Unpacking the Pink Attache (Touche)

“But how can one possibly separate his spiritual life from his physical body? Or better yet, how can one live a Christian life if he is daily leaving that very part of himself behind, or masked?” (“The Catholic Briefcase,” p. xviii)

Randy Hain wrote a book titled, “The Catholic Briefcase:  Tools for Integrating Faith and Work” (Hain, 2011) (http://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Briefcase-Tools-Integrating-Faith/dp/0764820524/ref=zg_mg_12290_65).  The book is intriguing to me, very closely related to my dissertation study about women and work.  Hain purports that you cannot compartmentalize identities…you are Catholic at home, you are Catholic socially, you are Catholic at Mass; it stands to reason you can’t leave it at home while you come to work.  Hain’s work is based mainly on his personal experience, as well as some interviews throughout the last few years.  It is well done, in my opinion, and is listed under my bookshelf.

I am going to take the next few blog posts to present the pink perspective…that of Catholic women who work.  Though my study focused on Catholic women who work in higher education, many women have described to me how important this work is to them in their own work lives.  So, it’s time to Unpack our Pink Attaches, seeking to understand ourselves in relation to our loving God, from whom all graces, mercies, and love flow.

Compartment 1 of the Attache:  Faith is at the Core of Catholic Women’s Work Identity

When asked about Catholic women’s faith and leadership at work, the women in my study suggested that their faith and their leadership are inseparable.  In fact, the women reiterated the concepts of Hain’s book, stating that it is their faith at the core of their identity at work, not their leadership.  In other words, all of the leadership development seminars and workshops are great; but when asked how these women learned leadership, it was through their faith.  Through their faith!  Furthermore, faith is the core of their identity.

My identity is wrapped up in who I am as a woman of faith in the Holy Catholic Church.  How I proceed in my leadership is informed chiefly from the tenants of the faith, the Gospels, tradition, all of Scripture, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  I seek counsel from the Holy Spirit; I turn to Scripture for answers during difficult times; I know my job is to serve others through the gifts and talents I’ve been given by God; I go to Jesus in the Eucharist when I am having a pretty crappy day.  I’ve been known to stop on my way home by a tabernacle, just to pray, “I love you, Lord.  I’ve had a bad day. (or a good day, for that matter).”  What I’ve just described is my leadership at work.  I do not leave that at the entrance of the university just because I work at a public institution.  I do not leave that at the entrance of the university just because I serve non-Christians, or non-Catholics.  It is my job as a leader to bring my whole self to work, not as a way to convert others, but in a way to serve others.  If conversion happens, it is only through Christ, who converts hearts.

In a sense, I pack my attache each morning with the tenants of my faith.  I then hug my attache to my chest, say a prayer of thanksgiving, and head off to the vineyard to serve, and be Christ to others.  My attache is my favorite accessory.  In fact, it isn’t just an accessory.  It would be as if it was a gift from my beautiful mother, whom I loved so much on earth.  I would never want to part with the attache.  I would carry it with me everywhere, especially to work, since it was truly made to bring to work.

One of the participants of the study so beautifully illustrates this concept of faith being at the core of a woman’s work identity:

“As I interact with others, I think my principles or guiding forces all have to do with, What does God want for me to do?  How can I be here to practice what I believe in and create that kind of world that I think God wants us to create?  I think we are the eyes, and the ears, and the hands and the mouth.  In doing that, it filters into everything that I do.  It is all centered in God.”

This beautiful woman’s words remind me to be the body of Christ, just as St. Paul called us all to in discipleship (Romans 12:  4-8).  The whole idea of leaving your faith at the door of the work place reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis.

You would never think to cut your right arm off in order to go to work.  Neither would you leave the very essence of your leadership – your faith.

Top 3 strategies to bring your faith to work:

1.  Study Scripture, particularly Scripture highlighting the role of work in the life of a follower of God.  Check out Proverbs 31 in particular which outlines a mother’s wish for her son to find in a wife.  Here’s a hint:  she works, but she brings her whole self to work.  I also like reading about the apostles and their professions.

2.  Practice the tenants of the Prayer of St. Francis at work.  Seek to understand, rather than to be understood; look to console, rather than to be consoled; love, as to love with all your soul.  The women of my study reference this prayer as a road map for them at work.

3.  Find others in your organization that have similar beliefs about faith and work.  Start a lunchtime Rosary group or a Scripture study (be sure to check with your employer concerning spaces and locations, making sure to use your break time).

Bonus Strategy:  Read Randy Hain’s book:  “The Catholic Briefcase.”

Next up:  Using Faith and Leadership for Performance Management

Cheers!  Peace of Christ to you!

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