Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. During a year in which many people are still unemployed or underemployed due to the pandemic, we can turn to St. Joseph for his intercession and guidance. And whether you work inside the home or outside the home, whether you are employed or retired, everyone is called to some form of work in building the Kingdom of God.
Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ stopped by Trending with Timmerie recently to discuss the dignity of work, and how we can find meaning in the messy and mundane aspects of our daily lives.
“Let’s face it, our work takes lots of different forms,” Fr. Matthew said. “For parents, that’s a lot of dirty work, it’s a lot of challenging, patient work. For office workers, there may be a lot of tedium and mundane work.”
No matter what your work looks like, Father Matthew pointed to the papal encyclical Laborem exercens, written by St. John Paul II, as a way to understand how we are to view our work as Catholics. In it, he writes about a concept that is crucial to understanding how to find meaning in work, whatever it might be.
Fr. Matthew explained, “He says that work is a sharing in the activity of the Creator. That means filing paperwork, it means changing diapers, it means picking fruit. All of these, when we see them as a participation in God the Creator, we can see there is value to that work and dignity in it.”
“That’s the essential reference point in answering the question: ‘What is the meaning and value of what I am doing?’ If I’m always seeing it as cooperation in the building up of the Kingdom and the activity of the Creator then I can find meaning, and that work can be meaningful.”
Building, caring, creating, bringing order to disorder – all of these are ways that we participate in the activity of the Creator. But often we are so focused on ‘what’ we are doing rather than looking at ‘why’ we are doing it.
“So often we’re measuring our success based on how many tasks we complete, or how productive and efficient we are,” Fr. Matthew pointed out. “And as much as I value productivity and efficiency, these can be helpful in accomplishing our goals, that’s not the measure of the dignity of our work.”
He said, “I think that’s the key to getting out of that trap of thinking, ‘Well, my life seems like just never-ending drudgery.’ But one of the problems is that we need to realize it’s not just about being productive, getting as much done as possible, or comparing how much I get done to others. Instead, it’s saying, am I living every moment to the best of my ability to build up the kingdom of God?”