Seldom has it ever been heard in the Church of the "grace of working". This not to say that the teaching of the Church did not contemplate this grace. It is just that preachers and teachers did not emphasize a point that needed emphasizing.
As all evil is inconsistent, so too was the condition of mankind consequent upon the act of disobedience.
God made Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed an immortal soul into him. He then placed Adam in a garden which God planted in Eden. This garden was part of Eden and was located towards the east.
In the Book of Genesis we read: "The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it."(Gen.2,15). The "tilling and keeping" were not the same as the curse of labor following upon his act of disobedience.
Man was made to work. But, work in the Garden of Eden, that is, when man was in the state of sanctifying grace, was not the same as after the act of disobedience. By this act of disobedience, the right order in the world was undermined.
Eve was the first to disobey. And because of her disobedience, her punishment was that she would suffer great distress in childbearing, and that she will long for her husband who has dominion over her: "I will make great your distress in childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children; for your husband shall be your longing, though he have dominion over you" (Gen.3, 16).
And to Adam, the Lord said: "Because you have listened to your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat: Cursed be the ground because of you; in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, since out of it you were taken; for dust you are and unto dust you shall return" (Ibidem. 3, 17-19).
In the beginning, there was no eating of one's bread by the sweat of his brow; there were no thorns and thistles to mock Adam's tilling of the soil.
All was peace and harmony; all things were subject to Adam and Adam was subject to God. This was the divine right order.
Let those who imagine that disobedience to God in even small matters has no consequences ponder the consequences of one act of disobedience: God even spoke to Adam in irony when He said: "Indeed! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil!" Evil is a disorder. God can know disorder, but He can never be in disorder; Adam, on the other hand, not only came to know disorder, but he became the disorder!
And the Lord continues: "And now perhaps he will put forth his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!" (Gen.3, 22).
The "tree of life" is a symbol of the immortality consequent upon possessing the supernatural life of grace. Having lost sanctifying grace, neither Adam nor Eve were able to retrieve it. The ironic implication is more than justified in view of the continuous haughty pretensions of mankind throughout the ages and even to the present day. Man's proud boast that he will save himself is the suggested statement of God.
Man can no more save himself than he can give birth to himself. Thus, since the fall of Adam, the order in the universe has been subverted. It is only with the coming of the promised Redeemer, Jesus Christ, that right order can be re-established in the universe. Jesus is the "Second Adam" through Whom alone all nature can be saved.
And here is where the "grace of working" enters into the world picture. Without this grace, man is doomed to labor for his daily bread in a servile manner. Coupled to this servile attitude towards work is the rebellious attitude of laziness. Because man takes no pleasure in his achievements anymore, he seeks to avoid his responsibilities. The slothful man is not necessarily inactive. He will go fishing and patiently wait for hours to catch one tiny fish; but, this same man will not stand guard for hours to protect someone else's property and thereby earn his livelihood.
The entire order of nature was subverted by Adam's disobedience. But, it no longer need be that way. We have been given the means to restore sanctifying grace in ourselves and in others.
One of the reasons why our Lord entered this world in the strictest of poverty was to save man from his own poverty of soul. It is not an accident that, generally speaking, those who are not poor in the things of this world are extremely poor in the things of eternity. For this reason also, our Lord stated that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The rich man can take his ease because he has accumulated material wealth; but he cannot rest in peace because God will trouble his conscience.
It is through the exercise of labor in the redeemed order of things that the original order existing in the Garden of Eden is restored.
Of all the saints who did just that, it was St. Francis of Assisi who brought this truth back the Christian world in a forceful manner.
Understanding that the grace of working is a grace that once existed in Paradise, St. Francis worked to restore that right order in his time and for all time through his faithful followers.
Most people work to eat, and they would not work if they did not have to eat. But, the true Christian who is in the state of grace knows that it is his heavenly Father who provides his daily bread in answer to his prayer, and so, he does not work in order to eat. The true Christian works because he has eaten from the hand of divine Providence.
Why should the Christian work if God has already provided for his daily needs?
