Responding To Questions About Our Faith
by Jeff Montgomery
After our most recent corporate relocation, I was asked by a non-Catholic co-worker if I had "found a church to my liking." Now, the first thought to cross my mind was to say something along the lines of "I don't need to, my church has been around for 2,000 years!" Thankfully, God helped me restrain myself and I answered, simply, that I was Catholic and, yes, we had found our parish home.
This little exchange got me to thinking about how we answer questions about our faith when we are at work. Depending on where you live, it wouldn't be unusual to have numerous fellow Catholics in the workplace. In other areas we may find ourselves the sole Catholic in a sea of Protestant coworkers or non-Christians. So how do we handle ourselves in these situations?
Granted, there are probably as many answers to that question as there are Catholics. And certainly, in the workplace we have to be careful about how we express our faith. In these politically correct days it seems that there's always someone offended even by a simple explanation of a matter of faith. But being Catholic provides us, I believe, with some unique resources for explaining, defending, and expressing our faith at work.
The first that comes to mind is attending Mass on holy days. Last week we had the Feast of the Assumption, and it was gratifying to see people taking time out of their day to attend Mass to celebrate Our Lady's assumption into Heaven (where I live we celebrated the Assumption on it's scheduled day rather than the following Sunday). By the simple act of making time to go to Mass on that day, we make a statement about the strength of our faith. Particularly if we mention, without making a big deal out of it, what we're doing. It shows people that we're serious about our faith and about remaining committed to our obligations.
Through this kind of act, I've seen questions generated by non-Catholic coworkers who are curious about why we do such things. It could be planting a seed in their mind about Catholicism that later blooms into RCIA attendance. We can never be certain how our actions ripple through the world.
A second resource that we have is an abundance of sacred art, crucifixes, and other items that we can (within reason) display in our office or workspace. This too can generate questions, or even discussions about the art itself that may lead the person to seek out more on the Catholic faith.
The toughest aspect of faith and work is when there are outright challenges to our Catholicism. Some people, through some bad experience with the church or through misunderstanding the faith, can challenge us in a more direct way. At times I have seen these discussions get rather heated. Is this appropriate for work? I don't think it is. So how do we respond to this type of challenge?
I think the answer is to be prepared. Understand the faith. Discuss areas of concern or question with our priest. Read. These days there are an abundance of books available that discuss all aspects of our faith. Between these books and the availability of the new Catechism, we have resources available to help us be prepared if we face questions.
Above all, we should respond out of love. Perhaps the questioning person has had a bad experience related to the church. Perhaps they misunderstand the faith. They might possibly have been instructed erroneously in matters of the Catholic faith. The real point is that we have to respond as Jesus would - with patience, and with love.
I'm reminded of St. Francis' words to "Preach always. When necessary, use words." Our words are but a part of our response to these questions. Our demeanor, the tone of our voice, and the way we live our lives speak strongly to people and show them how to live the Catholic life.
As we venture out into the workplace this week, let us all remember our mission to be people of God, and to do God's work in spreading the faith and saving souls. No matter how small the effort or action, all of us can succeed.
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