The spirituality of work

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we turn our thoughts to what the thousands of its victims were doing when struck down. They were at work. Like millions of us, they were at jobs that supported them and their families and that contributed, in countless ways, to the well-being of people throughout the world. They, like us, were doing God's work on earth.

We don't often think of our jobs as God's work. We tend to view earning a living as a worldly pursuit. The clergy and religious have spiritual jobs. The rest of us have, well, just jobs. Yet God is everywhere and, whether we realize it or not, our spiritual selves are actively engaged on the job in both the work we do and the job-related relationships we form.

It is easier to see the spirituality of work in some careers than others. We recognize how health professionals serve others but don't garbage collectors who, by removing decaying waste, also contribute to preserving our health? Farmers grow food but aren't migrant workers who harvest much of it and the clerks who stock shelves and serve us from behind the counter or check-out lane also involved in helping to feed the world? Even those who, day after day, process paperwork are part of a work team whose efforts ultimately produce products or services needed by others.

There is holiness in everyone's work tasks. If each of us takes time to meditate on how our job specifically serves others, we will do a better job because we will be focused on others, not ourselves. As St. Therese of Lisieux pointed out, the path to holiness lies in doing the little, ordinary tasks of life with reverence. Recognizing the connection between our work and those we serve can also help us gather the courage to speak up when management policies are headed in unethical or unjust directions.

The other side of the spirituality of work can be found in the relationships we have with co-workers. Because God lives within us, God is present in every relationship, whether or not we are consciously aware of it. Spending so much time together, co-workers share the ups and downs of one another's lives. They celebrate joyful events, such as weddings and births, and offer support in times of need. Even casual relationships can escalate to supportive friendship when a co-worker must deal with illness or death in their life.

The more we are able to see God in our relationships with co-workers, the easier it can be for us to overcome and dispose of un-Christian behaviors, such as gossip and bickering, that occur when people rub elbows day in and day out.

One way we can give tribute to the thousands of men and women who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is to dedicate ourselves to doing God's work at our jobs. In doing so, we will be spreading God's love in this world. In the end, it is God's love that will conquer evil.

Stewardship: The gift of self

Last year our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, expressed his wish that "the occasion of the Great Jubilee will ensure that 'an ever greater number of people may fully find themselves through a sincere gift of self.' This sincere gift of self is the very life of a steward. It requires that we give everything we are and have back to the Lord for his use. In this way, we allow him to do his will -and not our own - to build up the kingdom according to his plan for the whole world."

Stewardship professes the lordship of Jesus Christ and us as his servants. It remains strong even in times of uncertainty. It regards everything as a gift entrusted to us for a time, and seeks to make a return to the Lord. The gift we give is not an absolute amount, but a choice portion, the first fruits of whatever we have received. In both good and bad economic times we remain faithful in our discipleship by giving as the Lord has given us.

The inspiring examples of generous giving throughout our country these recent days - the extraordinary support of our schools and teachers highlighted in last week's Review - challenge us to renew our trust in the Lord and make a generous commitment of time, talent and treasure.

God is with us

Last Sunday's Mass of supplication at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York was punctuated by sustained bursts of applause and standing ovations. Just a few days after, and at the epicenter of this tragedy, we could watch Cardinal Edward M. Egan direct the congregation's attention to the heroic charity of rescuers, firemen, police, the mayor and governor, medical personnel and others. All present gave thanks.

It is not to suggest that the calamity is over or even that healing is under way. The Mass's "Lord Have Mercy" was equally heartfelt. The eucharistic sacrifice will be needed in every age as the necessary action that unites us with the innocent Christ crucified.

There is much suffering ahead. But the ready applause and the patriotic love evident in the display of flags throughout the land is testimony to undying gratitude and indomitable faith: a pledge of eternal values in the midst of human frailty. Even before there are better security measures in place, we remain protected by an interior strength. Even before we find words to explain these events to our children, we know that God is with us. "Nothing - neither life nor death - can separate us from the love of Christ."

Speaking out against injustice

Among the many incongruities in the culture of death is the institutionalization of death-dealing policies in some of our health care facilities that are supposed to serve life. One example of this type policy is the use of an abortion procedure in which labor is induced prematurely when doctors have concluded that the child the mother is carrying has a serious genetic defect. In some cases when the procedure is used the newborn infants continue to live even after the induced labor and are left to die, usually within minutes or hours.

