“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
Please help us in our mission to assist readers to integrate their Catholic faith, family and work. Tell your family and friends about this article using both the Share and Recommend buttons below and via email. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors