It is only fitting that on this day, we as Catholics go back to May 22, 1891. it was Pentecost that year, and on that day when we celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Pope Leo XIII issued the first of what would come to be called the social encyclicals. For those unfamiliar with the term an encyclical is a letter intended to be circulated.
In this first Encyclical Rerum Novarum the pope addresses the new relationships created by the industrial age, the success but also the new abuses that arose with factory work.
He writes in the opening that, "It is no easy matter to define the relative rights and mutual duties of the rich and of the poor, of capital and of labor." No truer statement could have been written. In the abstract we understand the fundamental rights and responsibilities of both worker and employee. but in the concrete reality of our daily lives we love the bargain, and try not to think of the nearly slave labor that made it possible.
Today is a good day to go back to Leo XIII his words, (it is not a long document), and pray for workers, not just in our country, but around the world.
In 1991, Pope John Paul II wrote Centesimus Annus to mark the hundredth anniversary of this landmark work.
- Fr. Wayne