Quite often, we tend to relegate holiness and prayer to priests and those in religious life. We know that all people are called to holiness, but when we spend our days in the office or tackling housework while caring for our children, we can slip into a mindset of, “I’m just a lay person, and I can’t spend my days in prayer like nuns, so I can’t be that holy.”
On the contrary, we can draw closer to God as we live out in the world, and we can glorify Him with our lives — and in our work.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Established by Pope Pius XII in 1955, this feast reminds us of the dignity of work. We think about St. Joseph, the humble, holy carpenter in Nazareth who protected and cared for Mary and Jesus. Looking to St. Joseph’s example, let us sanctify and consecrate our whole lives to God, including our work days. Here are three ways that we can try to achieve this goal:
1. Ask the saints for their intercession as you work.
The saints are great friends and intercessors, and it is very fruitful to ask them for their help as we go about our work. The numerous saints in the Church were involved in a variety of professions. Some, like St. Zita, were servants who did domestic work. Others, like St. Joseph, were involved in carpentry or manual labor. St. Albert the Great and St. Hildegard of Bingen were both scholars. Some saints, like St. Zelie Martin, ran businesses. There’s also St. Genesius, an actor who experienced a profound conversion onstage and was martyred during the reign of Diocletian. So, whether you’re trying to memorize lines for an upcoming production or go through piles of paperwork your business, there is most likely a saint who once went through a similar situation, and would be happy to intercede for you.
2. Offer up your tasks for specific intentions.
Not only can you offer your entire work day to God, but you can offer little moments up for specific intentions. St. Maria Faustina Kowalska mentions doing this in her Diary:
“This morning after completing my spiritual exercises, I began at once to crochet. I sensed a stillness in my heart; I sensed that Jesus was resting in it. That deep and sweet consciousness of God’s presence prompted me to say to the Lord, “O Most Holy Trinity dwelling in my heart, I beg You: grant the grace of conversion to as many souls as the [number of]stitches that I will make today with this crochet hook” (#961).”
So, if you’re going into a boring business meeting, dealing with horrible traffic during your commute, or faced with a massive pile of laundry that you need to wash, offer that duty to God for a specific intention.
3. Imitate God in your work and rest.
When we work, we imitate God, the Creator of all. In his encyclical, Laborem Exercens, Pope St. John Paul II discusses the relationships between God, mankind, and work. He also mentions the need to imitate God in both work and in rest. He notes:
“This description of creation, which we find in the very first chapter of the Book of Genesis, is also in a sense the first “gospel of work”. For it shows what the dignity of work consists of: it teaches that man ought to imitate God, his Creator, in working, because man alone has the unique characteristic of likeness to God. Man ought to imitate God both in working and also in resting, since God himself wished to present his own creative activity under the form of work and rest (#25).”
Keeping this in mind, we can plan our work projects so that we may hopefully rest on the Lord’s Day, just as God rested from His labors (Gen 2:2). This reminds us to rest from our work, and to also prioritize time with God, our families, and our communities.
All people are called to holiness, no matter what occupation each has. Instead of separating our “work lives” from our “spiritual lives,” we can instead use our work days to grow in holiness. There are far more ways to do this than I mentioned here; what are other good ways to sanctify our work?
Copyright 2017 AnneMarie Miller