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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward an STL in sacred liturgy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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“We wish therefore and prescribe, that all observe the law of the Church, and that at home or in the church they shall always wear the cassock, which is proper to the clergy. When they go out for duty or relaxation or on a journey, they may use a shorter [coat] which is to be black in color, and which reaches to the knees, so as to distinguish it from the dress of the laity. They should reject the more elegant and worldly styles of garments, which are found today. We enjoin upon our priests as a matter of strict precept that, both at home and abroad, and whether they are residing in their own diocese or outside of it, they shall wear the Roman collar.”
— Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884)

Arbeit Macht Frei, or Ora et Labora
published 4 September 2017 by Fr. David Friel

HANDFUL of times, I have had the opportunity to visit Trappist monasteries. The Trappists are members of the Cistercian order, a group of cloistered contemplative monastics who follow a well-ordered regimen of life.

They come to chapel seven times a day to pray. In between their periods of prayer, they go about their work. Some of the monks work in the kitchen, others in the fields. Some of them make clothes or bread or candy or other things that could be sold to support the monastery. This is the difference between monks and friars; whereas friars beg for their sustenance, monks support themselves by the work of their hands. They put into practice St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “We urge you, brothers . . . to work with your own hands” (1 Thes 4:10-11).

In my short visits, I have found the Trappist way of life to be a very healthy and beautiful balance of prayer and work.

Today’s secular holiday of Labor Day was created in the late 1800’s to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers. There is surely much to be admired in good, honest work and in those who make a living by manual labor. Yet, at the same time, we Christians must be careful that work never becomes an idol for us. Especially as Americans, it’s easy for us to get on the hamster wheel of life by just working & working & working without end. But, contrary to the signs that hung above the gates of several concentration camps, work, alone, does not set us free. Only Christ can truly set us free.

So this is the key: We must introduce Christ into our labors. We must offer our labors to Him. As St. John Vianney reminds us, “Whatever we do without offering to God is wasted.”

Whether we are laborers or executives or students or retirees, all of us have the power to offer our daily tasks to God. Doing so is evidence that the prayerful, stirring words of Psalm 90 have begun to transform us: “Lord, give success to the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).

When we offer it to God, our work takes on incredible new value. This was the secret I observed at that Trappist monastery: work united with prayer—ora et labora—leads to a wonderful balance of life.