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Brookline Carmel Bulletin †††††††††††††††††††††††

August 6, 1961

J M J T

Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)

 

More About Work

 

There are still other considerations, over and above what has already been said, which help us to appreciate the dignity and nobility of work.Every creature, we well know, participates in some way in the attributes of God.Each one resembles Him at least faintly.One of Godís outstanding attributes, or perfections, is His creative power.When we work we share in that power.Work is our human way of participating in the exalted perfection.

 

When God creates, He brings into existence what did not previously exist.He replaces nothing with something; He puts order, beauty, and goodness where before there was none.When we work, we do exactly the same thing.Where there was ugliness we restore beauty; where there was disorder, neatness; we make whole, sound, and, therefore, good whenever we repair what was defective.By means of work we are able to replace imperfection with perfection, or, at least, with something better.This is perhaps the most striking aspect of work.And so we see that it is good in itself and makes us like God.

 

If we look upon creation as Godís way of communicating Himself to nothingness (thatís what creature-hood is, nothingness sharing one or more of Godís perfections) then we would see that work is also manís way of communicating himself to the universe that surrounds him.Work provides the means by which he makes his mark in the world, of leaving some vestige of himself for posterity to know and admire.The greatest of a manís perfections, his intellectual and moral perfections reside in the soul.Well, no one of us has ever seen a soul, and so we cannot experience and appreciate directly the goodness and beauty virtue imparts of the soul.But by working, especially by exercising himself in the liberal arts, the fine arts, or the manual arts, a man can give concrete, tangible expression to his perfections.He can impose order and beauty that resides in his soul upon material things, viz., painting, poetry, and music.Work, therefore, satisfies one of the basic needs of the human heart, the need to communicate oneself.In other words, we cannot say we love unless we work, because the desire to communicate and share oneís perfections is one of the essential elements of the vital urging we call love.Let no one, then, despise work.

 

Before it slips our mind, let us take this opportunity to say that the noblest kind of work is that which is directed to the moral and spiritual formation of the young.Children represent the raw materials most perfectly capable of being molded to the attributes and perfections that we ourselves possess.Even more, the soul of a child is the Ďtabula rasaí, the soft, clean tablet upon which we are supposed to impress the image and the splendor of the living God.

 

The young offer us far greater promise of leaving our mark upon the world, of immortalizing our name than the works of the other arts and crafts.We can even help a youngster to surpass us intellectually and morally.This is probably the explanation of why parents are so anxious that their children should attain a dignity and a role in society that was, for some reason or circumstance, closed to themselves.To take a child and imbue his intellect with truth, to take his heart and adorn it with the virtues, these are works that merit the greatest esteem and reverence; and they are works that are denied to no one.Parents, teachers, priests, all are engaged in this most noble of works.Cloistered nuns, even, can engage in a similar work.Theirs is the task of forming the aspiring young Sisters of the community, shaping their souls till they acquire that beauty and orientation of soul which will make them so pleasing in the sight of Jesus, their Spouse.It is in doing this that the older nuns perpetuate themselves.

 

Not only is it possible, therefore, to be sanctified by work, it is necessary for a beginner in the spiritual life, to incorporate work into the program of asceticism he embraces.The late Pius XII, in his Apostolic Constitution ĎSponsa Christií, makes it clear that Women of Contemplative Orders (Nuns) must do some kind of work, work that will contribute to their own support.One implication is that without work, their efforts at sanctifying themselves in the Cloister will be abortive.

 

Work contributes to our sanctification, first of all, because it is in conformity with Godís Will.We have already seen in the Book of Genesis, that God wants us to work.But even without that revelation, it would be clear that He wills it; the obligation can be deduced from reason.God gave us an intellect and a will.Our intellect enables us to know and to criticize, to find fault.We know what things are like; we know what they should be.Our will gives us the capacity to make changes in the things around us.We have the power to set aright the things we find fault with, or at least, to set others to work to set them aright.So, having been given by God, the ability to recognize faults, and having the power to correct them, it stands to reason that God Wills that we work.Now it is doing Godís Will that makes us saints.

 

Work contributes to our sanctification by undoing the consequences of sin and evil.What is sin if not a serious breach of order?What is evil if not the absence of a good that should exist?By putting back the due order and goodness that is lacking, that is, by working, we conquer sin and evil.

 

Sin also works evil in our souls.It throws our natural human tendencies into gross disorder.A soul that is stained and defiled by evil affections and propensities cannot be admitted to the Vision of God, Who is subsistent Purity.Work helps to purge out the disorder and the ugliness, it restores the beauty and luster of putting all the innate and acquired drives and tendencies into perfect balance and harmony.This shows that work, by its very nature, has a penitential aspect.It is also the best and the safest kind of mortification.

 

At one point in His life, Jesus said:ĎMy Father works even until now, and I workí.(John 5, 17).We become saints when we resemble God and when we resemble Jesus, who shows us the Father.This is one other proof, that to resemble God perfectly, we are obliged to work.

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