St. Francis gives the answer: "I wish firmly that all the brothers should work at some labor which is compatible with honesty. Let those who know not how to work learn, not through desire to receive the price of labor, but for the sake of example, and to repel idleness" (Testament of St. Francis).
In his Rule of 1221, he writes: "Let those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working, labor faithfully and devoutly so that in banishing idleness, the enemy of the soul, they do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, to which all temporal things must be subservient."
This spirit of work was not meant only for Franciscans. For, the Franciscan who lives according to his Rule is the perfect Christian. Therefore, it is intended that every true and genuine Christian should have this supernatural grace and spirit with regard to labor. The difference, then, between the labor of the Christian and the labor of the non-Christian or false Christian is not so much in what one does so much as how one does it.
Plowing a field for the love of God and because God has provided for one's livelihood is quite different from the plowing of that same field by a man whose goal is to get money so as to provide for his daily needs. Provision for the first man is made by God's providence _ that providence which feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field; provision for the second man is made by himself and for himself in the sweat of his brow. Of course, the man of faith sweats, too; but there is a difference in the origin: the first is a blessing; the second is a curse.
Laziness is a consequence of original sin. It is also inspired by Satan. For, if a person will not work, how shall he eat? And we all have to eat in order to live. Such a person will steal, cheat, rob and murder; such a person will have nothing to share with others because he will never experience the security that comes from faith in the heavenly Father's providence which lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust.
There are, then, two main reasons for the true Christian to work: To avoid idleness and to give good example.
The first reason is directed to the salvation and sanctification of the person himself. The second is directed to one's neighbor.
Since we all fall short of God's goal, and since we are all tempted by the devil in diverse ways, it is essential to a sound, serious and sanctifying spiritual life that our energies be directed and disciplined in the ways of God and goodness.
Then, too, it is a sinful thing to eat the bread of idleness. While others toil in realizing God's plan, those who are idle are guilty of injustice because they feed like parasites off those who must share the fruits of their labor with the lazy.
One of the evil consequences of Communism is that the lazy are guaranteed a living even if they do not work. This is the "workers' paradise" promised to the indolent, the lazy and the social misfits. These will gladly use their energy and time to steal from the industrious, rob from the provident and prudent, and will then proclaim their "equality" with all men!
A welfare State is the worst form of government. In a welfare State, the idle are blessed and the workers are cursed. The best thing that could happen in any State is for welfare to be abolished.
One can already hear the outraged cries of the social leeches. And, of course, they will always point to the "widow and the orphan" _ symbols of the genuinely needy. They do not wish to understand that in a just society, all genuine needs of the truly disabled are met on the level of Christian charity.
That we will always have the poor with us is only proof that it is God's plan that those who have received more blessings of this world might share them with those who have not.
God's divine providence for those who believe Him and love Him is exercised through the instrumentality of people of faith. It is they who have been blessed with the things of this world not only for themselves, but to act as the instruments of God's providence.
In so doing, both the giver and the receiver are blessed. This is why our Lord chose to enter this world as a redeemer of man from his self-love, his greed, and his misery.
Christ restored all things to His Father by His life and bitter death. It is now for His genuine disciples to follow in His footsteps and bring to the world that example of a redeemed humanity which is the fruit of supernatural grace.
No one can realize this restored mission without the grace of God. Knowing this, St. Francis wisely referred to this genuine Christian apostolate as the work of grace, or the grace of working.
Words inspire, but example draws. And to draw others to Jesus Christ it is necessary to give a good example. The best example any true Christian can give is to apply oneself with diligence and devotion to one's duties and responsibilities.
And those who do not have the grace of working or do not know how to work, they should pray for this grace, and eagerly learn to labor not for the sake of gain, but to avoid idleness which is the enemy of the soul; and to give good example.
People who have nothing to do are generally meddlers in the affairs of others. To these St. Paul gives this advice: "Now such persons we charge and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ that they work quietly and eat their own bread." (2 Th.3,12).
St. Paul also says: "If any man will not work, neither let him eat"(Ibid.3, 11). Nor should we be ashamed to expect fair recompense for our labors that we might share with those in greater need.
Return to Contents
Return to Homepage.