Being Catholic at Work

“For the Christian living in the middle of the world, he or she must choose to act responsibly in daily work.  Work should be ordered to the glory of God, to the service of society, to the fulfillment of family obligations.  It also provides a vital area for personal apostolate.” (Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God Volume 5, p.292-293)

Since I joined the Catholic Church in 2006, I have been involved in a number of ministries, groups and projects focused on helping Catholics lead Christ-centered lives that integrate faith, family and work. The Integrated Catholic Life™, which I co-founded with Deacon Mike Bickerstaff in 2010, is a significant part of that effort. Because of my business career as the head of a national executive search firm and the opportunities I have to meet countless new people, I have felt particularly drawn to helping my fellow Catholics integrate their faith with their work.  Why?

I remember well how compartmentalized my life was before I joined the Church. I kept work and family distinctly separate and had no faith of any kind.  Soon after my life-changing personal conversion and surrender to Christ in 2005, I began to realize that leading two…and now three separate lives was no longer an option.  I needed to be the same person and the same Catholic 24/7.  Leaving my faith at the door of my workplace was now out of the question and I began to pray in earnest for guidance and discernment on how to integrate my faith into my daily life.  Much to my surprise, it was about this time that I realized I was not alone.

As I began to write and speak openly about my Catholic faith, I quickly discovered that most of the Catholic business and professional people I was encountering faced the same challenge…and didn’t know what to do about it.  The reasons are manifold, but many of the challenges people share with me revolve around the following:

  • Training from an early age to keep work and personal life separate.  Their college experience and later focus on growing careers in the business world led to a fear of allowing others to see their authentic and true selves.
  • Simple fear of being judged, criticized or marginalized in the workplace keeps many from being open about their faith.
  • Lack of confidence in discussing and explaining our Catholic faith to others.
  • A belief that the cost of leading an integrated life would require a cost greater than they were willing to pay.  This challenge usually goes hand in hand with an unhealthy attachment to a worldly lifestyle and a concern about how others perceive us.
  • A misconception that being Catholic at work means organizing a bible-study in the break room at lunch with your co-workers or having a huge crucifix on your desk.
  • Lack of understanding of the importance and value of leading an integrated life.

Do any of these reasons resonate with you?  How are you dealing with these challenges?

Can we agree that most of us will spend the majority of our adult lives (awake time) performing some form of job?  From stay-at-home Moms to corporate CEOs we all have a significant opportunity, often ignored, to live out our faith at work.   We should be focused on our heavenly home and that journey necessarily leads through the workplace for the majority of us.  The challenge may be that we don’t know how.

Five actionable ideas that can help us integrate our Catholic faith with our work:

  • Pray. We will not succeed in this effort without a prayer life.  Say a daily Rosary, pray the Jesuit Daily Examen, pray before the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic Adoration, pray in the morning, pray throughout the day, pray with your kids, and offer up your burdens to the Lord in prayer … just pray.
  • See Christ in others and make sure they see Christ at work in you.  Look at your co-workers and clients differently.  See Christ in each of them and make sure you reflect the joy of Christ back to them.  Simple and authentic joy from us can often be the most effective way we share Christ and our beautiful Catholic faith with others.
  • Join or start a ministry that promotes this effort.  Look around your parish for ministries that might help in your effort to integrate faith and work or start one with the blessing of your pastor.  I have led the Business Association ministry in my parish for years, where we bring professionals together in the parish (and from around the archdiocese) each month to hear local speakers from the business and professional community discuss their faith journeys. With the right structure and format, it can be the catalyst for encouraging integration and connecting with fellow Catholics on a large scale.
  • Know our Catholic faith and be able to share it with others.  It is easier to embrace our faith in the public square and at work when we better understand our faith.  One of the underlying causes of the challenges listed earlier is the fear that we will not be able to explain or defend Catholicism to others. We should never stop being students, especially of our faith. Immersing ourselves in Scripture, the Catechism, the Church Fathers, lives of the Saints, etc. is an important part of our duty as faithful Catholics.
  • Surrender and put God’s will before our own.  This is the most challenging, yet the most rewarding and most necessary action.  If we are humble and God is truly first, everything else will fall into place and integration will occur naturally.  Consider St. Augustine’s famous motto: “Love [God] and [then] do what you will.” In other words, if you truly love God and His will, then doing “what you will,” will in fact, be doing what God wills.

Integrating our faith into our work life is not a cure-all for every obstacle we will face as Catholics in the workplace.   The complexities and challenges of the recent HHS Mandate is a good example.  I can only share with you my experience and the experiences of the men and women I know whose lives have been positively affected by this effort. But, by doing so, it is my hope and belief that Catholic business people and professionals will see a dramatic change in their lives (and the lives of those around them) if they embrace this way of thinking and living.

