Project Description

October 22, 2017

 

Every year the Pope offers prayer intentions for each month, and here is his prayer intention for October:  That all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.[1]  This is a good time to reflect on some of the Church’s teachings about work.

 

The Church has always taught that work is a good thing.  It does more than merely put food on the table; dignified work helps us fulfill our human potential and use our God-given gifts for the good of others.  Jesus Himself spent most of His life working with His hands, making everyday labor into something dignified and even holy.  Having a Christian attitude toward the work we do each day, both within and outside of the home, should help us to do it better, and even to be grateful for it.

 

This also means that Christians should have a special concern for all of those who lack sufficient work, i.e. the unemployed and the underemployed.  The U.S. Bishops’ Labor Day statement this year said that “a lack of work can be devastating to the human person, and it can undermine solidarity and destabilize society.[2]”  We should remember the unemployed frequently in our prayers and should be especially compassionate to people we see each day who are searching for work.

 

Additionally, the Christian respect for the dignity of work means we should have a special concern for those whose work demeans their human dignity rather than upholding it.  This includes those who labor under unsafe or difficult conditions; those who have to leave their home (or even their country) in order to find work; those who are exploited for their labor without receiving fair pay; women who suffer from wage disparity; and those who suffer from a hostile work environment due to harassment or discrimination.

 

Finally, our appreciation for the value of work means that we should be concerned with the bigger picture.  Pope Francis speaks repeatedly about the dangers of a “throw away culture”, in which people and things are tossed aside when they are no longer useful to us, and where material possessions and earthly pleasures are often valued more than people.  This calls all of us to examine the way that we participate in the economy.  It means that we reject the “idolatry of consumerism” and instead resolve to live more simply, keeping material things in their proper place.  It means we are conscious of social inequalities and attentive to those who are neglected by our economy.  And it means that we strive to treat each worker with dignity and with a visible respect for their work, whether it be at home, at our jobs, or simply when we run to the store.

 

We have many opportunities each day to put the economy in service of people, rather than the other way around.  So as we join the pope in praying for all workers and for the unemployed, let us recommit to doing a good job at our daily work, as well as treating all other workers with dignity and respect.

[1] http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/the-popes-monthly-intention.cfm

[2] http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/labor-day-statement-2017.cfm