Labor Day

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September 6, 2021

God of justice, we pray for all workers, that they would receive fair compensation and treatment in their labor.”
~ Bread for the World

Twelve years passed between the first Labor Day parade (September 5, 1882) and the year which President Grover Cleveland signed the bill which established Labor Day as a federal holiday, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day. The holiday has its roots in the Industrial Revolution when American workers worked 12-hour days, seven-days a week, primarily in factories. During these years, riots and strikes brought to light the poor working conditions and unjust practices facing the American worker, so much so that by the time Congress legalized the holiday, workers’ rights were in the public view. Today, while there are periodic strikes where grievances are aired, the celebration of all workers on the first Monday in September is a highlight of everyone’s fall, from the factory worker to the school-teacher.

This is where we find ourselves today. The first Monday in September and an opportunity to celebrate people in all walks of life. Today we honor and celebrate the many forms of human work and what we would call the, “fruits of their labor.”  There is strong commentary written on the dignity of human work, from Papal Encyclicals to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In his Encyclical Letter, Laudato Sì, presented in Rome on May 24, 2015, on the Feast of Pentecost, Pope Francis wrote: “Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God…We were created with a vocation to work…Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development, and personal fulfillment.” (Laudato Sì, para. 127-128).

Pope Francis reminds us that work is more than just “doing; it is, above all, a mission. We collaborate with the creative work of God, when, through our work, we cultivate and preserve creation; we participate, in the Spirit of Jesus, in his redemptive mission, when by our activity we give sustenance to our families and respond to the needs of our neighbor.” We follow in the footsteps of Jesus, a humble carpenter. In this way, we are the hands of Christ, continuing to create and to do good.

It is equally important to realize that life is not just about work. “There are other human needs that we need to cultivate and consider, such as family, friends, and rest.”  It is important to remember that work must serve the human person.

While today we celebrate Labor Day, it is important, each week, to keep holy the Sabbath. There are few things we need to do more than pray, relax, and recreate with God, family, and friends.

Pope Francis on the dignity of work

This Labor Day let us remember the power of prayer over our work. Whether you are in a job you love, are facing difficulties in the workplace, or are experiencing job loss, God has a plan and purpose for this time in your life.

 And we pray:

Gracious and Loving God,

First, I want to say thank you for this day of rest. Help me to turn off distractions and find true sabbath through my relationship with you. Show me how to live a life that is focused on your purpose in my work and in my rest.

Work is not always easy, but I know you gave it to us to honor you. God help me to see work as your creation designed to give me purpose, fulfillment, and to be a light in the world. May my work matter not just to my business and company but to your Kingdom. Renew my strength in my workplace and help me to remember that I am to work with all my heart as for you!
In your name we pray,

Amen.

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