Faith at Work: A Professional’s Spiritual Mission
There’s no shortage of help in Catholic workplaces. If you’ve got a work health and safety problem you’ll usually know who to go to. If you’re dealing with some personal issues there’s the Employee Assistance Programme. If there’s a payroll or leave issue you’ll most probably know who to email to sort it all out. And when it comes to spirituality, Catholic workplaces have a distinct advantage.
We have a rich tradition of teaching that draws deeply from the Bible and fields of philosophy and theology that is second to none. Our extraordinary history as a Church includes the full range of human experience that can instruct and guide in terms of how to live with dignity and integrity.
The historian Paul Johnson writes early in his History of Christianity that we are ‘fallible creatures with immortal longings’. It’s a consoling idea that recognises our inclinations and inevitably leads us to the power of God’s love and forgiveness and the reality of our daily lives.
With 220,000 people employed in Catholic organisations across Australia it’s impossible to characterise a typical Catholic workplace in terms of spirituality. Some pray routinely as colleagues every day while others would rarely do so at all. Some offer faith development programmes while others would be reluctant to discuss spirituality for fear of coming across as perhaps a little too over the top.
What isn’t in doubt is the desire so many people have for a richer spiritual life and that Catholic workplaces can be pathway to that life. So, with that in mind, here are five simple ideas that could help create a spirituality assistance programme in your Catholic workplace.
Don’t be afraid to have conversations in the workplace about spirituality and religion. It’s ok to talk about faith, belief, doubt and diversity so long as it occurs in a spirit of mutual respect and genuine love. For believers, the truth comes from the Bible and the Church’s teachings about the essential and fundamental elements of the Church’s faith.
While this is self-evidently true, every human being experiences his or her own life uniquely which can range from fervent belief to fervent atheism and everything in between. Curiosity, understanding and empathy are the foundations for any good relationship and in matters of faith, they can be the guiding lights to revelation and renewal no matter who we are or what we believe.
Keep it Simple
The best teachers can explain the complex in the simplest of terms. Most of us steer well clear of theological discussions because we’re more than aware that we’re out of our depth. The same goes for anything close to trying to convert someone – we’re likely to be reminded of those people you see outside Town Hall station warning anyone who’ll listen of the Armageddon to come. So, what does simple look like?
It’s easy if, as previously suggested, there’s a culture of open dialogue to begin with. Most of us would be willing to say, if asked, what we do believe and how we live that belief, so being open to those questions is a great start. Sharing a story or recommending a person to speak to are other ways of reaching out and giving witness to a personal faith in an unassuming way. Often the subtlest of gestures can have the biggest impact and being quietly honest and open are examples of that.
There are so many great resources out there about spirituality in the Catholic tradition it’s difficult to know where to start. The Church is filled with great teachers from Bishops through to priests, religious sisters and brothers and brilliant lay people with so much to offer. Websites, blogs, books, courses and other resources abound – but a great place to start is with the Vatican’s own website.
Another excellent resource specifically for employers is Good Works: The Catholic Church as an Employer in Australia, published by the ACCER. This handbook looks at the important role the church plays as an employer, and the work-life-faith balance of the Catholic workforce.
Some helpful guidance can be to contact your local parish and to be aware of what’s on offer in your local area or region. When it comes to exploring faith, it’s often helpful to have at least a few key sources and books that can throw light on the Catholic faith and its place in our 21st century world. At the end of this article are just a few suggestions that might be helpful.
Walk the Walk
Nobody’s perfect! Even the best of workplaces will fall short in one way or another from time to time. One accusation sometimes levelled at Catholic employers is that they’re ‘not being very Catholic.’ It’s usually said by somebody who is not getting what they want but it does beg the question ‘what does an authentic Catholic workplace really look like?’
While that big question can’t be answered in a paragraph, it’s probably wise to start with what any good workplace looks like. The leaders are clear about the organisation’s purpose and what they want each staff member to do. Staff are accountable for what they do but have plenty of autonomy to decide how they do it. Decision making is transparent and everyone has a voice that allows them to ask questions, make suggestions and be heard because collaboration is the key to success.
Above all, in the best workplaces everyone is genuinely kind and helpful and when it’s like that you’ll sense it immediately.
We often hear about the breakdown of communities and the social isolation that appears endemic in our digital age. If the doomsayers are to be believed, staring and tapping at smart phones has replaced conversation, laughter and face to face social gatherings which has led to an epidemic of narcissism, unhappiness and rampant individualism. On the other hand, history shows that human nature and needs are remarkably consistent throughout the ages.
It’s useful to remember that every Catholic workplace is a community that represents the who, what and why of the Church and its mission in the world. Each Catholic workplace is a portal to other people and parts of the Church that have real relevance to what faith, spirituality and Christian love can be. It’s also important to remember that in every Catholic workplace, during every day and in every way, we are part of the Universal Church and that our workplaces are also faith communities in which we can truly grow and love.
- The Catholic Study Bible (Third Edition) New American Bible Revised Edition
- Catholicism – The Story of Catholic Christianity – Gerald O’Collins and Mario Farrugia.
- The Quest for God – A Personal Pilgrimage – Paul Johnson
- A Catechism for Business – Tough Ethical Questions and Insights from Catholic Teaching – Edited by Andrew V. Abela and Joseph E. Capizzi
- How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice – Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues – Austen Ivereigh
- Divine Renovation – Bringing your parish from maintenance to mission – Fr James Mallon
To hear prominent Australians speak about how their spirituality has influenced their careers visit our website to listen to our Faith At Work podcast series.
In a relaxed, public setting, Tony Farley leads conversations with community leaders on the practical, moral and ethical issues confronting workplaces and modern society.
Recent guests include Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten; theologian Richard Rymarz, and former Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen.
To check it out now, click here
If you’d like to attend our Faith at Work events, keep your eye out for alerts and invites. They’re free and we’d love to see you there.