As we discovered yesterday, for our good deeds to become charitable acts, we must center our hearts, our souls, our minds, and all of our strength on love of God. Then, and only then, will our good deeds effect a change that reaches beyond the finite to touch the eternal. And when we do that, every thought, word, deed, and suffering can become an act of charity — even our daily labor.
One contemporary saint who has taught us much about the relationship between the love of God and the sanctification of work is St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei (Work of God). “The dignity of work is founded on Love,” he wrote, “Man’s great privilege is to be able to love, transcending from what is fleeting and ephemeral.”
And again, “Do everything for love. — That way there are no little things: everything is big. — Perseverance in little things, for Love, is heroism.”
And in another place, “Let me stress this point: it is in the simplicity of your ordinary work, in the monotonous details of each day, that you have to find the secret, which is hidden from so many, of something great and new: Love.
These words may well be the inspiration behind the work done by one Catholic pediatrician who works with children living with AIDS. Dr. Margaret Ogola is the medical director of the Cottolengo Hospice for Children Living with AIDS in Nairobi, Kenya. Some years ago she spoke at a conference at the University of Toronto about her work and how St. Josemaria Escriva’s message transformed her professional career.
Treating children who are certain to die can be difficult, depressing, and disillusioning. But through the spirituality offered by St. Josemaria Escriva, Dr. Ogolo has found the way to adopt a supernatural outlook that permits her to see the hand of God moving in and through all things. This enables her to make her professional duties a conduit of grace and a beacon of hope — true works of charity.
St. Josemaria believed that Christian laypeople who live in the midst of the world have a great capacity for holiness through the sanctification of their everyday work, and that by doing everything for the honor and glory of God they can bring the fruit of holiness to the world.
Doctors, housewives, plumbers, lawyers, teachers, and students can be “sanctified” by doing their work well and as perfectly as possible, by embracing the mundane and ordinary duties and tasks associated with it, and by offering it all to God in a spirit of humility and love. Remaining in conversation with God through their thoughts and deeds and by seeking Him in the midst of all things, they are raised to beatitude and become an alter Christus (“another Christ”). And in so doing, they spread the warmth of God’s love to all with whom they come in contact. Thus, they are a leaven that raises up the whole world (Gal. 5:9).
Continuing with her testimony, Dr. Ogola said that sanctifying her work enables her to see the providence of God and the incomparable beauty of the gift of life. She states she is most prayerful when at the side of a terminally ill child whose hand she holds while at the threshold of eternal life.
And, though she uses every available means to keep her patients alive, she has discovered sickness can be a great blessing. Through it our “masks” slip, hatred wanes, and we become most human. It is a time during which we can grow in fortitude and strength and true confidence in God.
We ought to prayerfully consider the following words of St. Josemaria Escriva to be the mission statement for our life. Based on the Four Cardinal Virtues, they can become the spiritual rudder of our vocation and career and help us to be an act of charity:
- Fortitude to persevere in our work despite the difficulties that naturally arise and to esnure that we never let ourselves be overwhelmed by anxiety
- Temperance in order to spend ourselves unsparingly and to overcome our love of comfort and our selfishness
- Justice so as to fulfill our duties towards God, society, our family and our fellow workers
- Prudence to know in each case what course to take, and then to set about it without hesitation.. And all this…for the sake of Love
May we be willing to sanctify our work as we seek to be the very love of God in our world today.
Today’s Spiritual Exercise
Prayerfully consider the following questions and journal your responses.
1. To what extent do I see my everyday work as a means of sanctification? What can I do to draw my attention to this reality as I go through my day?
2. Am I willing to put extra effort into my daily duties for the love of God? Why or why not?
3. What two strategies can I employ over the next month to help make every moment of my day a moment for sanctification for myself and the whole world?
4. What struck me most about this post and why? What might God be saying to me through it?
(For more information go to www.josemariaescriva.info)
Copyright 2009, by Johnnette S. Benkovic. All rights reserved.