Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Litlte Rock, Arkansas
November 8, 1985     Arkansas Catholic
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November 8, 1985

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ii  i Faith Todav A supplement to Catholic newspapers, published with grant assistance from Cath- olic Church Extension Society, by the Na- tional Catholic News Sen4ce, 1312 Massa- chusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. All contents copyright 1985 by NC News Service. 7 By Dolores Leckey NC News Service My daughter has just completed her fourth season of summer stock. Returning to New York to resume theatrical studies, Mary Kate now will be a member of Ac- tors Equity Association, the theater union. For the first time, she will belong to the world of health in- surance, unemployment insurance, negotiated wages. She will belong to the world of work. l asked what working in the theater means to her. "'It's being in a show, of course," Mary Kate replied. "But it's also the ordinary work actors do every day, between shows. It's practicing, exercising your body and your voice, auditioning, mak- ing contacts, adjusting your resume. It's important to do a full day's work whether or not on a stage" she insisted. When I reflect on the life Mary Kate has chosen, I see the dif- ferent path to which her choices lead: a minimal standard of living, few consumer goods, hard physical work, disappointments. I also see the pure joy her work generates. Asked what she finds fulfilling in her work, Mary Kate answered: "When I do the work Well, I use every bit of myself to my fullest potential." Describing a recent experience While acting in Chekov's "The Seagull" she explained: "The mo- ment came when I didn't think about what 1 was doing. I wasn't important, only the work was.'" What Mary Kate describes is. I believe, an important element in a theology of work -- a vision of Work as self-expression which belongs to a larger reality. Theologian Dorothy Soelle calls this "co-creation" in "To Work and To Love" (Fortress Press). She Writes: "Good work is a basic human need. We destroy the human being if work means functioning without joy. without fulfillment, without irnagination...We need to under- Stand ourselves as co-creators who require constructive joyful work in Which we are challenged to develop our creative potential." Is this experience of work as CO-creation limited to artists or scientists? I think not. In his encyclical, "On Human Work," Pope John Paul II writes about the dignity of all workers: "The basis for determining the Taking a Role in Work To work with joy is to be a co-creator, writes Dolores Leckey. She suggests that discipline, con- templation, humility and respect for time are vir- tues that can invigorate our view of labor as a gift from God. value of human work is not primarily the kind of work being done, but the fact that one who is doing it is a person." [] [] [] I'd like to suggest several or- dinary practices which can strengthen such an awareness of work. The practice of discipline: This is the commitment to whatever task is at hand. Discipline is need- ed for every kind of work. *The practice of what I call common contemplation: This means deliberately turning full at- tention to ordinary work -- clean- ing house, programming a com- puter  without being distracted. This can enhance our joy in work. The 20th century mystic Simone Well wrote an essay on using geometry to develop this ability to concentrate. She would work on a theorem with total concentration, seeing it through to the end no matter how long it took. But we don't need geometry to develop the practice of common contemplation. The contents of daily life can serve this purpose. eHumility: St. Therese of Lisieux spoke of humility as a means of learning to live with the truth about ourselves. How do we view the mistakes that occur in the course of our work? As a threat to our being? Or as a means of change and growth? We know that great artists learn from their,mistakes. So do great people and great workers. *Respect for time: Time is the gift that tracks the flow of life. To begin to get an idea of how we use time, we need to look at blocks of it: how we use each week, each day, each hour. As we understand our use of time we are able to enjoy our work and do it well. We are also able to ap- preciate non-work, our leisure or sabbath times. In this way, life assumes a healthy balance. One of Mary Kate's teachers is fond of reminding students that "acting means to recognize the life in yourself and the life all around you. And when you're on stage to allow the life to resonate through you and show what it is to be a human Being." But I think these words provide food for thought for all who work. (Mrs. Leckey is director of the U.S. bishops" Secretariat for the Laity.)