I hope you will pursue this idea of integrating faith and work and not feel overwhelmed.  Sometimes small steps are required before we can run and maybe a more active prayer life and helping others is where you get started.  Wherever you are on your faith journey, please reflect on the thought that we can’t afford to ignore the workplace as a necessary and critical part of the path to Heaven we are all walking on as modern-day pilgrims in an unfriendly world.

To support my passion for integrating faith and work, I was blessed with an opportunity to write my first book for Liguori Publications titled, The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work (Foreword by Patrick Lencioni), which was released in November, 2011.  I wrote the book to provide practical ideas and share the stories of real Catholics in the workplace to help the reader learn to effectively integrate faith and work.   This book is for all Catholics, especially anyone who feels they must check their faith at the door.  Through practical, actionable content, it provides the encouragement and help we need to retain our Catholic identities wherever we are and be a light for Christ by example and attitude.

I hope you enjoy the book and pray that your journey to embrace the integrated life is a joyful and successful one.


Randy Hain, Senior Editor for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was recently released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and your local Catholic bookstore. 

The Catholic Briefcase was recently selected as a Finalist in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for the Book of the Year for 2011.  You can vote for The Catholic Briefcase here: About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards


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2 Comments

  1. Randy – Thank you for your terrific insight. I’ve not only struggled with being Catholic at work but also Catholic at life. And it shouldn’t be that way. I love all things Catholic but then again, the practice of walking the walk has more than its share of fits and starts.

    That being said, I’d like to tell you about a recent conversation I had with my beloved dog Lani. The topic was Catholicism and my conversion. She was wondering why I became Catholic in the first place.

    Imagine a large circle of faith tradition possibilities; 360° of options. Standing in the center, an earnest truth seeker might be daunted because he has to somehow carve a thin slice of faith out of the whole. This faith has to fit his life, circumstances, experiences and ambitions. Where does he begin, in which direction should he head? Is it any wonder that many people get confused and either stop their investigation or haphazardly undertake it because they’re constantly wondering about the taste of other slices? They might even speculate whether any sliver is worth the effort at all. “I’m busy, I have a life to live. I’m a good person, does it even matter?” Or worst of all, they condemn the whole faith exercise as a fool’s folly.

    Lani – “Not wanting to be disrespectful, but you say slice, I think pizza. With meat.”

    Huston Smith succinctly highlighted crucial differences between the major religions. “Buddhism does not have a concept of the afterlife or God. There is only one other religion that Christianity entirely embraces as divine revelation: Judaism. Christianity views itself as superseding Judaism, Islam views itself as superseding both Judaism and Christianity. Islam considers Moses and Jesus prophets, and Muslims even endorse the concept of Christ’s virgin birth, but they do not regard Christ as the Messiah, and they do not believe he was crucified or resurrected into heaven.”

    Lani – “Are you going to talk about your faith?”

    Me – “I am.”

    Lani – “That can be tricky, you know. Especially in today’s world.”

    Me – “I realize that. But it’s an important part of who I’ve become.”

    I’ve observed that many spiritual people don’t take the time to dig into the theology of their faith, whether it’s established or an offshoot. They have basics down, which allow some level of contentment, and they enjoy being spiritually and socially connected to a community. But ecclesiastical inquiry? Some devotees would rather not. I don’t agree with their approach but I must be respectful of their religious exercise even so. I was in that camp as a young man and ultimately it wasn’t comforting.

    I’ve also been intrigued with a simple fact of logic. All religions and more specifically, all Christian denominations can’t be true since they teach different things that are sometimes in conflict with one another. What’s more, there are, what, thirty-eight thousand autonomous branches, some scripturally isolated and self-interpreting that may or may not have a handle on true Christianity. To my way of thinking, this contrasting nature of religion was a fascinating invitation for inquiry.

    Lani – “I wouldn’t know where to start.”

    Me – “Go where the hot chicks are.”

    Lani – “You say things like that, and folks might think you’re serious.”

    Whatever I discovered in my research needed to be juxtaposed with, at the least, two basic litmus tests: who founded the religion and do the originator’s teachings hold up to the moral compass that is inside all of us. This compass reacts to an unchanging set of moral principles, the natural law etched on our hearts, which I view as a buttress to my faith. It also reinforces objective right or wrong and counters the relativist dribble quite aptly.

    Two examples come to mind. Some Christian fundamentalists I’ve met will say that a dying baby not yet baptized will not be saved nor go to heaven. My internal compass starts doing flips when I hear this. A loving God would be that rigid and deny salvation to an innocent? Sorry. It just does not ring true.

