Labor Day, the first Monday in September, came from Matthew Maguire, a machinist from Paterson, N. J., who wanted to recognize those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” and ultimately a formal creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
In most of the European and Latin American countries, the equivalent of Labor Day is celebrated on May 1, a date that Pope Pius XII wanted to include in the Catholic liturgical calendar, creating the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
This relation between faith and work is not new in the Christian tradition. In the Gospel, Jesus includes workers, field laborers and shepherds in his parables to teach us about God and his Kingdom and reminds us that “the laborer deserves his keep.”
In the seventh century, a great saint, St. Benedict of Nursia, founded the order of monks who in time would be known as Benedictines. Benedict, wanted his monks, even though they lived in a monastery praising God, to also work in order to earn their livelihood. They would worship God not only through prayer, but also through their work. In this way, the Benedictine monks helped improve society in Europe. Their monasteries expanded throughout the European continent, giving it spiritual unity. They also taught agricultural techniques to the people and preserved the classical culture through their work copying the great Greek and Roman philosophical and artistic works.
St. Alphonsus Liguori used to say sharply: “He who doesn’t pray, won’t be saved.” With this phrase, the saint wanted to emphasize how important prayer is for our life. In the same way that work guarantees bodily food, prayer is the nourishment for the spirit. Without prayer, the soul dies, just like the body does when it is deprived of food and water.
Anyway, the first Labor Day holiday in the U.S. was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held it second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the patters for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor Convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
Labor Day's cultural and spiritual revolution was founded in a simple motto: “ora et labora,” pray and work. Since its beginnings then, many faiths have intimately linked these two activities: prayer and work; which was ultimately expressed in the founding of our country. So, although it is a secular day, a number of organizations and houses of worship express good wishes for the day with prayers.
For everyone who works to live, or lives to work, today is the day we honor the working man and working woman. Some of us "work," yet receive no paycheck! Whatever your hourly wage or annual salary, whatever work you do or service you provide, may you be blessed by wealth in whatever currency in which you trade, and may you prosper at least as much as your wildest dreams, your hearts' desires. I could find no "special" prayer in my soul for today so here are some of my favorites that move the spirits and direct good will to all of you:
We are thankful for the dignity and creative challenge of our unique tasks.
For the work that ennobles us, that lifts up our spirits, we are grateful.
By means of these labors, we are able to give flesh to our spiritual dreams and to work out the salvation of the earth.
We take time to thank You for those common tasks that we must perform each day, those necessary labors of life by which, according to Your divine plan, we are also able to create the Kingdom here in our midst.
Help us, Lord our God, to use the work of this day – to perform it with mindfulness and attention, with care and devotion – that it will be holy and healing for us and for all the earth.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, who enhances our lives with work.
Prayer of Blessing the Work of Our Hands
Prayer by Diann Neu from Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resources, Volume 1, 1994
Blessed be these hands that have touched life.
Blessed be these hands that have nurtured creativity.
Blessed be these hands that have held pain.
Blessed be these hands that have embraced with passion.
Blessed be these hands that have tended gardens.
Blessed be these hands that have closed in anger.
Blessed be these hands that have planted new seeds.
Blessed be these hands that have harvested ripe fields.
Blessed be these hands that have cleaned, washed, mopped, scrubbed.
Blessed be these hands that have become knotty with age.
Blessed be these hands that are wrinkled and scarred from doing justice.
Blessed be these hands that have reached out and been received.
Blessed be these hands that hold the promise of the future.
Blessed be the works of your hands, O Holy One.
Prayer for the Worker
Rabbi Melanie Aron
As we gather here today, help us to remember our responsibilities as your hands in the world.
May we never be satisfied with our prayers for the welfare of our communities, but add our actions to our words. So long as some are denied basic human rights of fair working conditions, of fair pay and of health care, we cannot rest. Blessed may we be in gathering today. Blessed may we be in going forth to work for justice.
We Are Workers
Prayer by Archbishop Oscar Romero
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Written by theotherbed on Monday, September 7, 2009
When I feel doubt about my ability to care for myself, Heal my disbelief.
When I feel confused about money, Bring me clarity and peace.
When I experience lack or want, Fill my cup with Your love and generosity.
