National Catholic Register


Faith and the Modern Workplace

BY Jim Cosgrove

January 31 - February 6, 1999 Issue | Posted 1/31/99 at 1:00 PM


Pope John Paul II has written extensively about work. In the following passages from his encyclical Laborem Exercens — “On Human Work” — (122-123) the Holy Father quotes Vatican Council II's understanding of the modern workplace.

On the basis of these illuminations emanating from the source himself, the church has always proclaimed what we find expressed in modern terms in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council: “Just as human activity proceeds from man, so it is ordered toward man. For when a man works he not only alters things and society, he develops himself as well. He learns much, he cultivates his resources, he goes outside of himself and beyond himself. Rightly understood, this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered . . . Hence, the norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it should harmonize with the genuine good of the human race and allow people as individuals and as members of society to pursue their total vocation and fulfill it.” [Gaudium et Seps, 35]

Such a vision of the values of human work, or in other words such a spirituality of work, fully explains what we read in the same section of the council's pastoral constitution with regard to the right meaning of progress: “A person is more precious for what he is than for what he has. Similarly, all that people do to obtain greater justice, wider brotherhood and a more humane ordering of social relationships has greater worth than technical advances. For these advances can supply the material for human progress, but of themselves alone they can never actually bring it about.”[Ibid.]