by Father Mark Goldasich
I don’t suppose you ever totally outgrow it.
This particular malady strikes hard at this time of year. It goes by a variety of names, but the most popular is “senioritis,” defined as a condition “characterized by a decline in motivation or performance.”
According to the website — www.educationworld.com — symptoms include (but are not limited to):
• Mild to moderate cases of staring out the window
• Homework fatigue
• Inflammation of the whining gland
• Acute mediocrity
• Excessive tardiness
• Classroom intolerance
• Excessive hallway wandering
• Existential malaise
Uh-oh. I’m not feeling so good right now. If you substitute “work” for “homework” and “workplace” for “classroom,” I’ve got all the symptoms!
But don’t worry! It’s nothing that a swift kick and the upcoming biweekly schedule of The Leaven can’t cure.
May is typically a busy month all around with lots of extra activities. Sometimes, in an effort to cope, our minds tend to go on vacation, long before our official one. Perhaps that’s why Pope Pius XII added the optional memorial to St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 to the church calendar in 1955. Ostensibly, it was to counteract secular May Day celebrations of the worker, popular in Communist countries. I bet another reason was as an antidote to the endemic senioritis outbreaks in May.
Whenever I’m tempted to gold brick the rest of this month, I call to mind this little story:
Once there was a wealthy man who wanted to do good. One day, he noticed the miserable conditions in which a poor carpenter lived.
The man called the carpenter and commissioned him to build a beautiful house. He said, “I want this to be an ideal cottage. Use only the best materials, employ only the best workmen and spare no expense!”
The man then left on a journey and hoped the house would be finished when he returned.
The carpenter saw this as a great opportunity for shoddiness. He skimped on materials, hired inferior workers, covered mistakes with paint and cut corners wherever he could.
When the rich man returned, the carpenter brought him the keys and said, “I’ve followed your instructions and built your house as you told me to.”
“I’m glad,” said the rich man, who handed the keys back to the builder. “Here are the keys. They are yours. I had you build this house for yourself. You and your family are to live in it as my gift.”
In the years that followed, the carpenter never ceased to regret the way he’d cheated himself. “Had I only known that I was building this house for myself,” he said, “how differently I would have gone about the task.” (Found in “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers,” by Paul J. Wharton.)
St. Joseph the carpenter would appreciate the point of this story. Whenever we don’t do our best work, the person that we’re cheating is ourselves. And, of course, “work” doesn’t only refer to our schoolwork or our job. We also work at being a good parent, good spouse, good child, good sibling, good neighbor, good friend and good citizen.
Becoming a good Christian is work as well. Saint Paul sometimes used athletic images to get the point across. For example, he writes: “Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it” (1 Cor 9: 24b-27a).
And, perhaps as a warning against senioritis, he writes: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7).
If your motivation is flagging and you’re tempted to chuck it all in anticipation of summer, press on instead. Perhaps we can draw inspiration from St. Joseph the Worker and say often the opening prayer on his feast day:
“O God, Creator of all things, who laid down for the human race the law of work, graciously grant that by the example of St. Joseph and under his patronage we may complete the works you set us to do and attain the rewards you promise.”
Suddenly, those three more weekly issues of The Leaven before the summer don’t seem so daunting.
Isn’t it funny how that all works out?