A depiction of St. Joseph holding a carpenter’s square is seen in a stained-glass window in the chapel of St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, N.Y., in this 2020 photo. Work “anoints us” with dignity, Pope Francis once said in an address for the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
Labor Day: Reflecting on work and Christian spirituality
BY DEACON JAY W. VANHOOSIER, OFFICE OF FAITH FORMATION
There is a beautiful golf club in the community where I live. Because so many of its members live in houses on its perimeter, it’s not unusual to see people riding to and fro in their golf carts. For many, this is a classic image of retirement.
I have to say that this image does not attract me all that much. I have nothing against golf. I actually like to swing a club every now and then at the driving range. I also enjoy watching major golf tournaments on television. The skills exhibited by professional golfers are truly amazing to behold. It is not the game of golf; it is the idea of not working that lacks appeal to me.
Let me explain my thoughts. In the West, we have such an ambivalent relationship with work in modern-day life. While often deriving our identity from “what we do,” we also make retirement – the cessation of such work – a lifetime goal. Let me be clear – I do not begrudge anyone the space and relaxation that retirement affords. The opportunity to spend more time doing things one loves, as well as being with family and friends, is good for the heart and soul. Nevertheless, there is an intrinsic value to work, whether one is drawing a paycheck or not. Thus, the reason behind the emphasis on the “rights and dignity of the worker” that is one of the themes of Catholic Social Teaching.
As we move into Labor Day weekend, it is helpful to consider the important place that work has in Christian spirituality, as well as the value of striking a balance between work and rest. In her primer on the Benedictine Rule, author Jane Tomaine describes how it calls for “… a balance between physical activity and rest, work, and prayer, time alone and time together, work with the mind and work with the body” (St. Benedict’s Toolbox). This understanding makes retirement less a goal and more of a movement towards other kinds of work. All of it, in the end, works together for the greater glory of God and the service of our fellow human beings.
Dcn. Jay W. VanHoosier is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Owensboro. For more information visit owensborodiocese.org/faith-formation, email email@example.com or call (270) 852-8324.
Originally printed in the September 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.