Ora et Labora

Ora et Labora, from a stained glass window of the Holy Family in St. Mary's Chapel
Ora et Labora, from a stained glass window of the Holy Family in St. Mary's Chapel

by Gerardo Martinez Cordeiro


Anyone familiar with Benedictine spirituality should be acquainted with the phrase ora et labora. This idea is also intrinsic to Jesuit teaching and close to the heart of the Catholic Church at large. The Church understands what Jesus meant 2,000 years ago when he sent out His apostles into the world to share the Good News, and the Church itself is pointless without social outreach. Jesuit spirituality fosters this understanding and expands it to its fullest potential through its social teaching. As a Catholic university, Boston College, develops the desire in its students to serve the community around them. Among many related programs is 4Boston—a group I have had the privilege of being a part of for the last 4 years.


4Boston is based on the belief that a better world can be achieved through small actions in our local community. There is no need to travel thousands of miles in order to help a fellow human being, when there are so many in Boston who need a hand. The three pillars of 4Boston—spirituality, community and social justice—reflect the balance that must be present in the heart and soul of all Catholics, because these are values that Jesus Christ Himself embodied.


First and foremost, Catholics must have a closeness to God. We need to take care of our hearts in order to go out into the community. Without God—and without the fuel of Christ in the Eucharist, His guidance and teachings through the Gospel, or His counsel and comfort through prayer—the labora part of the phrase falls mute. No matter how much we go out and help others, we need Christ to provide this work with its meaning, and to give us a purpose.


It is pointless, however, to understand the teachings of Jesus if we do not put them into practice. The Saints of our Church did not achieve sanctity through inaction and passive prayer. They understood it in the simple phrase ora et labora. They understood the importance of going out into the world and putting into action all those teachings.  Being a Catholic is not simply a spiritual experience—although much of it is based on or at least powered by this—it is a way of life that encompasses the community around us.               


Last but not least, all Catholics are called to bring about social justice. This is something Christ Himself practiced in His daily routine and through His teachings, and it is something worth pursuing for all of us. Pope Francis is but the latest of many key ecclesiastical personalities—including, but not limited to saints, popes, etc.—who put an important emphasis on the pursuit of social justice by the Catholic Church. We are all called to do this in order to bring about the Kingdom of God.


If I have gotten nothing else out of my time in 4Boston, it is that I have been able to experience the values of spirituality, community, and social justice by being an active participator in bringing about change for the better. The group has allowed me to put into practice the different elements of my Catholic faith. In so doing, I have grown as a man, and have become a more developed individual. By going every week to my mission, everything I hear in Mass and in my faith takes on a deeper meaning.


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