The Beautiful Life of Labor


This is a lovely excerpt and can be applied to anyone suffering hardship in their daily toil. We must not wish for what others have, others’ positions, their advantages in this world; we must realize that all our labor (daily duties) in this life, all the people who cross our path that we may have to serve in one way or the other, is our means to sanctification….a real gift.

GUIDE for CATHOLIC YOUNG WOMEN, Especially Those Who Earn Their Own Living by Rev. George Deshon, 1863


Ah! But you do not consider what it is to be constantly working; to be looked down upon as an inferior; to be treated with contempt: all those things that belong to a life of labor. Surely it is more than one can put up with! And remember it is these very things that make the life of a working-girl different from every other.

What advantage can there be in all this? I have taken all these things into account, and yet I say that, in the view of religion, in the view of faith, in the view of Jesus Christ our Savior, it is that very humility of your state, that very subjection to those very insults, and all that you are liable to suffer, which make the highest privilege of your condition. These very things are precious diamonds and pearls, which the Lord gives to you and not to others.

Why, this is the very money put in your hands with which you can buy your salvation! Only take these things from the hands of God with patience and thankfulness, and nothing more is required of you. In this view, how much harder is the lot of your employers than yours! They must be humble and poor in spirit; they must put away pride and haughtiness, or they cannot get through the gate of heaven. “He that exalteth himself shall be humbled” (St. Luke xiv. 11).

Think how hard this must be, surrounded as they are by all those things that nourish and increase pride. Suppose you were in their place, do you think you would be humble and lowly before God; gentle and kind to those below you; not taken up and engrossed with riches; in a word, poor in spirit? I am afraid not.

It seems to me it would be very difficult, and so it seemed to our Lord when He thought over it, for He exclaimed, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God !” (St. Mark x. 23).

Be thankful, then, instead of repining, and say, “No, Lord, I ask no change; it is better for me just as I am. I am humbled in the sight of men, but blessed in Thine.”

There is a beautiful passage of Scripture which in a few words confirms all that I have said: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world that He may confound the wise; and the weak things hath God chosen that He may confound the strong; and the mean things and those that are contemptible hath God chosen.” (i Cor. i. 27, 28).

How beautiful! What the world esteems foolish, and weak, and mean, and contemptible, that is just what God has chosen, what He regards with peculiar favor, what He gives his blessing to and makes to be the road to everlasting life.

Moreover, our Lord shows us this by His own example. Instead of coming into the world rich and noble, He came poor and despised. Instead of coming to be waited upon. He came to wait on others. They used to say of Him: “Who is that? Only the son of Joseph, the carpenter!”

They remembered always how they had seen Him carry boards, and help Joseph at the carpenter’s trade. St. Paul says we ought to think in this respect as Jesus Christ did: ”For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it no robbery Himself to be equal to God but debased Himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Phil. ii. 5, 6, 7).

Above all other names, you see, he chooses to be called by the name of “servant”. In the Scripture the life of labor is taken under the special protection of the Lord. Whatever you do for an earthly master is considered by Him as being done for Himself.

“Whatever ye do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that ye shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance” (Col. iii. 23, 24). What a privilege! What dignity and honor this throws around your state of life!

When I think of it, I cannot help envying the good girl at work all the numerous advantages she enjoys; her opportunity for retirement and prayer; her opportunity for patience and humility, which will make her so much like Jesus Christ and so dear to Him; her opportunity of acquiring such rich merits by fidelity and good intention in her employments; the safety and peacefulness of her life; and all the good she will do to others by the force of her modest and holy example.

How well the saints understood this! St. Serapion sold himself twice in succession to the lowest comedians, and served them in the meanest offices, until by his humble example he converted them into fervent Christians.

St. Alexius, of a noble Roman family, fled away from his father’s house, and after remaining many years, until entirely forgotten, returned and lived seventeen years as a beggar dependent on the charity of his own father, who only found out who he was by a writing found upon him after his death. But I have found a most beautiful example, which throws light on the whole matter and which I will relate more at length.


This holy virgin lived in the Convent of Tabenna, in Egypt. She was one of a community of four hundred sisters. Such was her love of humiliation and contempt that she courted every way and opportunity of abasing herself. But, as her intention was entirely good, she took care that her follies should all be of an innocent character.

All the time she worked at the hardest and lowest work, as if she had been the vilest slave, and no one ever saw her idle a moment. Some of the sisters treated her harshly whenever they met her, thinking her to be insane, and others avoided her because they thought her possessed of the devil; but the humble Isidora never made the least complaint.

On the contrary, the more ill-usage she got, the more she seemed to be pleased and satisfied. She exercised herself in this way a long time, in what we may call the wise folly of the cross, until God, who exalts the humble, was pleased to manifest her heroic sanctity to a great servant of His, named Pytirion, who had lived many years in the exercise of constant prayer and good works.

An angel appeared to him in the desert where he lived, and told him not to think too highly of himself on account of his devotion and good works; that if he would go to the monastery of women at Tabenna, he would find there a person much superior to himself.

This was a woman who, being an object of ridicule, and treated with contempt, never showed the least impatience, but kept her heart constantly united to God, serving her sisters with a wonderful exactness and sweetness, while he, although he never left the desert, allowed his imagination sometimes to run over the whole world.

This venerable old man then went to the monastery, where he was well known by reputation, and asked the superior to have all her religious called together, as he had a special reason for wishing to see them. His request was granted, and they all came with the exception of the very one we have been speaking about.

Pytirion looked at them all attentively, but he did not discover the one he looked for. “Are all here?” said he.

“Yes,” was the answer, “all of us.”

“You must be mistaken,” said he, “for I do not see the one that God manifested to me.”

“Oh!” said they, “there is another, but she is only a poor crazy thing who works in the kitchen.”

“Bring her here,” said Pytirion, “and let me speak with her.”

But she seemed to have a foresight of what was to happen, and was so loath to come that they had almost to drag her along, saying that it was Pytirion that wished to speak with her. As soon as she appeared, the saint saw in her the marks of holiness that the angel had pointed out, and, filled with respect, he fell on his knees and begged her blessing, calling her “Amma”, a name only applied to the spiritual mothers of the monastery.

She, on her part, fell on her knees and humbly begged his blessing, thinking him superior to herself, and her master in goodness. All the religious were filled with astonishment at such a sight. A venerable old man on his knees before one whom they considered a poor crazy creature; they could not believe their eyes.

“Father!” they cried, “what makes you do so? Don’t you know she is only a fool?”

“You are the fools,” said Pytirion. “She is better than you, and better than I. She is a true mother in holiness, and would to God that at the day of judgment I may appear as loaded with merit as she is.”

At this answer they saw how much they had been deceived, and were touched to the heart, and confessed humbly all the abuse and harsh treatment they had inflicted upon her. Pytirion prayed for them, had a long conversation with the humble Isidora, and went away.

Finding herself after this the object of great respect and veneration on the part of the good sisters, she began to feel uneasy. She knew that labor and contempt were much better for her soul, and made her dearer to God.

She could not endure to be thought much of, so she soon left the place and went off  where she was unknown, and where, no doubt, she lived the same kind of life of contempt and humility as before. Nothing more was ever heard of her, but God knows all her life and will make it manifest at the last day.

“Devote yourself to your labor as well as to the fulfillment of all your duties energetically and with a pure intention to please God and make yourself useful to your neighbor. Raise your heart to God from time to time by means of fervent ejaculations (short, quick prayers to heaven), that it may not be narrowed by earthly occupations.” – Fr. Lasance, My Prayer Book http://amzn.to/2vnr146 (afflink)

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