Today Americans celebrate Labor Day, a day that honors the social and economic achievements of American workers. And while the day is more commonly recognized as the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day was first celebrated by labor unions to celebrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”
Recently on Go Ask Your Father™, Msgr. Stuart Swetland discussed the Solidarity labor movement, and what Catholic Social Teaching has to tell us about the virtue of solidarity.
“Solidarity is both a virtue and that desire to live in harmony with one another – sometimes called social friendship or social charity,” Msgr. Swetland explained. “It also was the name of the political party and the political movement associated with Lech Wałęsa, the first president of a free Poland after the fall of Communism. That is no coincidence. It was the name taken by the striking dockworkers against Communism, because of the the influence and the teachings of St. John Paul II.”
Just as the Solidarity labor movement enabled massive change by working as one, Msgr. Swetland pointed out that Catholics are called to live in solidarity and communion with one another, for the common good of all.
“I think it’s very important right now, especially in the United States of America where Catholics make up such a large portion of the population, that we model this solidarity, this union, of social charity and social friendship,” he said.
“Our parishes should be models of it, our diocese, our church, as best we can should show that kind of solidarity and love. Really knowing each other, loving one another, serving one another, and in that way serving the greater community.”
Msgr. Swetland pointed to a recent Wednesday audience in which Pope Francis spoke of the Acts of the Apostles, and the solidarity of the early Christians. Pope Francis said during his address, “Solidarity between Christians is essential in building up God’s family. And this fraternity is nourished by receiving the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.”
Msgr. Swetland explained that in our communion with Christ we become one with our fellow Catholics as the Body of Christ. And this necessitates the unity, friendship, and charity that solidarity calls us to. He said, “Solidarity is grounded not in how we feel about one another, but is grounded in the unity of the Eucharist, which is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we say Amen we’re affirming our belief in Christ’s Real Presence. We’re saying Amen that I’m in harmony and union with all others in Christ. That’s why Jesus says if we have something against our brother that we are to go and be united to him, reconciled to him before we receive at the altar.”
Pope Francis spoke of how our love of neighbor and growth in solidarity comes from our love and closeness to the Lord. Thus, the more love we have for Jesus the more love we should have for our neighbor. And working together in solidarity, that love can set the world ablaze with the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Lord.
On the solidarity of the early Christians, Pope Francis said, “Here we see that strong relationship with Jesus also establishes bonds of love among the members of His body, the Church. Participating in the Eucharist led the early Christians to hold their goods in common, which enabled them to take care of the poorest of their brothers and sisters. Living for eternal charity, sincerely, we too can maintain the flame of communion and express our identity as Christian disciples as we strive to be faithful to this vocation. May the Lord pour out His Spirit of tenderness upon us and so strengthen our solidarity, especially with those in need.”
Listen to the full conversation below: