The Life of Man With God
(Garden City: Image Books, 1956),
A vignette about a tradesman, living the life
with God, not of, but yet in the world.
My alarm goes off at six o'clock in the morning. I have to
be on the job by eight and in order to get to seven o'clock Mass this is about
the best time to waken. The location of my work changes from time to time and I
have found it convenient to attend Mass at a church near the job, to eliminate
the possibility of being late. Fortunately in a large city, there is usually a
church at hand.
After the morning ablutions have gotten rid of some of the
sleepiness, I say my Morning Offering before the wall crucifix. My mind is still
sluggish from slumber however and a little stimulus is provided by reading a bit
from the "Imitation" or perhaps the preces from the day's feast
in the Missal. These I can recall later at Mass.
In church comes a renewal of the Morning Offering in our
Lord's sacramental presence. During the Holy Sacrifice I pray for various
intentions: for the Church suffering, not only in Purgatory but here on this
globe, in those countries that say: "there is no God," and the State
is master of the destiny of man; for peace, if it be God's will to lift the
scourge of war and the fear of still more war; for all those in their last agony
or in danger of dying impenitent, that they may recall God's love and mercy; for
those who are weighted down by the cares of the world; for those whose life has
become dull and meaningless that they may taste the Lord and see that He is
sweet and the joy of life; for the grace of final perseverance.
After Communion the time left is spent in thanksgiving.
The inestimable gift of Christ, true God and true man, makes me wish I might
prostrate myself in complete humility on the floor of the church. With the
possible exception of night prayer, this is the most peaceful moment of the day.
With your eyes closed you feel the greatest intimacy with the Savior. The church
with all its familiar furnishings disappears for a few minutes and you are in a
vast measureless void, surrounded by the infinite Immensity of the Blessed
Trinity. But the minute hand moves quickly on and severs this sweet bond. The
world, the flesh, and the devil are waiting outside; but I have fortified myself
with charity, and He is a seal upon my heart.
At eight o'clock I've changed into my work clothes and I
and my partner (we always work in pairs) either continue on our previous day's
work or see the foreman for new work. The contracting shop we are working for is
air-conditioning a large office building. There are over seventy pipe fitters on
the job and they are occupied with various facets of the work. Some are in the
basement installing centrifugal compressors that chill the water, others are
piping connections to the pumps that will send the chilled water coursing
through the individual units on all twenty-six floors.
I'm engaged in connecting the individual units (forty on
each floor) to the supply and return pipes coming up from the basement. These
units are amazingly light things consisting of finned coils over which a forced
draft of air flows. One is placed under each window. They are connected by
copper tubing to the aforementioned supply and return pipes. A small tank of
Prest-o-lite gas, a torch and soft wire solder are used to sweat the joints
This part of the job is not particularly strenuous but in
hot weather that torch makes the perspiration flow faster. Then occasionally you
may flick a droplet of hot solder onto your hand and that's something you can
offer up. A truck loaded with iron pipe will come every so often and after you
have helped to unload it, you have a very keen appreciation of how our Lord's
shoulder must have felt under the weight of the cross.
In general there are very few serious accidents, the
safety first factor having been driven home by both the contractor and the
Work ends at 3:30 and while everyone has his own work pace
I know I'm fairly tired by then. Of course there is a certain satisfaction in
seeing the fruits of your work.
During the day, one must naturally keep his mind on what
he is doing, but there are little pauses and moments of transition when one can
make silent aspirations to keep Christ in the picture. In a small booklet by Dom
Norbert Schachinger, the author calls this the "Little Secret." Since
we "ought always to pray" and do all for the glory of God, these
silent aspirations provide us with a nearly continuous prayer life even during
our working hours when the noon-day devil is rampant.
On the way home I make a stop in a Catholic church which
is near my room and make a visit. The beautiful booklet by St. Alphonsus Liguori
containing devotional matter for these visits is easily carried in the pocket
and is a joy to use. Sometimes I feel too tried even for this little prayer and
then I simply kneel there offering our Lord my fatigue, discomfort, or
distraction. At times the same weariness seems to bring forth a simple prayer of
humility and affection as though one were laying his head on the shoulder of
Christ and remaining wordless, but trusting.
Back at my room, a fervent "Deo gratias"
to the crucifix for a safe return to my nest. Then the grime gets washed off and
I take a nap if I am tired. A few technical books on heating and ventilating are
on the shelf and I'll pore over a chapter to help me get some of the theory to
complement the practice I've had all day.
In the evening I like to visit a Catholic library which
has a good assortment of books. If I start meandering through the Catholic
Encyclopedia, its generally the warning bell at closing time that ends my
absorption in its riches. Supper is usually at the Automat nearby. Perhaps once
a week I visit my sister in the suburbs and eat with her.
I don't have too many books in my room. There are a good
many periodicals, such as The Life of the Spirit and Worship which
I get at the bookrack at St. Francis of Assisi church. I found an interesting
little book there recently called Secular Institutes. Beside my Bible is the
Imitation. Next to that stand two books by St. Francis de Sales (whom I like
above all): Introduction to the Devout Life and Spirit of Love.
Next is The Lay Apostle After the Heart of St. Benedict by Dom Idesbald
Ryelandt of Glenstal Priory, Ireland. It gives one a wonderful spiritual buffer
against the pressures of everyday life: thirty-two pages but all gold. There is
also a big fat Liber Usualis on the shelf. I've always loved the chant
but never as a participant. Of late I've been attempting to learn its
deceptively simple ways. Properly done it seems to have inexhaustible beauty;
and "he who sings prays twice."
Bed-time is approximately 10:30 when I take into my hands
a little book containing the Office of Compline. By now the mental wheels are
running smoothly, so after a short examination of the day's faults, I chew over
something from de Sales and try it on for size. In case I can't focus on one
thing, I'll switch off the lights and say the Rosary. Mary never fails to tuck
me in: Mater amabilis.