By Kim Lyons
The majority of us are among the population of people who “hold jobs,” particularly, jobs where we are called to engage with other humans in the form of customers, patients, the general public, colleagues, co-workers, bosses, subordinates, the list goes on and on, and stay at home moms are not exempt. We all struggle with finding balance and learning to remain peaceful while we juggle life. The good news is that with the Lord, it is possible.
In my most recent job, at a local faith based hospital, living out the Catholic faith was a simple and welcomed aspect of the job, with Mass offered daily, opening prayer/reflection at the beginning of meetings, and symbols of the faith throughout the organization. Unfortunately, not everyone is afforded this same opportunity in the workforce. So, how do we live out our Catholic faith in the everyday work life? Truly, it is quite simple. Here are several tips for identifying the best ways for you to Be Catholic in the Workplace.
The Golden Rule:
In today’s world and in many professions, we have lost our focus on how to treat people, all people, with respect. As Christians, we are called to approach everyone with a kind heart and treat others the way you would like to be treated. Many people, Christians alike, view this as our prescription to “be nice.” While this is good, and prompts us to think about the general tasks we can do for others such as holding doors, smiling and greeting people as you pass, and remembering co-workers’ birthdays, there’s a deeper approach focusing on “the practice of dealing with others as we have them deal with us on a regular basis” that opens the door to a more radical and challenging approach in how we go about our work. We’ve all encountered a disgruntled customer service representative, a rude salesperson, a snippy secretary, or a demanding boss and wondered why they couldn’t treat others or us better. Consequently, we have probably all had days we might not want to deal with ourselves. These are the moments, the people, the situations, where we are challenged to live out the Golden Rule and “deal” with one another with kindness, compassion, and respect.
Living out the faith:
There are several ways we can outwardly live out our faith, but one of my favorites is making the Sign of the Cross and blessing each meal. Whether I’m sitting at my desk, sitting at home with my husband and kids, eating in public, eating in a break room or in any area where others might witness this, I pray that this act serves as a testament to my commitment to my Catholic faith. Pausing to show gratitude to our Lord for the blessing of this meal in essence reveals a portion of our gracious hearts to one another. Blessing your meal can often lead to an opportunity to evangelize. When eating with friends, co-workers, etc., tell them you are about to pray for your meal and ask them if there is anything you can pray about for them. Most people do not mind being prayed for, and this encounter can easily turn into an opportunity to share Christ.
Quiet moments can easily be incorporated into any setting, and are highly effective in workplaces that are difficult to outwardly express our Catholic faith. For example, if you are in a position that leads others and/or leads regular meetings, asking everyone to take a moment of silence to gather their thoughts before beginning can be a powerful moment where you, the leader, can silently pray for the meeting and those present in the room.
Identifying your God given gifts and talents is another way we can all bless others in the workplace. Each one of us is a member of the Body of Christ, given specific gifts and talents to be utilized in conjunction with others’ for the greater good of all mankind. Living out your faith by sharing these gifts and talents in the workplace may open doors to other opportunities and supports you to always do your absolute best in the workplace, not just doing the bare minimum in our jobs.
First impressions – a heart for Jesus:
Think back to the last time you experienced a “first day on a job.” During those first few days did you find yourself meeting new people, reflection on first impressions, learning the workplace, and pretty quickly discovering those co-workers who would become your “friends.” What was it about those few people that you were drawn to? More importantly, think now about new hires into your work life. As they go through the first few weeks, do you stack up? What’s their first impression of you? For me, the ability to connect with people is not only something that comes easily, but it’s something I love to do. Approaching people as though I’m encountering Jesus is one of my goals in life, but that’s not always easy. Our past experiences, other’s responses to us, and the busyness of our days often prohibit our hearts from being the “first impression” we desire from others and ourselves.
Surrounded by Catholic signs and symbols:
Part of our rich Catholic heritage includes a tremendous number of signs and symbols. While the cross is the most famous and widespread Christian symbol, it is interesting to note that the cross has been around long before the advent of Christianity, used as an instrument of public humiliation and used to punish criminals who were put to death on a cross. The Easter story however, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has made the cross one of the most recognized icons in the world. The crucifix symbolizes the sacrifice and atonement for our sins and is a powerful symbols of Catholicism, representing the focal point of the Catholic belief, that Jesus died on the cross to redeem humanity. If you are looking for an outward symbol of our Catholic faith for your workplace, a crucifix is a great option. I would recommend having it blessed and hanging it in a prominent location, where all who enter will see the power of the cross.
Aside from the crucifix, there are many other items one can use in their work space to indicate they are followers of Christ, such as the dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit; the fish, one of the oldest Christian symbols used historically by Christians to identify themselves often in times of persecution; or even the fleur de lis, a very common item in our Louisiana culture often interpreted as the flower symbolizing the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, or to depict the Holy Trinity.
What about sacred objects in a secular setting, you may ask. Some workplaces may prohibit or are hostile to any public display of spirituality. In these instances, creativity is the key. Wearing a medal or other Christian jewelry, keeping books on your desk that are indicative of your faith, carrying a pocket card, rosary, or other item, or keeping items in your car if necessary are ways to not only show signs, but also serve as daily reminders of prayer.
Make a daily effort to find opportunities to evangelize:
Sharing Christ with others can feel awkward and even a bit unnatural when you feel lie you are forcing a conversation onto a co-worker or even a friend. To overcome this, we must recognize the power of prayer especially as it relates to God opening doors for the Gospel. Praying every day for the Lord to provide opportunities to share the good news is a powerful tool. You will be amazed at how many encounters will come your way, with little to no effort. Evangelization can look like many things, but one of my favorites, since I’m an extrovert, is relational outreach. Some of the best conversations can happen over a cup of coffee. For those of you with high stress super busy days, it may look like a brief conversation in an elevator, right after a big meeting, or at the copy machine. Don’t let them slip by because you may be the only Jesus people encounter each day.
There are a multitude of blessings and challenges to being Catholic in the workplace. I find it extremely beneficial to identify likeminded people, often in the same season of life, to connect to and share in this journey we call life. Whether this be in the workplace, or just in everyday life, Jesus calls us to communal life with Him and with one another, as the Body of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi says, “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary, use words.” How will you preach the gospel today?
Kim is a member of our local community, wife to John, stay at home mom of four amazing kids, Amelie, Tripp, Patrick, and Anna Cate. She loves connecting with people, running, volunteering, and sharing the Gospel. She is passionate about her faith, discipleship, and learning what it means to do this thing called life in Christ.