Almost every day we work. Work can take many forms and will look different from person to person. It is, however, a universal aspect of the human condition. We work. Throughout history, we have learned that work should be dignifying and the rights and dignity of the worker should be upheld. This is one of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Work should be dignifying because the worker is a subject with innate dignity—imaging his Creator. Through man’s identity and work he images God, the Creator.
In Laborem Exercens, St. John Paul II writes, “…[T]he primary basis of the value of work is man himself, who is its subject” (Laborem Exercens, 6). Work has value because man has value. It is primarily valuable in the subjective sense—relating to the subject, rather than the objective—relating to the object, or work particularly accomplished. Man, or the worker, is created in God’s image and likeness, and thus has innate dignity. Man is important. He is very good (Genesis 1:31). Work is valuable and dignifying because of the human person’s identity. Work should never contradict man’s dignity, but instead should be an extension of it. Man, as created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), is invited to mirror God. One of the ways human persons can do this is through receiving their work as a participation in creation.
Work is a sharing in the creative work of the Creator. In the beginning, there was nothing, “The earth was without form and void…” (Genesis 1:2). Before creation, the world was in chaos—it lacked order. Creation ordered the world, providing structure, forming the formless, and filling the voids. Man’s work is a participation in this creative work. As each human person works, they also are ordering a chaotic world. They form, fill, restore order, and have dominion over creation (Genesis 1:28).
Man works in a variety of ways every day. This work, however, is meant to be dignifying and valuable, because man has an innate dignity and worth. Man—being made in God’s image and likeness, is invited to participate in God’s creative work. The human person does this through their daily work, in which they restore order in a chaotic world.
Lord who created all things, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations; to work with thankfulness and joy, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from you; to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, never shrinking from weariness and trials; to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, keeping unceasingly before my eyes death and the account that I must give of time lost, talents unused, good omitted, and vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after the example of Saint Joseph. Such shall be my watch-word in life and in death. Amen.
Begin each work day this week with a prayer to sanctify your work.
Pray for your clients/co-workers/those who you will interact with at the beginning of the day.
How is your work a participation in creation?