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Dear Reader

I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Friday, August 29, 2014

ORA ET LABORA

Now that many have returned to work after the long weekend our nation
celebrates as Labor Day let me consider the relationship of prayer and
work. The father of Western Monasticism is St. Benedict who wrote the
rule that would influence all religious communities in the west. His
motto was first "peace" followed by "ora et labora" which means prayer
and work. Prayer when done publicly for the sake of others is the root
of the Greek word liturgy. So prayer can be work, a service done for
others. Public service often excuses those who perform it from
attending church service especially when they dedicate their service
as a form of prayer.

The rule of St. Benedict was for monks. You might think this excused
those who seek God in the solitude of prayer from work. But clearly he
established prayer as no excuse from the dignity of work.

Now let's consider the expression "dignity of work".

It was my happy job at one time to work for the St. Vincent de Paul
Society in the 5 counties of San Francisco. A curious observation I
had that these charitable and loving men and women who gave of their
free time to serve the poor had real problems with young men who may
be homeless or looking for assistance. This lack of charity led me on
a quest to find if there wasn't something more to this strong and
contradictory response to need.

In my quest I came upon a book at the San Francisco Library which was
a report compiled by the U.S. Congress. Before the turn of the 20th
century Congress made a request of all the embassies around the world
to answer the question of how those countries dealt with beggars.
Asian and Catholic nations gave different but similar accounts of
charity without distinction. France was an exception among Catholic
nations but Germany and England had established rather harsh laws
against begging. England was the harshest of all. Now remember this is
before any social safety net was established through social services.
This led me to look deeper beyond culture. Learning this caused me to
want to understand the relationship between work, dignity, and
religion.

Consider then what most of us first think of when we search the bible
regarding work. Yes, we think of the curse of Adam and Eve as being
the source of toil and labor. Thus if one was "avoiding" the curse of
work, they needed to be punished for work is a punishment for sin.
Thus the work houses of England gave rise to the literature of Charles
Dickens.

However in ALL other nations reporting at that time in history work
was considered a blessing. If one has been blessed by God with work,
then sharing the blessings of work with those in need is sharing the
blessings of God. One country reported that begging was an "honorable"
profession.

So that leads us to the question: is work a blessing or a curse?

Depending on the answer it will form our attitude towards prayer,
charity, and even how we approach life.

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