As most of us, of various denominations, were taking our well-earned sabbatical last Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI was working — if extolling people to take it easy at work can be called working. The pontiff quoted St Bernard of Clairvaux, warning his audience of “the dangers of excessive activity, whatever the condition or office held, because many occupations lead to a hardening of the heart and suffering of the spirit”.
Just to reach out to the more rational among the crowd, the pope added that working too hard could lead to a “loss of intelligence”. Clearly, the Pope doesn’t subscribe to the Calvinist doctrine of hard work. Or for that matter the philosophy of St Bashful, St Doc, St Dopey, St Grumpy, St Happy, St Sleepy and St Sneezy, all canonised in Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, who insisted we all whistle while we work.
So why has the Pope told his flock to not work too hard? One explanation could be that with Europe — especially his home country, Germany — facing spiralling unemployment, if working people take it a bit easy, there will be enough work for the jobless. Such an explanation, however, hasn’t satisfied everyone. As Joseph Alois Ratzinger, Pope Benedict was a member of the Hitler Youth. The 79-year-old Ratzinger, or so goes the theory, is subtly trying to change his ‘Panzer Pope’ image by contradicting that old Nazi line that greeted those entering concentration camps — Arbeit macht frei (Work will free you). Whatever be his reason, the Pope is saying that work is overrated. How can we not say amen to that?