Happy Labor Day
by Fr. Jared
On this weekend we mark the unofficial end of summer. Families go on vacations, barbecue, make trips to the shore, and lounge by the pool. There is last minute back to school shopping, make new schedules, and return to the daily routine once again. Young people cringe in fear of new classes as parents experience a glimmer of hope as the kids return to school. Soon we will be bustling again at St. Philip’s with school children, religious formation, and meetings. Summer is an extra-ordinary time that allows us to break from the ordinary of our lives. It is a time for everyone to rest, even if it is only for a little bit of time. It is a time for us to break from the routine of ordinary life. And now we return to the ordinary…our work…our responsibilities. All of this is considered our labor. So what better way is there to mark the transition than to celebrate Labor Day?
Pope Francis has said, “Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person…it gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one’s family, to contribute to the growth of one’s own nation.” Each of us created by God is called to participate in his divine life here on earth. We are called to make visible He that is invisible. We are called to participate in his awesome work of creation by giving life and upholding the dignity of the human person. Work allows us to give life to others by providing a service to others, by supporting our families, and by stimulating our nation’s economy. We are called to labor in the vineyard of the Lord. Work is a fundamental component of man’s existence on earth (Laborem Exercens, 4).
“Work means any activity by man, whether manual or intellectual…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” (Laborem Exercens Introduction). All of us are able to work in one way or the other. Young people labor by tending to their responsibilities as students and sons and daughters. Adults labor by working honestly and hard at their occupations and being faithful spouses and loving parents and aunts and uncles. Retired people labor by giving their time and talent to those in need, especially their family. The work never ends! But that’s ok. It is important to continue to labor because of all the good that it brings about. Labor is a part of who we are as human persons. Without it we are lacking.
We often identify ourselves or others by what we do. “My brother is married to Jen the teacher.” My cousin is friends with Joe the fireman.” When we don’t have an occupation, a piece of our identity is missing. Many people suffer from unemployment. A piece of them is missing and a piece of our society is then missing. Work and dignity are related. Work should always bring about dignity. Whenever work brings about the opposite, it is no work at all. Sometimes there are some occupations or some employers who do not treat their workers with dignity by mistreating them or paying them unjust wages. This is wrong! Decent work, according to Pope Benedict, “means work that expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman in the context of their particular society: work that is freely chosen, effectively associating workers, both men and women, with the development of their community; work that enables the worker to be respected and free from any form of discrimination; work that makes it possible for families to meet their needs and provide schooling for children, without the children themselves being forced into labor; work that permits the workers to organize themselves freely, and to make their voices heard; work that leaves enough room for re-discovering one’s roots at a personal, familial and spiritual level; work that guarantees those who have retired a decent standard of living” (Caritas in veritate 63).
As we celebrate this Labor Day may we give thanks for the labor that he has entrusted to us. Pray for those who are unemployed. Pray that all of us may see our labor as blessing and a gift from God and for others. As we enter back into the ordinary of life, may we be faithful laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.