Opening of “Rerum Novarum” (Of New Things), promulgated May 15, 1891
Your poor deacon considers it his duty to imitate Paul (the Church marks his Conversion this coming Wednesday the 25th, by the way) as he spoke and acted to the Ephesians, when he counseled his brothers and sisters to speak “…only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (Ep 4: 29). Such was my intention this week when I entered into today’s Gospel, of Jesus’ call to the fishermen, known concisely as The Summons. This passage from Matthew made me think of work narrowly, and vocations more broadly, and so I re-read the above-cited encyclical, with the hope of applying it to the Scripture and to our lives today.
But nothing was as cogent and prescient as the opening, with the exception of “the closer mutual combination of the working classes,” which has not really taken hold widely in the US. About other nations I’m not sure, except that Germany is often held as the exemplar for worker-management cooperation. Generally, however, the practice with regard to wage costs is a “race to the bottom,” and with that race goes workers’ hopes for gains. I’ll go no further than encourage having your own journey with the document.
What was on the minds of Simon, Andrew, James, and John when Jesus called them away from their labors with the intriguing if vague promise to be re-purposed as “fishers of men” (Mt 4: 19)? “Is there dental with that?” (OK, I stole that joke from Grosse Pointe Blank) My conversion story unfolded during my move to Detroit in 2008, in the week before I started at my Mercy Volunteer Corps ministry site. I was walking from Corktown to St. Al’s on Washington Blvd., and was thinking about all the holy people I’d met in the days prior, who though they knew me not, seemed – I saw it and I felt it – to believe that I would succeed in my work. And the phrase from Mass popped into my head: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” And as I was walking across the Lodge overpass, it hit me – that, ideally, this means all of us. May we be blessed, and may we bless each other, through our labors.