Our Workplace Can Help Sanctify Us

Now the time has come to go to work. This means facing the traffic situation again. It is rush hour, and everyone seems to be tense. But the period of prayer has helped you a lot for this new challenge.

Maybe a taxicab or a motorcycle has come out of nowhere, gotten in your way, and suddenly forced you to apply the brakes. You were tempted to curse the bones of the driver, but you then remembered that, besides bones, he has a soul to save.

So, you say a prayer for him: “Lord, help that driver to do a better job; he needs Your help!” And aware that getting mad would not solve any problem, you repress other less supernatural ideas and words that might spontaneously occur to you.

You have arrived at your place of work. There you find the same setting as every day: the same faces, the same furniture, the same environment, day in and day out. It might appear prosaic and unappealing, yet it is precisely there, and not somewhere else, that the great Spectator wants you to perform for Him and for the entire supernatural audience. It can become an exciting experience if there is enough faith, hope, and love.

Perhaps you find your colleagues at work chatting before beginning their daily tasks. You, in contrast, are eager to begin to sanctify that work by beginning on time and doing the work well, with all the human perfection you are capable of. For you, punctuality is a good work habit. You have a motivation that others seem to lack: you are conscious of the fact that you are being constantly looked at by your loving Father. Others are, perhaps, talking negatively about some absent people. You profoundly dislike backbiting, not only because it is unfair, since those persons cannot defend themselves, but because it offends the veiled Father, who loves everyone and wants us to do the same. Upon seizing the situation, convinced that just because something is very common does not mean that it is right, you try to find a way to improve the topic of the conversation.

This article is from a chapter in The Little Manual for Spiritual Growth.

Begin the Workday in Offering

The workday has begun. It is a good moment to renew the gift of that labor you made in the Morning Offering and in the Holy Mass. That offering covers all your labor: those things you enjoy doing, as well as the tedious tasks done hour after hour, and also the frustrations and periods of pressure and stress. It also covers the unforeseen happenings that challenge your cool and try your patience. The teachings of St. Josemaria, the founder of Opus Dei, are of help:

You are upset. Look: happen what may in your interior life or in the world around you, never forget that the importance of events or of people is very relative. Take things calmly. Let time pass. And then, as you view persons and events dispassionately and from afar, you’ll acquire the perspective that will enable you to see each thing in its proper place and in its true proportion. If you do this, you will be more objective and you’ll be spared many causes of anxiety.

Through work, you joyfully cooperate with God in making this world a better place to live in, and you contribute positively to Jesus’ work of Redemption. You do not want to forget that line in the book of Job: “Man is born to labor and the bird to fly” (Job 5:7, Douay-Rheims). For you, work is an obligation rooted in human nature. It was planned by God from the very beginning, even before the fall from Paradise. The Lord placed man in the world so that he would work (see Gen. 3:16). It is clear that work is a good thing for man, because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his needs, but also achieves fulfillment as a human being.

Pray and Work!

St. Benedict, an ancient saint, has left us an excellent motto as a guide in our journey: Pray and Work! (Ora et Labora!) This motto is echoed in the teachings of St. Josemaría, a saint of the twentieth century.

A true Christian adopts and practices the Benedictine motto, combining the two virtues of prayer and work in unity of life.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have left us with a very impressive example of dedication to work. Thus, if out of laziness someone refuses to labor, that person cannot properly call himself Christian. St. Paul’s dictum is well known: “If any one will not work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). St. Josemaría writes, “You must strive for holiness, contributing at the same time to the sanctification of others, your fellow men; sanctifying your work and your environment.” These ideas could be summed up by saying that we are to sanctify our ordinary work, sanctify ourselves in our work, and sanctify others with our work.

The founder of Opus Dei says, “If we really want to sanctify our work, we are inescapably to fulfill the first condition: that of working well, with human and supernatural seriousness.”

To sanctify ourselves in our professions or trades, we ought to work seeking the glory of God. This implies a steady exercise of supernatural and human virtues. We can recognize that this seemingly monotonous and perhaps small task has a transcendent co-redemptive value in God’s eyes; that is faith. Similarly, we hope that we will be able to achieve union with God, precisely in and through these daily tasks. And the crowning virtue, charity, inclines us to do everything for the love of God.

After that follow a host of moral virtues:

  • Prudence helps us to determine the proper means to apply in every instance in order to obtain the right objective.
  • Justice leads us to give to each one his due and to fulfill our familial, professional, and social duties.
  • Temperance helps us to moderate our tendency to enjoy pleasurable things in excess.
  • Fortitude allows us to persevere in fulfilling our professional duties, even when they become strenuous and difficult.
  • Humility facilitates seeking, in all our endeavors, not our personal satisfaction, but God’s glory.

We could mention many other virtues, such as order, punctuality, and industriousness.

Thus, motivated by love — above all, by divine love — we are moved to work and spend ourselves for others.

Working well is also a means to evangelize, to bring others closer to God. It is a universally recognized fact that people value a job done well. Our Lord impressed His contemporaries, who exclaimed: “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37).

Work has great importance. As a task of collaboration and stewardship with the Creator, it is a way to make this world a more humane and livable place, to contribute to a more just social order, and to pursue the temporal common good. In addition, work is also a means and an opportunity to evangelize. It is a hook to fish souls for Christ. When someone strives to be united to God, to take Christ seriously, he often moves colleagues like him to do the same.

This article is adapted from a chapter in The Little Manual for Spiritual Growth. It is available from Sophia Institute Press.


Fr. John Portavella earned a doctorate in Canon Law from the University of Santo Tomas (the Angelicum) in Rome. He was ordained in 1959 for the Opus Dei Prelature. He is currently doing pastoral work at the University of Asia and the Pacific in Pasig City, Metro Manila.

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