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Catholic Activity: Sanctifying Your Work



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Mary Reed Newland gives a defense of human work and its value in the eyes of God.


A great many people seem to think that work is a curse. If they know enough to offer it up, this makes it a prayer, but it makes a better prayer if they know it isn't a curse in the first place.

When God the Father made Adam, He put him in the Garden of Paradise "to dress it and keep it." It was not until after original sin that He said, "Cursed is the earth in thy work." Even then He didn't curse work. He was referring to the earth, whose harmony had been spoiled. Where formerly Adam could plant seeds and expect them to grow and bear fruit without ever poking a hoe at them, now he was going to have trouble. Stones which were meant (I suppose) to lie about and give glory to God, were going to sneak down into the soil and break his plow. Plants which had kept to their own, raising their young from seed and lifting their heads in praise, were going to scatter their seed in his wheat and corn and potatoes and Adam would have to pull them out. His work could once have been pure joy. It was now going to involve a struggle.

There is nothing very new about this. Many a work-weary parent has announced plaintively to his children: "Just wait till you grow up, and have to work for a living. Then you'll find out money doesn't grow on trees!"

Money doesn't grow on trees, and people have to work for it, but it is a mistake to think money is the only end of work. Even men who get past the point of needing money continue to need work. They retire at sixty-five and at sixty-five and a half they discover that they can't bear to be retired. There is a very good reason.

We are the children of God. Our Father is a creator and worker, and we "take after our Father." He made us the finest of all His visible creation, but a little less than the angels; He gave us the universe and made us lords over it. His work continues in the continuing miracle of life in all things, and we are the custodians on earth of all its life and the abundance of its treasures. With our own work, in imitation of our Father, we make things, do things, grow things, create things, always with the things He has given. This is the dignity of work. This is why work is holy. This is why, when we do it as well as we can and with the right intention, work gives great glory to God.

For me to presume to say anything new about work would be wild. But for mothers and fathers raising young, who fluctuate so rapidly between periods of liking and disliking work, it is helpful to return and consider some of the fundamentals with an eye to adapting them for children.

Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961