I have always appreciated the value of a nice, ambiguous slogan or phrase. Faith at work in particular is one that has consistently resonated with me.
For some people, the phrase could mean that the faith itself is at work, in lives or situations. It’s always a joy seeing the faith being discovered, lived out, persevered in… and therefore easy to characterize this as the faith “working” or being “at work.”
A good example in my own experience is a friend of mine whose life continues to undergo radical change due to his conversion to Catholicism. The faith he has discovered is definitely at work in his life. He has left behind some bad habits, and instead prays daily, attends Mass frequently, and views challenges as opportunities for spiritual growth. It’s a beautiful thing.
When we allow ourselves to be changed by the faith, we know it’s alive within us. We are then able to share it with others, by reflecting Christ’s love for them. It’s faith at work!
On the other hand, faith at work could also mean living out the faith… at work, or in our workplaces. In some ways, this is a more concrete meaning of the phrase. I know many people, myself included, who strive to be faithful in their jobs or careers.
Sometimes the faith even inspires careers. One of my Legatus friends leads a pro-life apostolate. Her work is internationally renowned, and both she and her husband have dedicated their careers to following the Lord – even though her husband does so in a secular role as an attorney.
This latter meaning of the phrase is used by those who seek consistency and faith integration, allowing the faith to permeate every aspect of life – including work. As followers of Christ, we know that God’s calling for us includes some type of work, and that our work can be sanctified and function as a form of prayer.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The latter leads to the former, and vice-versa.
In other words, by allowing the Lord to lead us in our workplaces, we actually open ourselves further to the faith working in our lives – and those of others. Conversely, when faith is at work in our lives outside work, we want to sanctify our work out of gratitude and love for God.
At first glance, this may seem to be a paradoxical concept, but it’s actually a faith-building strategy for our lives.
For those of us who love scripture – you’ve heard of scholars and others quibbling over “faith versus works,” right? Catholic scholars view “faith versus works” as a false dichotomy – rather, faith and works are both important, and in fact mutually reinforcing!
In the same way, our daily expressions of faith and work are not meant to be silos. It would be difficult to be a jerk at work, then come home and be a loving spouse. Or be honest at work, dishonest at home. Have you ever been in a work role where you feel like you need to be someone else in order to succeed? It probably didn’t last long, right? Consistent striving for virtuous behavior in all our roles is the better path.
Becoming better Catholics means being better workers – because we’re doing our best not just for our boss, but for God. Becoming better workers means being better Catholics – because we’re sanctifying our work and allowing the faith to change us.
Try these simple steps to propel yourself down the path of integration:
- Pray for the grace to be the best Catholic, and the best worker, possible. God loves us and doesn’t evaluate our activities by category the way we sometimes do!
- Sanctify your work every day. Pray for the Lord to help you prioritize your efforts, do your absolute best, and have a pure heart. Serve him and others (especially your family) with your entire being.
- Strive to be consistent in all aspects of life, placing God first, and allowing Him to lead in all things big and small. If there are changes you need to make, start small – and rely on His grace for help.
Note: I’m so intrigued with this notion of integrating faith and work that I wrote a book on the subject. Look for “Faith at Work: Making a Career of Becoming a Saint” to be released March 1, 2012 by Our Sunday Visitor. I hope it serves as encouragement to you along your path of integration and serving the Lord.
I’d like to gratefully acknowledge The Integrated Catholic Life for originally publishing this post in August 2011.