Let us ask Our Lord Jesus for light, and beg him to help us discover, at every moment, the divine meaning which transforms our professional work into the hinge on which our calling to sanctity rests and turns. In the Gospel you will find that Jesus was known as faber, filius Mariae, the workman, the son of Mary. Well, we too, with a holy pride, have to prove with deeds that we are workers, men and women who really work!
St Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, 62
This weekend we celebrate the feast of one of my favorite saints, St. Josemaria Escriva. His writings have been influential to my discovery of how my work and faith life fit together. 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 in 2010 with Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, is a significant part of that effort. Because of my business career 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 how compartmentalized my life was before I joined the Church. I kept work and family distinctly separate and had no faith life 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, the same Catholic and the same follower of Christ 24/7. Leaving my faith at the door of my workplace was now out of the question. 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 encountered 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 about integrating faith and work revolve around the following:
- Training from an early age to keep work and personal life separate. Their college experience and focus on growing careers led to a fear of allowing others to see their authentic 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.
- Perception 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.
- An incorrect perception 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.
Here are five actionable ideas that may 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 Faith@Work 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 explain 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 challenge we will face as Catholics 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. By doing so, it is my hope and belief that Catholic business people and professionals will see a dramatic change in our lives (and the lives of those around us) if we 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 in 2011 for Liguori Publications titled The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work with a foreword by Patrick Lencioni. 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 those who go to work feeling they need to check their faith at the door. Through practical, actionable content, it will enable them to retain their Catholic identities wherever they are and be a light for Christ by example and attitude.
God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, secular and civil activities of human life. He waits for us everyday, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work… I often said to the university students and workers who were with me in the ‘thirties that they had to know how to materialize their spiritual lives. I wanted to warn them of the temptation, so common then and now, to lead a kind of double life: on the one hand, an inner life, a life related to God; and on the other, as something separate and distinct, their professional, social and family lives, made up of small earthly realities. No, my children! We cannot lead a double life. We cannot be like schizophrenics, if we want to be Christians. There is only one life, made of flesh and spirit.
St. Josemaria Escriva, In Love with the Church, 52
Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash