As we begin a new year, have you considered how to bring your Catholic faith with you to work? Made any resolutions in this area of your life? Putting God first and blending your faith with every aspect of your life will promote balance and peace, and help you on your faith journey toward a deeper relationship with God. Of course, this is easier said than done. It is a challenge and one that takes time and effort.
Around the time of my conversion into the Church, when I was still struggling and praying about how to lead an integrated life, a friend recommended I read the writings of Blessed John Paul II. One of the first works I encountered was his apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici. This passage made a great impression on me:
“The unity of life of the lay faithful is of the greatest importance: indeed they must be sanctified in everyday professional and social life. Therefore, to respond to their vocation, the lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfill his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ.”
Blessed John Paul II gave words to what I had been seeking. The mission of the lay faithful forces us to consider the workplace as fertile ground in which to do God’s work. As we know from numerous Scripture passages and Church teaching, we are all called to lead lives of holiness and to be witnesses for Christ. Our workplace vocation is necessarily a critical component of responding to that call. Why is this important?
Promoting this integration will help us become better Christians and reverse the negative effects—mental, emotional, moral—of keeping our faith separate from the rest of our lives. Consider this relevant perspective from my friend, frequent ministry collaborator, and ICL co-founder, Deacon Mike Bickerstaff:
“We can no more stop being Catholic at work or in the public square than we can stop breathing. To do the latter is to die physically. To do the former is to die spiritually. We must resist a culture that promotes reaching for the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Jesus said that no one can serve two masters (see Matthew 6:24). The danger has been much evident in the workplace, where excessive attention to career has resulted in failed marriages and devastated families. Our jobs (careers) should support our vocations. Our vocations must never be sacrificed or neglected to support our jobs. This understanding is at the heart of integrating our faith throughout our daily lives.”
The challenge is to adopt new practices and strategies, not as a bunch of new “to-dos,” but as part of a broader, unifying approach to balance and integration. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth the journey.
To help us along as we think about balance and integration, we should ask ourselves, “What are some of the real and perceived obstacles we may face to living out our faith at work? What are tangible solutions for overcoming them?” There are never really any simple answers and there are times when it will be more of a public struggle to overcome than an inward one. Here are examples from conversations I have had with Catholic men and women over the last few years on problems they have encountered in the process of integrating faith into the workplace.
“I am afraid of losing my job if I am open about my faith at work.”
This seems to be a common struggle for many professionals, with various possible solutions. For example, look carefully at your company policy on this issue… There likely won’t be one. Setting a good example, sharing our joy and reflecting Christ back to others is in no way a violation of any company policy of which I am aware. There are extremes in everything, so organizing a Bible study group at work may not be the most appropriate choice. But letting others see Christ at work in you is the most fundamental and important way to be open about your faith at work.
“Authenticity, integrity, empathy, love, and other characteristics of Christianity are not valued in my company. In fact, they are discouraged.”
I am often comforted and encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s advice in his Letter to the Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Your faith in the workplace, your Christian values, and your practices based on those reflect who you are. What you value most and how you choose to express that should not impinge on your work, but it can be reflected in your work ethic, your enthusiasm, and in many other ways. We need to choose whose opinion we value more highly: God’s or our company’s leaders’. Hiding your true Christian self is unhealthy, dangerous, and not pleasing to God. Weigh carefully the price you may be paying for submerging your beliefs (and true self) to benefit your career versus the reward you may be forfeiting in heaven.
“I just don’t have the moral courage to be open about my faith.”
This is one of the most honest and frequently given excuses I hear. By definition, moral courage means you are willing to act on your convictions even if it costs you something, such as social acceptance or convenience. It is easy to conform to secular expectations, but difficult to publicly show your love of Jesus Christ, live out the Beatitudes, evangelize, and lead a fully integrated life. So how could we make this struggle less difficult and easier to overcome?
Perhaps if we considered the Apostle Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1–5).
Paul teaches us how to be courageous in this letter. Through persistence and dedication to our faith, we will overcome the diversions that keep us from being faithful in the workplace.
“I love Christ and his Church, but I don’t always know the appropriate thing to say about my faith, especially at work.”
