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Human Work

Catholic Way

Whistle While We Work?

© Third Millennium, LLC

By Deacon Keith A. Fournier


Why is it that, next to sleeping, we spend most of our time at work?



"2427 Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another.[209] Hence work is a duty: "If any one will not work, let him not eat."[210] Work honors the Creator's gifts and the talents received from him.

It can also be redemptive.

By enduring the hardship of work[211] in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish.[212] Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ. 2428 In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary. Work is for man, not man for work.[213]

Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community.

2460 The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and beneficiary. By means of his labor man participates in the work of creation. Work united to Christ can be redemptive."


It was a morning ritual.

"C'mon ... six o'clock", they would shout as they entered the dank and dingy storefront.

It was the summer of 1969 and I was working part time at a television repair shop with my father. The workers would laugh whenever they heard the chant, hiding near despair at having to put up with the "grind" of the workday. I remember one morning singing the song "Whistle While We Work" in response to the cry. I will not repeat the expletives that came as a response.

The attitude is not uncommon.

Think about it--we all know the acronym "T.G.I.F." and talk radio is filled with new names for the days of the week based upon their proximity to the weekend. After all we have been led to believe that when the weekend comes we can begin to really live ... right?

Many Christians are no different in this predominant attitude concerning work. Oh, they may hide it with religious sounding language or cover it over with a forced piety that makes the tedium seem bearable.

Some Christians have developed (or inherited) such a poor theology that they have lumped "work" as a part of the penalty for sin! This has added to the already crippling worldview that divides everything into categories such as "secular" and "religious" thereby minimizing the very meaning of salvation to a personal experience of being "saved" from the world.

Is this really what work is all about?


A Catholic understanding positions work in the broader context of two key Christian truths concerning the nature and mission of Jesus and those who now live "In Him." It brings meaning and value to all work.

The first is the foundational Christian doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ: God became a human person!

The dignity of this God become man gives dignity to all work. In fact, the end (in the philosophical sense of goal) of all work is the elevation and transformation of the human person.

The early Church Father Irenaeus, reflecting on the profound implications of the Incarnation, expressed it well: "Whatever was not assumed was not healed!" The entirety of our human experience was assumed by Jesus--yet without sin (see Hebrews 4:15).

The Son of God worked. Even as a child he learned from Joseph, the carpenter, and worked with His hands. Certainly he sweated, got dirty, and even experienced tedium at times, but He was in a relationship with His Heavenly Father that helped Him to go deeper. That is the same relationship that He brings us into through the waters of our Baptism.

Certainly, He who knew no sin was not suffering its punishment!

Though there is biblical support that the toil and drudgery or "sweat" of work is connected to the fracture in the order of the universe which was occasioned by sin (see Gen 3:19) work is not the punishment for sin. In fact, for the disciple, work can be redemptive.

Jesus viewed his entire life and mission as work. He was always doing the "work" of the One who sent Him (John 9:3-4). So should we.

The second key Christian truth that should affect our view of work is the foundational doctrine of redemption and salvation in Jesus Christ.

The early Christians would not embrace the personal pietism of many of their brethren today. They understood the deeper meaning of work. In fact, even their early worship became known as "liturgy" which literally meant the "work" of the Church. The world was not a place to be avoided--it was their workshop! They were there to bring all of its inhabitants to Baptism and inclusion in Christ and to prepare it for His return.

There is fullness to the redemption Jesus accomplished through His life, death and resurrection that continues to unfold in time. The Paschal mystery began a process of transformation--not only in His followers, but also in the very cosmos created through Him.

The work of His redemption continues through His Church--now placed in that creation. That work not only includes the fullness of salvation and transformation (including a resurrected body) for all the baptized who persevere in Him, but a new heaven and new earth in a transformed creation! The unfolding of all of this is a part of what St. Paul calls a "plan" and a "mystery", to bring all things together under heaven and on earth in Him (e.g. Eph 1: 9-10).

The letters to the early Christian communities (e.g. Ephesians, Romans, Colossians, Corinthians, etc.) reveal a Christian faith far beyond much of what bears that name in some Christian circles today.

The Christian worldview flowed from a decidedly Christian anthropology (understanding of the nature of man); an organic and dynamic ecclesiology (understanding of the nature and mission of the Church); and cosmology (understanding of what will come of the entire cosmos--the created order!) which brought a profound meaning to all human work.

This worldview was founded upon an understanding that the redemption accomplished in Jesus Christ was not only about "getting saved" and then "getting raptured" and escaping from this "big, bad" world. Rather, it is about a re-creation, in Him, of the entirety of creation--and the Church as a central part of the plan!


All things were created in Him (see Col 1:15-20), and are being re-created and redeemed in and through Him as His work continues through His Body, and are to be re-created in a new heaven and a new earth in the fullness of time. The Christian's "work" is to participate in that extraordinary plan. No matter what we are doing we are to "do it as unto the Lord" (see Col 3). Work is a true participation in the creative and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

That means all work--not just the "spiritual stuff." Remember, God Incarnate did not just do the "spiritual stuff." All human work not only sanctifies us, but also actually changes the world.

St. Paul captures the hope of all creation when in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans he reminds us that all of creation "groans" for the full revelation of the sons and daughters of God. We have a relationship to the entire created order now because we live in the Son, through whom and for whom, it was created. Our work continues the creative and redemptive work of the One who fashioned it all!

All of this is why we should whistle while we work!


Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, the founder and president of "Common Good", is a constitutional lawyer. Long active in political participation, Fournier was a founder of Catholic Alliance and served as its first President. He is a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist. He was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). He also served as an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes. Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues.


Common Good VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - President/Founder, 757 546-9580




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