Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Everyday Grace: A family blessing for Labor Day

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Aug. 21, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell Ecclesiastes might well have included, “there’s a time for vacation and a time for work.” The bittersweet line between them is Labor Day. This last blast of summer gives us an opportunity to focus on the holiness of the everyday work we do. As we participate in the festivities of the civic holiday, let us also take time to meld the temporal with the spiritual.

Americans celebrated the first official Labor Day in New York City in 1882. In began as a day when union workers marched in the streets to call attention to their fight for better pay, safe working conditions and fair treatment. Eventually, it became a national holiday.

Leaders in the Catholic Church have been outspoken over the last century about the importance of the rights and dignity of workers, and these goals remain worthy today. The Church teaches that work is natural, necessary and a privilege.

Honest work has value whether performed by an adult or child, highly trained professional or manual laborer. In doing even the simplest task, we have the opportunity to become co-creator with God.

Work within our families prepares children for work in the world. When they are responsible for chores in the home, children feel a sense of belonging and competence. A toddler who learns to pick up her toys grows to know on a deep level that she is contributing to the household. A teenager who mows the lawn or helps prepare meals grows into an adult who understands how his labor promotes the common good and fosters unity. Children who practice working together at home will bring a spirit of cooperation to the community.

With just a bit of planning, parents can add an element of prayer to Labor Day festivities. This family blessing can be celebrated after a backyard barbecue, or you could take a simplified version along on a camping trip.

Labor Day Family Blessing

Sit down with your children and make a list of work done by family members. Include work in the home, yard or another location. Then ask people to bring one item that is a symbol of one job they do. For instance, Mom or Dad might bring a tool used in their work. A child who takes out the garbage could bring a clean trash bag. A student could bring a dictionary or calculator. For this ritual you will also need a candle and matches.

Beginning Prayer:
On a table or other flat surface, arrange the symbols of work around the candle. Light the candle to remind the family of the presence of God.
Leader: This is the day the Lord has made.
All: Let us rejoice and be glad.
Leader: We set aside this Labor Day to ask God to bless our work throughout the year.
All: God of All Creation, bless our work.

Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:4-6.
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”
“It is not the nature of the task but the consecration that is the vital thing.” (Martin Buber)

Reflection:
Ask your children what these readings mean. Do these verses say anything about chores around the house? About a career? Share your own experience, too.

Blessing Litany:
Using the list of work compiled earlier, pray a litany of blessing. Include a variety of jobs, large and small, done by each person in the family. For example:
Leader: Bless Mom as she goes to the office.
All: God of All Creation, bless our work.
Leader: Bless Dad as he makes breakfast.
All: God of All Creation, bless our work.
Leader: Bless sister as she cleans her room…
Bless brother as he folds laundry…

Closing Prayer:
“Glory be to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:21). Amen.

© 2003, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. She is a contributing author to the new book Daughters of the Desert: Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish and Muslim Traditions, from Skylight Paths Publishing.)


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