Russ Shaw writes for OSV Newsweekly in his 'Year of Faith' series on virtues:
people have mixed feelings about work. When speaking of their jobs,
it’s not uncommon for them to grouse about “the rat race” and “the
grind.” Yet many people — often, the very same ones — also take great
satisfaction from their work.
Both of those things, satisfaction
and frustration, are linked to a fundamental fact. For better or worse,
most of us draw much of our self-identity from work.
often new acquaintances, introducing themselves, start by naming their
jobs: “I’m a computer programmer,” “… an accountant,” “… a teacher,” “… a
housewife.” In many cases, it seems, identity equals work. Which is
why, incidentally, the high unemployment rate of recent years, along
with hurting people in the pocketbook, has for many been a blow to their
A kind of prayer
Less obvious perhaps, but no less important, work also occupies an important place in our spiritual lives.
et labora — “pray and work” — is a famous monastic motto. It’s a
beautiful thought, of course, but also somewhat questionable to the
extent it’s taken as suggesting a sharp distinction, a split, between
prayer and work. In the life of virtue, the two things go together and
merge into one, so that work itself is a kind of prayer.
broad sense, everyone has work to do. “Work” isn’t just paid employment,
a job. It includes volunteer work, housework, schoolwork, baby-sitting
for family and friends, helping out around the parish — the 1,001 useful
things that people do to be of service, build a better world and give
glory to God.
A number of individual good habits — virtues, that
is — are obviously relevant and important in regard to work. Those that
come immediately to mind include honesty, punctuality and perseverance.
Underlying them are basic beliefs and attitudes pertaining to work and
forming a kind of matrix within which the virtues can take hold and
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