The Blessedness of Labor


Painting by Sheri Dinardi

GUIDE for CATHOLIC YOUNG WOMEN by Rev. George Deshon, 1863

“Why was I not born a lady?” says the poor girl who has to work hard for a living. “There are the ladies, with little or nothing to do, amusing themselves all day, and enjoying all the good things of life, while poor I must drudge the whole blessed day, from early morning till late at night, for a living, and a scant one at that. I wish the Almighty had placed me in some better condition of life than the one I am in!”

My good girl, you who talk in that way, you do not know what you are saying. Instead of complaining of the good God, if your eyes could only be opened to see things as they really are, your heart would leap for joy, and your tongue would praise Him that you have not been made a lady, or anything, but just what you are.

For the truth is, your condition of life is one of the very best in which God could place you, and it is a great privilege for you to be in it rather than in any other.

Let us look into it, and see how this is. 1 dare say you remember that among almost the first words of the little Catechism, the question is asked: “For what were we created?”

The answer to it is: “To learn to serve and love God in this world in order that we may be happy forever with Him in the next.”

Ah, this lets us into the whole secret! We were not created to be rich, to live without work, to live in fine houses, and wear fine clothes, and ride in elegant coaches, and have, what folks are apt to call, a fine time of it.

No, it was for nothing of all this, but to learn to love and serve God during this life, in order to earn heaven, and prepare ourselves to be happy forever with God.

This is the reason why the rich are so often unhappy, in spite of all their money and splendor.

They are just living for riches and pleasure, instead of to please God, and they cannot find any real satisfaction in such a life. God will never let us have any real happiness unless we live in order to please and love Him.

It is true, a rich man or woman can serve God and be happy, but it is difficult, for riches and honors and pleasures steal away the heart, and cause Him to be forgotten. And when God is forgotten what enjoyment can there be of life?

What is over and above our necessary and suitable clothing will bring but little satisfaction.

It only feeds an idle vanity, destroys contentment, and fills us with desires for a thousand things that never satisfy us when they are supplied.

We are always the worse for it when we eat or drink much more than is necessary for us; we lose our appetite, our health and our strength, so that the body becomes a burden, and life a misery.

All the money or honor in the world cannot ensure health or contentment of mind.

Then there is death, in the midst of our earthly enjoyments, always staring us in the face. Our friends are cut down around us, and we know not the day or the hour when our turn will come.

But we know very well that when it does come, we must be torn away, whether we will or no, from everything in this world which we have set our hearts upon.

Can we have any enjoyment in such a life as we have here, unless it is grounded on peace with God? Unless we carry out the blessed intentions which God had in creating us, namely, that we should love and serve Him?

And, then, think of that vast eternity which stretches away beyond, after this life is over.

How small and mean everything here is in comparison with it! What difference will it make to us when we are once in the presence of God, clothed with glory and honor, with white garments and the palm of victory in our hands, with no sorrows, sighs, or tears to be feared any more forever; — what difference will it make whether we had a little more or a little less on this earth? Why, this whole life will seem a small speck in the grand ocean of eternity.

In short, in considering any state or condition, the principal thing is, to take into account the advantages it holds out for securing a holy and pious life, so that we may come safe through all the trials and temptations of this world to our only true home in heaven.

In this view, I do not know any among the ordinary conditions of life as good and desirable as that of a life of service or of daily labor.

A life of labor has always been considered, by spiritual persons, most favorable to the soul.

To have nothing which we are obliged to do may seem very fine to our worldliness and love of ease, but it is most dangerous. You know the old saying: “The devil finds work enough for idle hands to do.” It is most true. Idleness opens the door for the worst temptations.

Suppose you had pretty much all your time to do what you pleased with, how likely it is that a great part of it would be misused! Habits of idleness would be formed, your time would hang heavy on your hands, and you would not know what to do.

You would seek for amusement: you would soon be altogether taken up with it, and your whole life would become one given up to the world and to wickedness. You would indeed stand a great chance of going straight down to perdition.

