There is a beautiful golf club down the hill from us. Because so many of its members live in houses on its perimeter, it’s not unusual to see people riding to and fro in their golf carts. For many, this is a classic image of retirement.
I can’t say it attracts me all that much. I have nothing against golf. I took a class in college and loved the sensation of driving a ball up and across an expanse of emerald-green lawn. The hushed tones that accompany the tournaments my husband watches are a nice counterpoint to the loud and obnoxious noise of football games and hockey matches. It’s not the game of golf; it’s the idea of not working that lacks appeal to me.
Let me explain my thoughts. We have such an ambivalent relationship with work in modern day life. While often deriving our identity from “what we do”, we also make retirement – the cessation of such work – a lifetime goal. I don’t begrudge anyone the space and relaxation that retirement affords. The opportunity to spend more time doing things one loves, as well as being with family and friends, is good for the heart and soul. Nevertheless, there is an intrinsic value to work, whether one is drawing a paycheck or not. Thus, the reason behind the emphasis on the “rights and dignity of the worker” that is one of the themes of Catholic Social Teaching.
As we move into the Labor Day weekend, it is helpful to consider the important place that work has in Christian spirituality, as well as the value of striking a balance between work and rest. In her primer on the Benedictine Rule, author Jane Tomaine describes how it calls for “…a balance between physical activity and rest, work, and prayer, time alone and time together, work with the mind and work with the body” (St. Benedict’s Toolbox). This understanding makes retirement less a goal and more of a movement towards other kinds of work. All of it, in the end, works together for the greater glory of God and the service of our fellow human beings.