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The Value of Labor

In the United States, on Monday, we will be celebrating Labor Day.  In celebrating Labor Day, we celebrate the achievements we have made through our work (The history of Labor Day goes back over 100 years.).

Some people look at work as a bad thing, something we do only to make money so we can buy the “stuff” we need and want.  Work is not something bad.  In fact, in work we can find fulfillment.  Work is not something we do just to make money.  Work is part of how we use the gifts we have been given to make the world a better place.  Even when the work we do seems to have nothing to do with God, when we work to make the world a better place, we are doing what God asks of us.  From the very beginning God has meant for us to work for in Genesis 2:15 we read, “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate, and care for it.”

The Church is concerned with the dignity of the human person.  So, we are concerned with how people are treated.  This includes their working conditions and the adequacy of the pay they receive.  Rerum Novarum is considered the first encyclical written dedicated to Catholic Social Teaching.  It was written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891.  Its English title is, On the Condition of Labor, signifies its focus.  The world was changing from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy.  So, it discusses how labor, business, and government need to interact.    

In Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII speaks of the rights of the worker.  In Laborum Exercens, Pope John Paul II speaks about the dignity of work, the worker, and the rights of labor.  In Economic Justice For All, the U.S. bishops write about issues of the U.S. economy.  The Church is very much concerned with “persons” so it has much to say about work.

How do you see the work you do as helping to make the world a better place?

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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