“Whatever your task, put yourselves unto it, as done for the Lord” (Col. 3:23)
During the last several months, many things in our lives have been disrupted. Most regular routines and traditions have been altered, and if you are like me, you are searching for ways to find a rhythm day to day. Recently, I've been reflecting on the most basic elements in life. In part, because this is all I can control. But also because it is a good exercise in gratitude, which helps my overall outlook.
One basic element which I've reflected on is work. This is our means to make money and provide for our loved ones. I’ve been fortunate not to have faced much disruption with work during this time, but know many who experienced either a reduction of income or loss of job. Work is one of those things we sometimes take for granted, but when it is affected, our whole life is affected.
Regardless of how much one’s career has been altered, it can be good to reflect on the importance of work and how it relates to our faith. One thing we recognize is that work is more than a formal career outside the home. It also includes all the tasks and projects we do around the home. This is why we can see the value in staying home to care for children and educating them.
Also, it is estimated that the average person spends at least one-third of their entire life at work. This is so much of our time and energy. Shouldn’t we make the most of it? By this I don’t simply mean make as much money as possible, but rather find ways to have a deeper impact. I am in favor of making money just like the next person, but that alone will not give our life much meaning.
A famous adage within Catholicism is “ora et labora” (pray and work). This comes from St. Benedict and his religious order. It demonstrates how every task in daily life is essential, sanctifying work. This holistic vision regarding work gives significance to all the aspects of life. Also, the adage presents a synergistic relationship between work and prayer, where the two are complementary. With this view neither should be neglected.
The Catholic Faith has a rich tradition regarding the spirituality of work. It tells us that any legitimate activity we participate in can be for God’s glory. Therefore, we should view our work with a different perspective and look for ways to better honor our creator. Here are a few practical perspectives which build upon this vision and can impact our work and prayer immediately:
First, work has an inherent dignity. By recognizing the goodness of work, we can embrace it for reasons other than just increasing wealth and status. Whether it is our daily job or projects around the house, work does something good in us. It builds our character and makes us more responsible.
Second, our basic tasks are the path to sanctity. We don’t necessarily need to do anything other than what we already do at the office, in the marketplace, at home, etc. But how we do these things is always something we can focus on. We can pursue excellence by being more consistent in our tasks, valuing integrity, and helping those around us.
Third, persevere in prayer. Sometimes work feels fulfilling, other times it is a grind. Sometimes we get along with our co-workers, other times not so much. Sometimes we have job security, other times we face uncertainty. Regardless of these circumstances, we can only focus on what we can control and must leave the rest in God’s hands.
In the midst of these uncertain times let us continue to discern the ways God is asking us to rethink and reimagine work in our lives. Regardless of difficulties we may experience with work, it is fundamentally a gift from God. If we offer it for Him, we will be participating in His work of salvation. This is something we can always be grateful for, and with this perspective we will find purpose and refreshment.