Social Justice Is a Full-Time Job

By Droel, William | U.S. Catholic, December 1999 | Go to article overview

Social Justice Is a Full-Time Job

Droel, William, U.S. Catholic

Social-ministry advocates are barking up the wrong tree when they push after-hours, volunteer activism over on-the-job justice work.

The Catholic social tradition is "a central and essential element of our faith," said the U.S. Catholic bishops last year in their statement on Sharing Catholic Social Teaching. "A commitment to social justice is," according to the bishops, "at the heart of who we are and what we believe."

If this is true, it is critical that the whole church become more adept at sharing its social-justice teachings. Too many Catholics--young adults come quickly to mind--know too little about the church's social tradition. Better communicating Catholic social teaching involves three tasks:

1) To promote understanding of social teaching in the liturgy;

2) To focus on the workplace as the main site where social justice is to be lived and carried out; and

3) To create institutions that support lay people as they struggle to apply principles of social justice in their jobs, families, and neighborhoods.

The work of human hands

After the family, the primary school for social justice is the liturgy because ritual is how we profoundly enter into the significant things in life. Liturgy has an integral connection to daily work.

The Eucharist is an action par excellence of peace and justice. For what is it that is brought to the table and becomes the Body and Blood of Christ? Not wheat and grapes but the fabrication of wheat and grapes: the work of human hands. The bread and wine on the altar are nothing less than our Monday-to-Friday work--broken and flawed though that work may be.

The expectation is that each Christian go forth and be a member of the Body of Christ in his or her everyday life. So connected is the Sunday Eucharist with the Body of Christ at work in the world that scripture enjoins us to leave the bread and wine at the table until we have made peace and justice with all sisters and brothers. But how, Sunday to Sunday, can the liturgy better connect with worshipers' workday aspirations for justice?

First, preachers can enrich their knowledge of the workplace.

"One Sunday I tried preaching about God in the workplace," says Father Dominic Grassi of St. Josaphat Parish in Chicago. "I realized how precious little I had to say because I am not in the workplace. Subsequently I invited some parishioners to discuss the topic over pizza and beer. The group now meets regularly."

Grassi notices an improvement in his preaching. "Last week," he reports, "after attending Mass, a banker approached me to register in the parish. He had never before heard in church that his banking experience pertained to scripture."

Second, the worship space can be used to remind the assembly that their real work is in the world, not in the sanctuary. For example, the signs over the exits at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago read: "Exit to serve." And at United Methodist Church in Worth, Illinois the signs remind worshipers: "You are entering the mission field; return when you need reinforcement."

The 9-to-5 work for justice

The Chicago archdiocese's lay-ministry training program includes classes in theology, interpersonal skills, and group dynamics as well as sessions on social justice. Some time ago a vice president of a large Chicago bank taught the social-justice component, using a hypothetical case study of a parish's effort to close a pornographic movie theater. He concluded by urging the lay ministers to start social concerns committees in their parishes to tackle similar situations. Participants were left with the distinct impression that social justice is about starting another parish committee and doing something on weekends.

Wouldn't the training have been much more effective if the banker had spent the session discussing the possibilities of and difficulties in promoting social justice in the banking and real estate industries? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Social Justice Is a Full-Time Job


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.