The Splendor of Work
By Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
Although Labor Day is a specifically secular celebration in the United States, the nature of work and its ramifications have irrefutable spiritual connotations. In his book, All You Who Labor: Work and the Sanctification of Daily Life, the late Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski of Poland unearthed these and presented them in clear, persuasive language.
Cardinal Wyszynski was the Primate of Poland for more than three decades. He is remembered for his indefatigable spirit in the face of Communism, his moving sermons and his close relationship to Karol Cardinal Wotjyla, better known to the world as Pope John Paul II.
All You Who Work, first published in Polish in 1946, was revised and released by Sophia Institute Press of Manchester, New Hampshire. Cardinal Wyszynski provided readers with many trenchant insights that have not lost their vigor in the nearly 50 years since they were first penned.
So much work is performed without any consideration of its authentic value. Most people suffer occasionally from a lack of perseverance in their work. The author gave some helpful counsel to deal with this: “Before any work, we have to make the decision to push on to the goal pointed out to us by reason.”
We also have to be vigilant when we work.
“Temptations arise,” noted the Cardinal, “the longing for new work, unfaithfulness in the work we have already undertaken or that has been entrusted to us, the desire for a change of occupation and this, sometimes, for some quite trivial reason.”
The Cardinal viewed human work as cooperation with the “First Worker”—God Himself. To labor, Cardinal Wyszynski said, is to demonstrate one’s love for the Creator who makes it possible.
As he asserted, “Labor brings one closer to creation, which is God’s work.”
Cardinal Wyszynski did not hesitate to tackle the real meaning of how we pray through our work. He contended that “work is recognition of God in his works. By recognition, love multiplies in us and that is why work is love.” The Cardinal believed that love and work “meet” in prayer.
He offered four “consequences” that occur when our work leads us to love God and our neighbors: we will be compelled to tell God how much we love Him, we will please Him by surrendering to His divine will, we will interiorly want to submit our lives totally to Him and we will share the same intention in our work with God.
The book is filled with thoughtful considerations of different aspects of work. The topics Cardinal Wyszynski explored included “mystery of redemption in work,” “interior life and excessive work,” “spiritual and social values of work,” “patience in work,” “virtue of longanimity in work,” “conscientiousness and diligence,” “silence in work,” “Sunday” and “joy in work.”
Like Pope John Paul’s Laborem Exercens (On the Meaning and Value of Work), All You who Labor is very readable and inspiring. Both the Holy Father and the Cardinal spared no effort in communicating to their readers that God has blessed His people with the ability to work and to participate in the redemptive “work” which occurred on Calvary.
For many, Labor Day is a day of rest, not work. That is appropriate. Yet, it can also be a time of reflection on the intrinsic goodness of work and how God intends for His sons and daughters to labor by the sweat of their brow.
Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski has captured the essence of work and demonstrated how the worker can grow in likeness to the First Worker, God Himself.
(Slightly adapted from an article appearing in the National Catholic Register. Used with permission.)
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