Ponder the advice that has been attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Don’t worry about being “good enough.” We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. It is the love and charity we give others and our daily example of Christ’s love within us that show others we are Christians. Our daily deeds will reflect our true Christian faith. If we are acting as lights for Christ, people will be drawn to us, and the Holy Spirit will work through us. If necessary, the words will come.
“I am not comfortable sharing anything personal, especially about my faith.”
This is also a very common challenge. The first step is to acknowledge that forging a meaningful and authentic connection with someone will require a degree of “opening up.” Making your conversations all about business is, well, boring. One of the easiest ways I have found to overcome this obstacle is to humbly share my own background, including my faith story. I don’t mention faith in every conversation, but mentioning that I am a Catholic convert usually generates a lot of questions from the other person, providing an opportunity to open up and share my faith. Pick your spots, but humble and honest sharing on your part will likely be well-received. And remember that our personal witness to others may provide them the inspiration and motivation to embrace faith.
Those are just a few examples of the many that are encountered day in and day out. So how can we overcome these obstacles and lead a more integrated life? It must be more than just an idea. It should permeate every aspect of your life. Put God first in all things and let his will become your will. And remember Paul’s letter: Consistency, not arbitrary experimentation, is the key to success. And remember that action—faithful action—is at the root of your faith and will lead to a faithful workplace integration.
Five Actionable Ideas
The following are five actionable ideas that can help you to integrate your Catholic faith with your work:
- Pray. We will not succeed in this effort without a prayerful life. Say a daily rosary, 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. Remember the motto of the Benedictine Order: “To work is to pray.”
- See Christ in others and make sure they see Christ at work in you. Look at your coworkers and clients differently. See Christ in each of them and make sure you reflect the joy of Christ back to them.
- Join or start a ministry that promotes this effort. Look around your parish for ministries that might help in your effort to integrate 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 surrounding parishes) 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 on a large scale. See Appendix 4 for a road map on how to build a Catholic Business Group.
- Know our faith. 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 obstacles listed earlier is the fear that we will not be able to explain or defend our Catholicism to others. We should never stop being students, especially of our faith. We should immerse ourselves in Scripture, the catechism, the Church Fathers, the lives of the Saints, etc. This is an important part of our duty as faithful Catholics. (There is much wisdom to be found in two incredible documents: John Paul II’s Christifideles Laici and Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).
- 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 Saint Augustine’s famous motto: “Love [God] and [then] do what you will.”4 In other words, if you love God and his will, then doing “what you will” will, in fact, be doing what God wills.
Integrating your Christian life into your work life is not a cure-all for every challenge you will face as a Catholic in the workplace. 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 if they embrace this idea.
The key to this change is in recognizing that Christ should never compete for our time. Living our busy lives and putting him first are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, it should not even be possible. Jesus is not to be considered an addition to our lives. He is the reason for our lives. As Deacon Mike mentioned earlier, integrating our Christian faith does not mean that we include our faith in a to-do list at work. Instead of viewing the daily practice of our faith as adding more time to already-packed schedules, we need to integrate our lives with Christ at the center of everything we do. I love what best-selling author Patrick Lencioni wrote in the Foreword to my first book, The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work: “I am not going to get my faith life squared away personally until I make it the center of my life in every way, including at work. I can no more justify keeping my faith out of my job than I can my marriage, my family, or my Sunday Mass.”
Consider for a moment what would happen if the millions of Catholics in this country became more integrated and showed more active faith in the workplace, and through acts of selfless love, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the Church’s teaching began to positively change their actions and inspire others to do good. We would permanently change the world.
Reflections and Discussion
- Do I consider the workplace “fertile ground to do God’s work?” Why? Why not?
- Reflect on what I may be doing today to live out my Catholic faith at work. What is working? What can be improved?
- Do the obstacles to integrating faith and work shared by other Catholics in thisarticle resonate with me? Would I add others? Make a list for later reflection and discussion.
- Does Christ compete for my time? Reflect on how to make him the center of my life and not simply an addition to an already busy day.
(Adapted from The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, Liguori Publications; by Randy Hain.)
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, Aquinas and More Catholic Goods and your local Catholic bookstore.
The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.
Randy Hain’s exciting new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012 and is available in your local Catholic bookstores, Aquinas and More Catholic Goods and on Amazon. His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, will be released on March 1st, 2013 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Looking for a Catholic Speaker? Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.
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