Around the world, April 28 is recognized as Workers’ Memorial Day – the day we remember the men and women who have lost their lives at work. You might think that this is a problem confined to tenement garment workers in Bangladesh or coal miners in China — surely with America’s wealth and technology this is not an issue for us? In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 4,821 workplace fatalities in 2014. While the Dickensian conditions afflicting workers in the global South take an even greater toll, occupational fatalities are a worldwide problem. For a good summary of the US situation, check out the AFL-CIO’s Death on the Job report. And heed the advice of legendary Catholic labor agitator Mother Jones: “Pray for the dead… and fight like hell for the living!”
In his Christmas address to the Vatican Curia, Pope Francis described various ailments, sicknesses, and diseases “that we encounter most frequently in our life in the Curia.” Francis said, “They are illnesses and temptations that weaken our service to the Lord.” While intended for the Curia, Pope Francis is highlighting some problematic behavior that can easily apply to the average Christian, as well, making his remarks relevant for not just those in the Curia. Here are the 15 ailments described by Pope Francis:
- Considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable,’ neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body.
- ‘Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness, the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation.
- Mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God.
- Excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant.
- Poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team.
- Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the ‘first love.’
- Rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the color of one’s robes, insignia and honors become the most important aim in life.
- Existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honors.
- Chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren.
- Deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honoring people rather than God.
- Indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships.
- The funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance.
- Accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure.
- Closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself.
- Worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power.