    The more extreme example is the father who sexually abuses his ten-year old daughter. This is objectively wrong, universally wicked and a reasonable person in tune to his moral compass would have to agree. The relativist, denying that moral compass and existing in a world that is never absolute, might say that depending on the culture, societal or historical context, this abuse could be condoned. The absurdity of this statement, its brazen opposition to natural law, is evidence that relativism in regards to morality is false. One last comment on relativism. It is somewhat influential in our society and that is troubling. “You’re imposing your beliefs on me? Who is to say what’s right or wrong?” Such questions might come from a relativist or a secular liberal, which helps to explain why abortion, same-sex marriage, birth control and other issues are such contentious battlefields.

    Lani – “So how does Catholicism stack up against your litmus tests?”

    Me – “Perfectly. God, as Jesus, founded the first Church. And He’s the author of the natural law.”

    I was initially a skeptic when I began my foray into Catholicism. My preconceived opinions, notable for their inaccuracies and their reliance on both secular sources and uncharitable Christians, were nevertheless rectified. I found Catholic teaching nothing short of awe-inspiring.

    Lani – “Was it a difficult choice? Saying yes to one religion and no to so many others?”

    Me – “It wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t so much no, but that they weren’t right for me.”

    Lani – “Can you give me an example?”

    Judaism, the monotheistic religion of the Jews created by the biblical covenant between God and Abraham, is unwilling to recognize the new covenant as established by Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. That limits its appeal for me. I say this with some sadness but that doesn’t diminish in the slightest the extraordinary amount of respect I have for their religious lineage. I will always acknowledge the special relationship that Christianity shares with Judaism with great affection. It should never be lost on anyone that Christ was a devout Jew but most importantly, that He was the fulfillment of the old covenant. Christianity was borne out of Judaism.

    Lani – “And then the floodgates opened.”

    As for other religions, philosophies, cultural traditions and Christian splinter groups that have attracted legions of followers, men and women, not God, founded them. Some of these people have been characterized as prophets, revolutionaries or visionaries and their ambitions may have been laudable. But God was not the originator. That in itself is hugely problematic. I am not interested in man-created creeds regardless of the charisma of the founder or well-articulated teachings. I do not want to stake my soul on human invention. Over the ages the list is endless, but a small sampling of these man-made religions and their prime architect would include: Islam/Muhammad; Buddhism/Siddhartha Gautama; Hinduism developed from the Vedic religion and the early Aryans; Lutheran/Luther; Presbyterian/Calvin; Anglican/King Henry VIII; Quaker/Fox; Baptist/Smythe; Mennonite/Simons; Methodist/Wesley; Seventh Day Adventist/White; Jehovah’s Witness/Russell; Calvary/Smith; Christian Science/Eddy; Mormon/Smith; Scientology/Hubbard; and so on.

    The general divisiveness of faith and belief systems that the above list only hints at is a hallmark of the human condition and at times, has spurred trouble on the world stage, especially when religion is co-opted by intolerance. That simple statement has been the impetus for books that fill libraries. However, to my point on spiritual discovery, when I read some of the doctrines and interpretations attributable to these various religions or the like, and I emphasize some, at times I find them insular, problematic, sometimes cultish and occasionally nonsensical. Additionally, it should be said that many of the Christian schisms were attributable to pride and not charity, so the motivations for their dissent have to be seriously questioned.

    Lani – “The whole us-versus-them mentality is sad.”

    I need to be clear on a couple of things. I’m imbued with a spirit of tolerance for all religions primarily because I respect the freedom we all have to pursue the spirituality of our hearts and minds. The circumstances of our lives are different so it shouldn’t be surprising we have diverse faiths. When I’m in the midst of religious people engaged in worship, my heart is warmed knowing that even though we have differences of belief, we are committed searchers of divine truth. We are all the same; we are children of God.

    With respect to Christianity, yes, there are disparities. Yes, I have chosen Catholicism. That said, I would never denigrate the faith of other Christian brothers and sisters. Never.

    If there’s a wellspring of Truth, I want to be as close to this source as possible; in my humble view, the headwater of Christianity is the Roman Catholic Church. One point needs to be emphasized. I’ve talked about my search for God but there are as many varied and extraordinary paths to God as there are people on this planet. To find the right course requires nothing more than will and commitment. And to the extent people do the work and elect to not believe in God, their decision has to be respected. It’s unfortunate but God gave them that freedom.

    Lani – “So in 2001, you became a Catholic.”

    Me – “Most likely in words only. Now I have a second chance.”

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