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The Dignity of Work

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“From the beginning therefore he [man] is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature.”

Blessed John Paul wrote these words in his encyclical Laborem Exercens in 1981.

I’ve referred to this encyclical many times in my own writings and in attempting to get at the very nature of who I am as a Catholic woman, wife, mother, author, and teacher. I have found in his words a timeless truth—no surprise there!—and a certain sense of peace as well. Whether I have worked outside of the home out of necessity or out of a desire, balancing work with family alw…