Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for July 2012 is "That everyone may have work in safe and secure conditions." Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, work has been an essential condition of human life. To feed our families and ourselves, man must till the soil and bring forth the fruit of the earth by the sweat of his brow. Of course, as society advances, fewer people are able to (or even want to) provide for their family's needs directly. Division of labor allows us to work in more specialized occupations, and to pay for the necessities of life with our earnings.
As production becomes more industrialized, however, working conditions become more dangerous. Despite attempts of governments to regulate worker safety, certain occupations are inherently unsafe. And during a worldwide economic downturn, as more and more people have trouble finding work and, moreover, do not have the means to provide for their families directly (by, say, raising their own food), men and women are willing to take work wherever they can find it, even if the working conditions are less than ideal.
We can join our own prayers to Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for July by praying a Prayer for Workers. Written by Pope John XXIII, it invokes Saint Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of workers, to intercede for all workers, and to remind them that their work is a means of sanctification. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have work, there is a Novena to Saint Joseph the Worker, to aid us in performing our jobs well. And, likewise, we can turn to Saint Joseph in a Prayer for Fidelity to Work, especially when we find ourselves disinclined to work with the diligence that we ought to.
And for those who are out of work, or who are considering switching occupations, this Prayer to Know Our Vocation can be quite helpful.
The Holy Father's mission prayer intention for July 2012 is "That Christian volunteers in mission territories may witness to the love of Christ." The point of all Christian missions, of course, is to minister not only to the physical needs of others but to their spiritual needs. And the most important way of doing so, beyond preaching the Gospel and bringing the sacraments to those who are without them, is to exhibit in our own lives the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.