Dear Parishioners and Friends,
As Fr. Bill would say: “Happy End of Meteorological Summer!” I must admit that this is a new term for me – so new that I can barely pronounce it! Apparently, according to one website I consulted, meteorologists and climatologists define the seasons differently. The astronomical seasons are defined by the movement of the earth in relationship to the sun. But climatologists define the seasons according to temperature cycles. Thus, Autumn includes the months of September, October and November; Winter is December, January and February; Spring is March, April and May; Summer is June, July and August. This makes a lot of sense to me; however, I maintain that the seasons seem to have shifted by at least a month over the course of my lifetime. For example, March can be brutally cold and winterlike; and December can be “unseasonably” warm, especially at Christmastime.
All that being said, this particular time of the year – the end of the summer vacation season – always leaves me feeling a bit wistful. Even though I am long past my student days, I still feel that sense of “the fun is over” as Labor Day approaches. And the fact that many schools start up well before Labor Day is something I simply cannot fathom! I remember one time, many years ago, I was in Ocean City, NJ strolling along the boardwalk in the latter part of August. I noticed lots of children and teenagers running about, enjoying the rides and games, and I kept thinking to myself: “You’re in for a rude awakening, kids!” I guess I never got over my childhood anxiety of the end of summer, and the only thing that saved me from utter despair was knowing that my birthday was just around the corner!
In the United States we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September. It was established as a federal holiday in 1894 to honor and recognize the American labor movement, and the work and contributions of workers. Nowadays, Labor Day consists mostly of backyard barbecues and back-to-school sales. So, whatever plans you may have for the day, enjoy it and have fun!
As I reflect on the Responsorial Psalm for this weekend, I see it as a perfect complement to our observance of Labor Day. As you can see on the cover of this bulletin, I have collected a group of photos to accompany the final verse of Psalm 90: “May the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!” On this Labor Day weekend I think of the many ways our hands are used, either in work or in leisure. We speak of “manual labor” – which literally means “hand work.” Some hands must be strong and rough like a carpenter’s or mechanic’s; some hands must be fast and accurate like a pianist’s or typist’s; some hands must be light and delicate like a knitter’s or tailor’s; some hands must be able to knead dough over and over like a baker’s; some hands must be willing to get dirty and grimy like a farmer’s or gardener’s.
There are so many professions and occupations that require the use of one’s hands, but if those hands are injured or grow arthritic, one’s prosperity is endangered. On the other hand (sorry about that), I think of those whose hands have been idled due to the loss of a job. On Labor Day we must also be mindful of those who desperately seek employment, and I pray that the Lord will prosper the work of their hands.
Let us always keep in mind that we are God’s handiwork, as St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us: “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” Thus, may our good works reflect and protect the beauty of God’s creation in whatever ways our hands are capable.
Blessings on your week ahead.
Fr. Tim Shreenan, O.F.M.