Sunday, February 4, 2007

Work and Sanctity

1. A man who does not work cannot be a saint. But it is not enought to work alone, just as it is not enough to pray alone, in order to become holy. Either on its own is too little. Perfection consists in praying and working. This is how Jesus spent His Life. The Apostolic Constitution "Sponsa Christi" urges even the contemplative Orders to devote themselves to work. It assures them that work will prove no obstacle to their growth in perfection, but will be "a powerful and consistent exercising of all the virtues and the pledge of an effective combination of the contemplative and active life after the example of the Holy Family at Nazareth (A.A.S., 1951, p. 13.)" We must sanctify our work with prayer. The Benedictines have practised throughout the centuries their celebrated motto Ora et labora, "Pray and work." By means of it they transformed the world during the darkest centuries of the Church. They converted impenetrable forests into fertile plains. They set up centres of work and study which later became flourishing cities. They appeased the barbarians who were threatening to destroy civilisation. They built monasteries and cathedrals. Above all, they preached the Gospel to the people and bound them together in the brotherhood of Christian charity. This is an illustration of what can be accomplished by work united with prayer. It produces holiness in the individual and through him in human society.

2. Everything we do, whether we are working with our hands, or with our minds, can and should be made holy by offering it to God. The peasant who toils in the heat of the sun or in the hardship of winter to wring a living from the hard soil, the workman who strikes the anvil with his hammer, or who extracts coal from the bowels of the earth or who controls some complicated piece of machinery in order to produce the press, electricity, or other services for men; all these can and should raise their minds frequently in adoration and thanksgiving to those who are engaged in intellectual work, dedicated to the study of the different branches of knowledge, human and divine, should remember that light comes from Heaven, not from the earth. They should, therefore, ask in their prayers for God's harm than good. It fills the soul with pride and dries up the heart. It can lead, as experience has shown us, to the destruction instead of the well-being of the human race. Students and scientists must be investigators of the mysteries of God as well as those of the universe. Only in God will they find an answer to the problems of the spirit.

There are some who work both with their minds and hearts. These include priests, teachers, doctors, good sisters sacrificing their lives in the hospitals, the mothers of families, and many others. Their work will be especially frutiful if it is united in a spirit of faith and charity with their prayers.

3. Everybody imagines that there are innumerable problems in the world to be solved. As a matter of fact, there are, but they can be all reduced to one in the end, the problem of sanctity. If we are all saints, or at any rate sincerely trying to put into practice the maxims of the Gospel, all the other questions would be answered. For a Christian, work should mean the employment of his bodily and spiritual energies for the glory of God, for his own benefit and for the common good. He can work to earn his daily bread, for personal satisfaction, for the advancement of science, art or society. These are all good motives. But the Christian must also have a higher motive. Even as he is living for eternity, so must he work for eternity. He must realise that God will admit us to Heaven if we have worked for love of Him and in union with Him. Like everything else in our lives, work must be raised to a supernatural level. We must work patiently because it is our duty and the will of God. In this way we shall make use of the talents which God has given us, not only for our own benefit but also as a means of helping so many of our fellowmen who are dependent on us. Then work will be something else besides an expenditure of energy and an atonement for our sins. It will be a pleasure, because we shall know that God is counting every moment of sacrifice which we are willingly enduring for His sake.