When I feel less than worthy, less than powerful, Impart to me Your Love and Strength.
So that my bank account is always increasing, and that I may give and receive in the abundant Spirit that reflects Your Infinite Good.
A prayer for workers
by Mark Noonan September 6th, 2010
On this Labor Day, especially, let us call to mind and offer our prayers for those who labor – and those who are unable to do so because of the difficulties of our economy. God grant that these bad times pass speedily away, and that we all endure them in good cheer and with loving generosity for those who are worst affected.
Prayer for Labor Day
National Interfaith Worker Justice 2007 materials.
God of love and justice, we come to You this Labor Day asking for Your presence and guidance. You have asked us to walk with our brothers and sisters and told us there are no strangers among us. Yet, we still turn against You and the law You have given us to love one another as we love ourselves. As the Psalm says, we know that good will comes to those who are generous and lend freely, and to those who conduct their affairs with justice. However, we have sometimes failed to be generous with our time and resources, and have neglected opportunities to treat others with human dignity.
God, as we remember those who are struggling and organizing for a living wage, healthcare, and human dignity in their workplaces, remind us this Labor Day that You have called us to walk in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, as we conduct our affairs with love and justice. May it be so.
A Labor Day Prayer of Confession
By Tom & Amanda
God, you made the world and everything in it. You are Lord of heaven and earth and do not live in temples built by labor, and you are not served by human labor, as if you needed anything, because you yourself give all humanity life and breath and everything else.
We confess that far too often, we do not remember that you are the source of every good gift, of every breath we take and of every calorie of energy we exert.
And we confess that in our darkest moments, we do not want gifts, handouts. Because to us, handouts are for losers. Handouts are for dropouts. Handouts are for beggars on roadsides. Handouts are not for us.
Because we are a people who labor. Our bodies labor to earn so we can eat, buy, sell and secure. Our minds labor with anxiety over all we must accomplish and all we leave undone. Our souls labor endlessly to win your affections – as though your heart could be won by the sweat of our brow. We labor, we produce, we strive, and all too often we consider ourselves worthy and deserving of that with which you have given us.
We confess that we often allow the labor of our hands to distract us from the work that your Spirit is accomplishing in our world – in your world.
Let us remember that you created us in six days, that at the end of your labors, you rested.
Let us remember that the work of our hands is to sow the seeds of our own destruction, not our salvation.
And let us remember that from those first days, you did not rest again until you laid in the Tomb, having accomplished in your work the redemption that all our labors could not purchase for us.
Let us remember that our salvation was a gift given out of the very depths of your love for us, and that it was given freely, graciously.
Let us remember that we are more than producers, more than the sum of our labors, more than our portfolios and purchasing power. Because at the foot of the cross, we are all beggars in need of the handout you so freely extend to us.
This is a weekend in which we break the surface of the sea of our daily toil to draw a collective breath to break from our many labors. So teach us in this time to rest as you created us to rest. Teach us to pause from our production. And in that rest, in that pause, give us eyes to see where your Spirit is already at work, that we may join into your labors. Because we confess that your work -
- proclaiming good news to the poor
- freedom to the prisoner
- healing the sick
- releasing those who suffer oppression
- and doing the hard work of justice
- these labors are what the Spirit anointed your Son to accomplish, and what we as his body are anointed still to do. Let us fill our brief lives with the work of your kingdom. Let the work of our hands become the work of your body, and your Son.
For in this hour together, we look to Jesus, through whom we know and receive your many good gifts and in whose name we gratefully pray.
Labor Day Prayer for Reflection
By Susan Helene Kramer of BellaOnlineCOM
May we reflect lightheartedly and prayerfully on this day of celebration by sitting in meditation and reflecting on the following verses!
We celebrate on Labor Day.
Throughout the year we give our best
We each deserve a little rest.
The days and weeks and years march on
Work well done an unspoken song.
We thank you Lord for giving life
Even when work seems more like strife.
In work we have a chance to show
Our talents perhaps, but surely to grow.
Interrelating and doing our jobs
Helps us remember we’re an important cog.
On the wheel of life we turn and go on
Fulfilled when we say
"A good job we've done."
May The Creator, The Fates, The Force be with you and yours always.
From TNT - a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading, Prepper ;-}