It’s Labor Day! Why am I excited for Labor Day? The same reason I am every year, and I’m sure many are excited for the same reason, FOOTBALL! That’s right! Labor Day typically kicks off the college football season, closely followed by the NFL football season. I am a huge NFL fan and I enjoy watching college football as well.
But is this what I should be thinking about on Labor Day? Football?
Not at all. Labor day was not intended to signify the end of summer, or the beginning of school, or football, or the end of wearing white (Do people still stop wearing white after Labor Day?). Regardless, Labor Day is a national holiday in which we are to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.
Labor Day was more than likely founded by Peter J. McGuire who is famous for stating that Labor Day is meant to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” But is that the limit of Labor Day? Especially for Catholics?
I think that Labor Day reminds us (A) of the importance of labor and (B) of Ora et Labora.
(A) The Importance of Labor
Pope Benedict XVI reminded us around Labor Day of last year that Jesus himself was a laborer. Jesus taught parables about laborers, many of his disciples were laborers, etc. Labor is clearly important to the human experience and condition in a post-Fall world (labor is usually understood as a consequence of the Fall). Pope Benedict XVI urged us then and will continue to urge us now to respect the importance of labor and the dignity of the human worker. Labor is a means to enhance the dignity of the person, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI: (check out this awesome YouTube Video)
(B) Ora et Labora
Prayer and Labor. The two ought to be intimately related in our lives as prayer can be thought of as a labor, and labor done rightly ought to be a prayer. Archbishop Gomez states this best:
“Both (prayer and work) are intimately related, to the point that prayer is a kind of “work” - in the sense that it is an activity in itself - and that work must become a prayer, if lifted and offered up to God.”
The USCCB also has some great statements given on Labor Day about Labor, the dignity of the human worker, the necessity of labor, etc.
What do you do to celebrate Labor Day? Do you practice Ora et Labora in your life? What does Labor Day mean to you?