One day, as I walked toward the reconciliation chapel to hear confessions, a young boy came up to me. He was really excited about next year being his year to celebrate first reconciliation, and he wanted to practice his Act of Contrition on me. I smiled and said, “Sure, let’s hear it.” He took on a look of total concentration and began, flying through the prayer without one mistake. He got to the end and said, “ ... I promise to sin no more and avoid ... ” Then he paused, looked at me and said, “Is that right? Sin no more?” I smiled and nodded, so he said, “Then why do I have to memorize the prayer?” No kidding, folks, that is a totally true story! Doin’ what we have to do, that’s kind of the theme of this issue of FAITH. Read on.
Fr. Joe: I have to work on Sunday. Am I sinning if I am supposed to keep the Sabbath day holy? It’s like my dad used to say, “Son, some things are like a horse in a telephone booth – you just can’t get around it.” Okay, Dad never said that ... but, if you can’t get around it, then you can’t. So, what do you do? First of all, make sure that whatever work you do, whenever you do it, you do it for the Lord, conscious of the gifts He gave you to make it possible. Second, make sure you get to church each weekend, and dedicate one day to God in a special way – paying special attention to family and friends, spending some extra time in prayer and just plain relaxing. God doesn’t demand the impossible of us. God asks that we follow Him in the best way we can. Whenever we find ourselves in a situation where we aren’t able to follow the letter of the law, then we should be sure that we follow the heart of it. Fr. Joe: At work, they are replacing people with machines. Is that moral? That is a tough one. Try this one on for a safe answer: sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Let me explain. When is it moral? When it is necessary. When it does not violate the dignity of the human person or undermine the contributions of a safe working environment. In 1891 Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical entitled Rerum Novarum. In it, he said that it is the obligation of the worker to show up, work hard and honestly and provide for his or her family in an honorable fashion. That ties into when it is not moral; the same document gives a much longer list of responsibilities for those who employ workers. Among those obligations are to provide dignified labor, a just wage, safe working conditions, freedom to attend Mass (or other Christian services) on holy days of obligation, placing the dignity of the person above the value of money. That is when replacing people with machines can be wrong. It is a serious matter if people are being replaced simply so a few individuals at the top can make more money. Echoing Pope Leo XIII and the Church’s social teachings, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase in profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.” (CCC #2432) The responsibility of employers is a serious matter. Jesus refers to this, saying, “To whom much is given, much will be expected.” On a personal level, I’d thank all of those who work so hard to provide for their families. If you are one of the people who benefit from someone’s hard labor and commitment, please be sure to thank them with all your heart. When we work, we praise God. We use the bodies and minds that God gave us and we provide for ourselves and our families. We make available to the world products that are needed. There is no way to overstate the value of hard work. Whatever we do, let’s dedicate the fruits of our labor to God. Don’t forget that one of the ways we can thank God for making our work possible is by being sure we tithe to our local church. Enjoy another day in God’s presence!