The procedure prompted congressional hearings about proposed legislation that would give "born-alive" infants a right to life and require life-saving treatment. Several years ago, hospital policies permitting this procedure made it so openly available in cases where the child had the condition known as anencephaly, the the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee issued a statement declaring it immoral.

Not all Christian hospitals follow moral guidelines similar to those expressed by the doctrine committee statement. Christ Hospital, located outside Chicago and affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is one such institution. According to news reports, the hospital performs 15 to 20 of these abortions per year.

In 1999, Jill Stanek, a nurse at Christ Hospital, became outspoken in her opposition to the policy. Stanek was impelled to act after she noticed a co-worker carrying an aborted fetus to a utility room to leave it to die. She began to speak against the policy and testified twice before a congressional committee. Two weeks ago she was fired after a local news story told of her efforts against the hospital's policy. A hospital spokesman said the article had nothing to do with the firing. However, Stanek had been disciplined already for contributing to a "negative working environment because of her pro-life activism."

The case of Jill Stanek highlights the difficult situation that all pro-life health care professionals can encounter in the workplace when the culture and the law have eliminated, not only the child's right to life, but the right to speak out against these injustices. If nurses in Christian hospitals become subjected to discipline or firing over their pro-life views, to whom shall they go? Ultimately the loss of caregivers like Stanek means the loss of morally good health care by qualified professionals.

That dreadful day

Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, will be remembered in the history of the United States as a day of great distress, a day of the wrath of man against man, a day of mourning, a day of frantic searching, a day of heroic assistance, a day of fervent prayer. September 11, 2001, is a day that marks the beginning of a long and painful national journey.

Archbishop Justin Rigali has professed "our hope in the living God," and led us in a prayer for "God's mercy on the victims and His strength and consolation for their families."

From the age-old tradition of the Church comes the sequence prayer from Masses for the Dead which bespeaks the awesome prospect of human death: "Dies irae, dies illa." "Day of wrath, that dreadful day, shall heaven and earth in ashes lay." Later lines remind us of the mercy we now implore: "O King of dreadful majesty! grace and mercy You grant free; O Fount of Kindness, save me!"

The Archbishop exhorts us to "beseech God to grant peace among nations and to remove from human hearts all sentiments of hatred." As the fear and sorrow of these days can be borne only because of the promise of Christ's resurrection, so may the evil of such actions not succeed in crushing us and reshaping the greatness of our beloved country according to a similar hatred.

Catholic Communication Campaign

This weekend parishes throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis will take up a special collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign. The annual collection supports important evangelization efforts in the media, both locally and nationally.

Earlier this year, Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore discussed the unique role of the media in modern society and the important need for the Church both to work with the media and to develop and strengthen electronic communications initiatives. "To neglect the mass media is not simply to be deficient in the tools one employs in the service of the Gospel," the Cardinal noted, "it is to risk rendering the Gospel unintelligible to a significant portion of our human family."

We are called to do what is possible to make effective use of the tools of modern communications. Our proper use of the means of social communications directly impacts our efforts in the broader work of evangelization. And your support of the Catholic Communication Campaign gives the Church the financial resources to accomplish its mission.

On the national level, the Catholic Communication Campaign provides such valuable free services as (800) MASS-TIMES and , which make available times for the celebration of Mass in parishes throughout the United States - a wonderful resource for those who may be traveling. Likewise, a toll-free telephone service - (800) 311-4CCC - offers film reviews with appropriate ratings from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Last year this service received more than 2,200 calls from individuals in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Locally, the Catholic Communication Campaign funds the continued broadcast of the televised Mass for the homebound on KTVI-TV, Channel 2, reaching more than 10,000 viewers each week. Likewise, a number of Catholic radio and Internet initiatives - including the Archdiocese's award-winning Web site at www.archstl.org that attracted more than 300,000 visitors last year - are supported by the collection, as are a variety of other critical evangelization and communications efforts. Through our communications efforts, our local Church reaches hundreds of thousands of people!

It is thanks to the generosity of the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis that our communications efforts are supported and sustained. Let us not undervalue the importance of effective communication. Your support of the Catholic Communication Campaign is appreciated.

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