ and accepts it in the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted the cross for us. In work, thanks to the light that penetrates us from the resurrection of Christ, we always find a glimmer of new life, of the new good, as if it were an announcement of “the new heavens and the new earth” in which man and the world participate precisely through the toil that goes with work.

Blessed John Paul II
Laborem exercens, 27

John Paul II’s Laborem exercens makes 30 years

John Paul II’s Laborem exercens (On Human Work; September 14, 1981), celebrates 30 years next week. Itself was a document written on the 90th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s landmark work Rerum Novarum. I think we ought to give more attention to the meaning of work and its connection with the work of the Creator. Too often we disparage work and its place in the daily experience of men and women. This morning at Lauds, by Providence, I read from the Apostle’s work that a person who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat. I could help thinking about the implication of this teaching. THence, today, is an appropriate to think about work and it’s meaning. 

Some paragraphs from LE:

workers in the field.jpeg

Through work man
must earn his daily bread and contribute to the continual advance of science
and technology and, above all, to elevating unceasingly the cultural and moral
level of the society within which he lives in community with those who belong
to the same family. And work means any activity by man, whether manual or
intellectual, whatever its nature or circumstances; it means any human activity
that can and must be recognized as work, in the midst of all the many
activities of which man is capable and to which he is predisposed by his very
nature, by virtue of humanity itself.
Man is made to be in the visible universe
an image and likeness of God himself
, and he is placed in it in order to subdue
the earth. From the beginning therefore he is called to work. Work is one of
the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose
activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable
of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence
on earth. Thus
work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of
a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its
interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature.

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Labor Day: “the Church has been and is on the side of the worker”

Pope Leo XIII small pic.jpgWhen Pope XIII published Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labour) in 1892, it was considered a brilliant piece of  thinking on the Church walking closely with the average man and woman because it demonstrated that in reality, once again, the Church situated herself in the reality of human existence: in the social, political and economic spheres with a keen recognition of human dignity; the protection of basic economic and political rights, including the right to a just wage and to organize associations or unions to defend just claims; the right to private property; the rights of labor over capital; the just organizations of society for the common good.


Pope Leo rejected not only a communistic philosophy but he did not ignore the basis of its appeal to workers and condemned the exploitative nature of the liberal-capitalist alternative. He wanted the Church on all levels to be engaged with the social order which slowly took shape in the later years of the 19th century and then in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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