The labor of the hands is, then, a source of blessing. It furnishes a great help to spending life in innocence. It fills up our time with holiest industry, while it leaves the soul free to raise itself from time to time to God.

The labor of the hands is not like that of the head. Head work fills the mind, and takes up its attention, but hand work leaves the mind in a great measure free.

St. Anthony was taught this by an angel from heaven. One day when he felt tired by uninterrupted prayer, and unable to continue it, he grieved over it before the Lord, and begged to be instructed how to get over this trouble, which was a hindrance to his salvation.

After his prayer he went out of his cell, and saw a person, the exact image of himself, seated at work making mats out of palm leaves. The saint perceived it was an angel who took this form and acted in this manner to make him understand how, by going from work to prayer, and from prayer to work, he could cheerfully and surely work out his salvation.

The old hermits of the desert all understood this. They did not dare to be idle, but made baskets, cultivated the ground, spent all their time in labor or prayer, and so worked out their salvation in the utmost security.

We cannot have the life of these old hermits of the desert over again nowadays, but, outside the wall of the convent, whose life is most like theirs?

That of the good girl who earns her own living at service, or at some other honest employment. She it is who enjoys, more than any others that I know of, the advantages which these old saints coveted so much — who can spend her days in work and prayer, and thus keep off the evil one, and work out her salvation with comparative ease.

Do not then complain of labor, but rejoice, and thank God that He has given you not a life of idleness, but honest and continual labor. Tt is a very great favor of His love, as you will see, when this body of the flesh falls away, and you stand on the other side of eternity.


“A man wants a woman who will place him at the top of her priority list, not second but first. He does not expect his wife to neglect important duties in his behalf. He is aware of the demands of her life and wants her to give each responsibility the attention it requires. He does not want his children to suffer neglect. And he knows she is entitled to other interests and diversions. But, he doesn’t want to be less important.”

Helen Andelin, Fascinating Womanhood 



We often don’t realize the impact of those lessons, those Catholic lessons, that are taught each day to our children. It is so much worth the effort! The signs of the crosses, kneeling to say prayers, dipping fingers in holy water, laying fresh flowers at the statue of Our Lady, etc., etc. These are gold nuggets that will live on in your children’s lives. This is building Catholic Culture!

The following two books are to help you parents with those little things…..They are story books from my new little series, “Catholic Hearth Stories”. I wrote them especially for my grandchildren….and am sharing them with yours.

Catholic Hearth Stories are tales filled with traditional, old-fashioned values. They are about everyday situations in the life of a Catholic family…Tales about home, friends, fun, sacrifice, prayer, etc. These are full-color books sure to capture the heart of your children.

Each book is about 35 pages of full-color pictures that tell a lovely Catholic story. The ages they are appropriate for are approximately 4 – 12 years.

Celine’s Advent: Take a walk through Advent as Celine and her family prepare for the coming of the Baby Jesus at Christmas! You will enjoy celebrating the beauty of the season with Celine as she helps her mom with the special traditions and activities that make the liturgy come alive in their home! Her “peanut gallery” consists of a mouse named Percy and some charming and delightful Christmas Angels! They are sure to capture your heart!

Joseph and the Bow Shoot: Meet Joseph, a Catholic boy who wants to enter the Parish Bow Shoot but doesn’t have a bow. How does he overcome this obstacle and what lessons does he learn along the way?

Two Tea Parties and a Sacrifice: Meet Agnes, a fourteen-year-old Catholic girl, who is challenged to make a sacrifice. Will she cheerfully accept what she knows is God’s will in this situation?

Brendan, The Seafarer: It’s Brendan’s birthday and he is fighting pirates, steering ships and wielding swords! He learns of St. Brendan, the Navigator and the pious Christopher Columbus. Life is a nautical adventure for him! Will his daydreaming cause him trouble? What lessons does he learn?
There is a “peanut gallery” in this book….a turtle named Ollie and a seahorse named Sherman and other sea creatures that make their appearance now and again and have their own chats among themselves!

Available here.

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