By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

“If Adam and Eve had never eaten that apple, I wouldn’t have to go to school,” a student at St. Elizabeth School in Paincourtville said at the beginning of the school year to Father Matthew Graham, pastor of St. Elizabeth Church and St. Jules Church in Belle Rose. He mused that the student grasped and expressed the “inward groaning” of what it takes to prepare for a future in the workplace, which is also the groaning from many adults who are already in the workplace.  

Father Graham talked about the issue of “toil” during his presentation of living faith in the workplace at a Theology on Tap meeting at Tin Roof Brewery in Baton Rouge on Aug. 16.  

While many people think of work as toil, Father Graham noted that God never intended work to be toilsome. He noted that in Genesis 2:15 it says, “The Lord God took that man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till and keep it.”  

Work distinguishes people from all other creatures, Father Graham said. 

“It not only transforms nature, but it transforms us. It helps us to be fulfilled, and that ties into our spirituality,” said Father Graham.  

He said it is work that helps people to grow in virtue. He said St. John Paul II talked about the virtue of industriousness in his encyclical, “Laborem Exercens (“On Human Work”).  

Father Graham noted the encyclical highlights how people participate in the creative work of God through work.  

“Not only is it natural, but it is a gift to the soul, so it’s supernatural,” said Father Graham.  

And challenges are a part of work.  

“Just as parents challenge their children to go beyond themselves, so too does work become redemptive because it challenges us to grow in holiness,” said Father Graham. 

One of the biggest challenges of work is peer pressure, or worrying about what the boss or co-workers may think of us if we express our faith, according to Father Graham. This is particularly of concern in work places that are hostile to expressions of faith.  

“We know the early Christians, even though they were persecuted, found ways to express their faith. The challenges have always been there,” said Father Graham.  

Regardless of whether people work in a place that supports their faith or not, the best thing to do is provide a witness to a Christ-inspired faith or be “the light of Christ,” he said.  

“We are to express our conviction with integrity, striving for excellence,” said Father Graham.  

“We know Christ was a carpenter, do you think he did shoddy work?” asked Father Graham.  

On this note, he urged people to take a “Catholic toolbox” to work, which includes prayers, attending daily Mass when able, praying devotions and receiving the sacraments.  

He also encouraged people to live their faith by doing such things as living by the liturgical calendar to give them a deeper perspective and sacred rhythm to their life and work; finding out information about the patron saint of their occupation, or choosing St. Joseph the Worker; refraining from eating meat on Fridays; and celebraing their baptismal birthday. If one cannot openly express their faith, they can put a prayer card behind a picture on their desk or wear a sacred medal under their clothing. All of this points to being “authentically you,” noted Father Graham.  

As one does an examination of consciousness at the end of the day, they should thank God for the day, but also look at where they failed – including where they may have not lived out their faith at work. And if needed, they should apologize to their boss or co-workers.  

“And when we fail, that’s where the sacrament of reconciliation comes in,” said Father Graham.  

Through the toil of work, one is uniting their toil with the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, emphasized Father Graham.  

“Toil is something we go through, but there is something better we get out of it,” he said. “Something new can come out of it.”  

Father Graham said the church teaches about the indispensability of the cross to one spiritual well being.  

“We know there’s a cross, but as Catholics, we also know there is a resurrection,” said Father Graham.  

He also suggested that people witness through a Christ-inspired joy. 

“What do people observe about us? Do we reflect the light of Christ? Are we the salt of the Earth?” asked Father Graham.  

And by living joyfully at work as well as home, people are passing on a good work ethic to their children, he said.  

Living out one’s faith in the workplace may not solve all the problems there, but it can deepen his or her perspective on how to address them.  

“If people can take this perspective to work, how it can change the world,” said Father Graham. “So it’s supernatural,” said Father Graham.  

And challenges are a part of work.  

“Just as parents challenge their children to go beyond themselves, so too does work become redemptive because it challenges us to grow in holiness,” said Father Graham. 

One of the biggest challenges of work is peer pressure, or worrying about what the boss or co-workers may think of us if we express our faith, according to Father Graham. This is particularly of concern in work places that are hostile to expressions of faith.  

“We know the early Christians, even though they were persecuted, found ways to express their faith. The challenges have always been there,” said Father Graham.  

Regardless of whether people work in a place that supports their faith or not, the best thing for them to do is to provide a witness to a Christ-inspired faith or be “the light of Christ.”  

“We are to express our conviction with integrity, striving for excellence,” said Father Graham.  

“We know Christ was a carpenter, do you think he did shoddy work?” asked Father Graham. 

On this note, he urged people to take a “Catholic toolbox” with them to work, which includes prayers, attending daily Mass, when able, praying devotions and receiving the sacraments.  

He also encouraged people to live their faith by doing such things as living by the liturgical calendar to give them a deeper perspective and sacred rhythm to their life and work; finding out information about the patron saint of their occupation, or choosing St. Joseph the worker; refraining from eating meat on Fridays; celebraing their baptismal birthday. If one cannot openly express their faith, they can put a prayer card behind a picture on their desk or wear a sacred medal under their clothing. All of this points to being “authentically you,” noted Father Graham.  

As one does a an examination of conscious at the end of the day, they should thank God for the day, but also look at where they failed – including where they may have not lived out their faith at work. And if needed, they should apologize to their boss or co-workers.  

“And when we fail, that’s where the sacrament of reconciliation comes in,” said Father Graham.  

Through the toil of work, one is uniting their toil with the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, emphasized Father Graham.  

“Toil is something we go through, but there is something better we get out it,” said Father Graham. “Something new can come out of it.”  

Father Graham noted that the church teaches about the indispensability of the cross to ones spiritual well being. 

“We know there’s a cross, but as Catholics, we also know there is a resurrection,” said Father Graham.  

Father Graham also suggested that people witness through a Christ-inspired joy.  

“Why do people observe about us? Do we reflect the light of Christ? Are we the sale of the Earth?” asked Father Graham.  

And by living joyfully at work as well as home, people are passing on a good work ethic to their children, Father Graham said.  

Living out one’s faith in the workplace may not solve all the problems there, but it can deepen his or her perspective on how to address them.  

“If people can take this perspective to work, how it can change the world,” said Father Graham.