I just finished vacationing with the priests and brother from my local community, five of us in total. It was our ‘family’ vacation. There was hiking, swimming, boating, biking, board games, nice meals, and some movies. It was a time to enjoy nature and each other’s company. It was a time to relax. It was a time to pray. We were renewed, as the word recreation implies.
We returned home and hit the ground running: sorting through the mail, answering e-mails, going grocery shopping, attending meetings and planning ministry. I imagine that many families have been making a similar transition in the last few weeks. It is back to work and back to school.
After our return, one of the fathers commented, ‘Well, there are only 365 days until our next summer vacation.’ ‘Actually’, I said, ‘only 351 until vacation begins.’ While we were joking, a subtle pitfall can occur. We can pine for the next installment of vacation, when we can get away and have fun again, whether it be something longer or merely the weekend. We can think that real living occurs only during our breaks, while the rest of the time we simply put up with the drudgery of school and work, until we make it to the next break.
I learned this lesson many years ago, of all places, from a Kodak commercial. In the commercial, there is a husband and wife lovingly looking at each other in an amusement park. He is filming her, while she smiles for the video camera. The voice-over stated, ‘In between weddings birthdays, and anniversaries, there is… life.’
Living only for the weekend misses out on about seventy percent of the week. However, work and school, have countless graces. Work collaborates with God’s work of creation; allows us to use the gifts God has given us; and is meant to sanctify us [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2427].
We have to see the gift, the joy and the mission right in front of us in the day to day.
As St. Thérèse of Lisieux put it, we must find God in the pots and pans.
Even our desire to serve God can be confused in this manner. I once spoke with a banker who stated that he could not wait for retirement so that he could finally work for the Lord. I commend his desire for full time ministry, but our Lord put him at the bank for a reason, and it is never merely for a paycheck. Through his decisions, work ethic and, yes, explicitly sharing the faith, he is called to bring Christ to his coworkers and customers at the bank.
Following are a few suggestions on how to intentionally live our workday with and for Jesus:
Start your workday with a prayer to offer all you do to the Lord [see the prayer of dedication below].
In the particularly frustrating or simply tedious moments of the day, offer them up as a gift to Jesus. Some of my best prayer has been while folding laundry or driving the car.
When you attend Mass, remember to bring to the offertory all the efforts and challenges you have faced since your last Mass. In doing so, you unite them to Christ’s self-offering to the Father in the Eucharist.
Look for the many little gifts and joys you experience throughout your workday. Thank the Lord for them.
Decide to live the day joyfully.
Prayer of Dedication
Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work.
I give you my feet to follow your path.
I give you my eyes to see as you see.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind so you can think in me.
I give you my spirit so you can pray in me.
Above all I give you my heart so in me you can love your Father and all people.
I give you my whole self so you can grow in me, till it is you who live and work and pray in me.
May God bless you and your return to work and school.
Fr. John Bullock, LC