I’d been at at my secular organization about 2.5 years before realizing it had been pretty gutsy to have a small crucifix on my desk. I wasn’t trying to evangelize in the workplace. For some reason it didn’t even occur to me when I first started. I honestly don’t remember giving it a second thought, but now it makes me a bit self-conscious. Are my co-workers offended by it? What if someone comes in who isn’t Christian? Should I hide it away in my desk drawer?
My full time job is in marketing for higher education. I happen to work at a Catholic institution, but my work has almost nothing to do with the school’s Catholic roots. Thus, my job description has nothing to do with the faith.
However, my job description as a Catholic does.
Maybe you’re in the same position as I am: you’re a strong Catholic, and you know that evangelizing doesn’t end in church. But you can’t really afford to lose your job over it. How do you reconcile working for a secular organization when your true life’s mission is to share about Jesus?
It’s the long-standing joke in my office that I am the “religious one.” If anyone has questions about saints, how to spell things related to Mass, or religion in general, they come to me. And we laugh and pretend like we don’t know why they’re coming to me about it.
They know I’m the “religious one” because I’ve been open about leaving on my lunch hour to go to Mass for Holy Days of Obligation. I would talk openly about getting my master’s in Theology or how the college class I teach in Theology is going. And my religious studies minor on my resume also helped give it away.
However, I don’t go around wearing a giant sign that says “I’m a Christian!” in big bold letters or try to steer every conversation to God. I simply live my life, and if they ask about my faith or it comes up naturally, I take that as an invitation to give a simple witness that’s focused on me, not them.
Sharing your faith doesn’t always mean talking about it. It sometimes means just not hiding it.
It was a few weeks after my wedding. It came up that my co-workers thought I’d moved in with my husband before our wedding. (I hadn’t.) I had been talking about “moving weekend” a few months previous. So I stopped and explained simply that my stuff had moved, but I had not until after our wedding.
They seemed relieved. One said he had been surprised that I’d move in before the wedding. However, they figured if I was doing it, it must be okay. (Remember, I’m the “religious one.”) “Well, we’re both going to hell,” he remarked to my other co-worker, because they both lived with their spouses before they got married.
I stopped at that. What should I say to that? Should I condemn them for their actions or just go along with it?
In that moment, I decided to ignore it. I knew that if I went down the road of condemnation, I’d lose every opportunity I had left to talk about faith. So, I decided to simply laugh it off. That way, they’d feel they could continue to talk to me about faith without judgment. I could choose to ignore their weaknesses because they weren’t mine to judge. It wasn’t the right moment for that type of witness.
I’ve had many scenarios where co-workers bring up something I don’t agree with. It’s easy to rush to judgment, and it sometimes feels like the right call. After all, shouldn’t we defend the Catholic position no matter what? When we’re trying to evangelize in the workplace, it can feel like we always have to be on the defensive.
But then I think of the story with Jesus and the woman caught in adultery and realize that it is not my place to throw stones. I can only witness to my life.
When caught in a situation like this in your secular workplace, discern the line between judgment and loving witness. Take a temperature of the situation. Chances are, if your co-workers are not already Catholic, your condemnation of their actions probably won’t convince them otherwise – and could just get you in trouble with HR.
At a bachelorette gathering recently, one of the bridesmaids asked me if I used Natural Family Planning. She knew I am a devout Catholic from other conversation and wanted to know more. I was taken aback at the question, given the setting and the fact that I barely know her. However, I realized it was an opportunity for evangelization, so I talked about it and why we choose to use it.
Another time, one of my co-workers came into my office and asked whether or not you had to be sorry for a sin in order to confess it. We had a great conversation about confession and why Catholics believe in it.
In both of those instances, I could have shied away from the conversation because it was too personal or too religious. However, I believe if you’re in a secular situation and someone asks you about your faith, they lose their right to be offended by what you say. So don’t be afraid to get a little personal!
What do you say when someone asks about your weekend plans? Do you mention Mass, or do you gloss over it? Don’t be afraid to talk about going to Mass when people ask about your weekend plans. We get so afraid of offending people we simply don’t bring it up, hiding this part of ourselves from the rest of the world.
Dr. Scott Hahn, in his talks on evangelization, likens this to talking about the ball game over the water cooler. You’re just talking about your life!
So wear your religious jewelry proudly. Make the Sign of the Cross before meals. Sometimes, the best way to evangelize in the workplace is simply to live your life.
82% of people who no longer attend church say they would consider going if someone simply invited them.
One of the best chances you have of reaching the unchurched is outside of church, and one of the main places you see people (most likely) is at your secular job.
If you are particularly close to a co-worker, consider offering him or her an invitation to meet you for Mass one Sunday. Make sure you are pleasant and not commanding in your offer. If the answer is no, accept it and don’t bring it up again.
But if you succeed, you could be bringing someone back to God, and there is no greater job responsibility than that.
Think about this: Perhaps the very reason you have this job is to extend that invitation to your co-worker.
The worst thing that can happen is they say no.
Being Catholic in the workplace is really no different than being Catholic in the rest of the secular world. Yes, there is the added concern of your job safety, but as long as you are kind, loving, and open, you shouldn’t have any problems.
And those tips go for evangelizing everywhere too!
Editor at CatholicProfesssionals.net