Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Turning Work Into A Prayer

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published June 21, 2012

Mention the word “work” and many people cringe. As for me, the moment I was old enough to wield a broom, I labored along with my mother and sister to get our Miami home into tiptop shape. We scoured tubs, polished dressers, changed linens and tackled a pile of clothes waiting for the sizzle of the iron.

In high school I had simple jobs like babysitting and gift wrapping presents in a department store. In college, I waited tables, sold cosmetics door-to-door and tutored homebound children. Next was the “real” world of work, which first meant being a college teacher, and eventually moved on to becoming the assistant director of a university publications office. Unfortunately, as the years went on, the responsibilities increased, the stress levels became unbearable—and I found myself cringing as I drove into work each day.

I wish I had known then about a Spanish saint whose feast day is June 26. His name is Josemaría Escrivá, and he was born in northern Spain in 1902. He became a priest in 1925, devoting attention to the poor, the incurably sick and the dying.

A few years later, he had a vision of ordinary Christians doing everyday work and realized we can sanctify ourselves through our labor. He then founded the organization Opus Dei (the work of God) to help people find and love Christ in the context of everyday life. The author of seven books, he died in 1975.

St. Josemaría’s insights can help anyone struggling to find meaning in their work. Perhaps you are at home teaching your children, a demanding job indeed. Perhaps you are an engineer, an architect, a doctor, a laborer, a salesperson, a cook. If we keep our hearts set on Christ while we work, says St. Josemaría, we can turn ordinary jobs into saintly accomplishments. This doesn’t mean winning gigantic honors but rather just doing the task well—and doing it for the love of God.

“Anything done out of love is important however small it might appear,” he says in his book “The Way.”

So many workers—and I was among them—while away their hours pining for the weekend. But St. Josemaría underscores that work is part of being human. After all, in Genesis we read that “The Lord God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.” So even in paradise, Adam and Eve had jobs to do. They weren’t just lolling about in lawn chairs staring at the horizon!

Sadly, though, work that is done with little thought of God can be debilitating, demoralizing and depressing. It can lead to someone sitting in a lonely cubicle wondering, “Is this all there is?” That was a question I often asked myself at my high-stress publications job.

How I wish someone had answered, “No, there is much more!” You just have to realize that Christ is there in the cubicle with you. As St. Josemaría notes, God “waits for us every day,” whether we are in the shop, the classroom, the factory, the fields or the home.

In another book “Friends of God,” he writes, “Our Lord wants you to be holy in the place where you are, in the job you have chosen for whatever reason.” He emphasizes the importance of meeting our responsibilities and avoiding the temptation to do a shoddy job. As he puts it, “What use is it of telling me that so and so is a … good Christian but a bad shoemaker?”

We really are not alone. God is watching us as we fold the laundry, fix the computer or fax the report.

“Since we are convinced that God is to be found everywhere,” St. Josemaría writes, “we plough our fields praising the Lord, we sail the seas and ply all other trades singing his mercies.”

And by offering the Lord our efforts, however mundane and menial, we can turn our cubicle into a chapel—and our work into a prayer.