St. John Bosco
St. John Bosco

"Work is sacred, that's how you feed your family," the father of a friend matter-of-factly explained.

Her father was right. People work to provide the basic needs to live and support their families, and that is a sacred responsibility. One's dignity is not dependent upon how much one works, what was accomplished, his or her compensation, or the nature of one's occupation. We derive our dignity by being human, children of God.

We are, however, a people of life and for life. "Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person's life." This includes work. Is God present in the real world? (Of course!) There’s not just the "God" world of prayer and Mass, but also the work world where God labors to reveal Himself to us.

Yes, work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. Unemployment, underemployment, and unjust wages deprive people of the ability to provide for themselves and their family.  Such structures offend against the dignity of person.

Workers have a right to work hard and shape the world with safe conditions, reasonable hours, and fair wages. We impinge upon a worker's dignity when we deprive him or her of these rights. We further diminish a worker's dignity "when he or she feels as nothing more than a small cog in a vast machine."

Saint John Bosco is the patron saint of laborers. His feast day is January 31. He understood the necessity of achieving dignified work.

John Bosco was born in Italy, in 1815. His family was very poor; his father died when he was a toddler. When he was not quite a teenager, he left home to look for work as a hired farm laborer. As a 20-year old, he entered the seminary.

His first assignment as Father John Bosco was Turin, in 1841. The population suffered the effects of industrialization and urbanization: slums and pervasive poverty. Focusing on the betterment of street children and disadvantaged youth, Fr. Bosco negotiated new rights for boys who were employed as apprentices but required to perform work unrelated to the apprenticeship. Their dignity was restored.

Work is much more than simply earning a living; it is a way to add dignity to our lives, meaning to our lives and the lives of others, and to promote the common good. "Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development. … An appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor … is in fact an ethical imperative essential for effectively attaining the common good."

Work is sacred. We must heal relationships through a renewal of spirituality with God and neighbor.

Therefore, we show our respect for God and laborer by ensuring that all persons’ rights are respected, including employment, dignified work, and just wages. Only then can we find God in the work world.

St. John Bosco, pray for all who labor.