Dear Father Angelo,
I would like to know what the Church’s thinking is (if there is any) about work. And so, I mean what profession we need to carry out in life. I often hear among people, in movies, books and whatnot that you must do what you like, you must chase your dreams, etc. etc…. I do not trust these words and I know how different practical reality from thought is. A priest once told me that we are not made to work, but it is work that we need to live. So, I also wonder if someone does a job that he does not like so much and maybe he has a flair for something else, but it is essential for him and for the family to receive that job’s pay, can it be said that that person has made a mistake in life?
Personally, I have studied, and I have a degree but at the moment I am working in the family business, I must say that it was not what I expected or my highest aspiration.
I do not know if it was right or wrong not to continue my studies because at a certain point, I no longer felt stimulated to continue, maybe due to tiredness and to the heaviness of my studies, wanting to do something practical.
I also want to always serve the Lord in my daily life and I ask myself if as a priority we must always seek our own life’s work or do the good that the Lord wants even in the jobs that we do not want and do not like so much?
Many times I happen to think that I am like that young man who at Jesus’ proposal “sell what you have […] and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” did not do so. As if I were that young man who did not take the risk of continuing his studies and having hope for the future. Can this be considered a waste of talent? I often think about it. I wonder if the Church has any advice to give to so many young people who find themselves in this dilemma.
My thanks and best wishes to you.
Answer of the priest
1. First, I would like to say that work is a typical human activity. God has given to man the command to work when he blessed him by saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28).
2. I would like to emphasize that this command was given by God before original sin.
Since God, according to the imaginative language of the Holy Scripture, worked six days and rested on the seventh, so the man as well, who was created in his image, is perfected by working and resting. This makes it clear that man lacks something if he cannot work.
3. There is a wealth of values enclosed in work for which man reveals himself and is perfected only by going down this path. Well, work is not the only way for man to perfect himself, but there is also this way.
4. But which job?
God has placed the earth with its infinite potential in the hands of man.
It follows that the methods of work and, we could say, the potential of man are as infinite as the potential of the earth.
Here, “earth” does not only mean only the reality that we call earth, but the whole world, including the sea and the sky.
5. In every man, by reason of his rational intelligence capable of transcending the earth and transforming it, there is a vocation to work, to every job. Therefore, we could speak of a general calling or vocation to work.
6. But since individual men are characterized by some talents received from mother nature and further perfected through study and professional skills, we can rightly speak of a specific vocation for certain jobs.
Sacrificing acquired inclinations and attitudes would be like putting talents underground and making them useless for oneself and for the community.
It is therefore right that society organizes itself in such a way as to give everyone the opportunity to develop their own talents.
7. But for various reasons this is not always possible. Therefore, in the impossibility of employing one’s talents in the specific field of one’s preparation and since working is a primordial necessity for one’s own and one’s family’s subsistence, it is our duty to adapt to any job while waiting for the one most suited to one’s specific preparation.
8. At the same time it should also be remembered that before God, work gets its credit not so much from what it is done as from the soul with which it is done.
Therefore, what according to men can be considered the humblest work, before God it can have a particularly great credit because of the degree of charity with which it is performed.
The work that Christ did in his hidden life was considered humble in the eyes of men. But since it was done by a divine Person and was animated by his limitless charity, it was accompanied by an infinite, eternal and universal credit.
9. This does not take away the duty to place oneself in the “technically” right place according to one’s attitudes and skills in order to return to society the contribution that it expects, also because of its cooperation in perfecting the skills of individuals.
I wish you a happy continuation of the Christmas holidays and an equally happy new year.
I bless you and keep you in my prayers to the Lord.