Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace…At Work!

St. FrancisThroughout the week, I have contemplated how we treat others, and how that may either attract folks or repel them. I have a job to do, and it is two-fold. I have to be Christ to the world…a world that is so imperfect, but it is the world we live in for now. I also have a literal job at work. These two concepts are not mutually exclusive, though many would argue otherwise.

But how do you do that at work? How do you become Christ for others at work? I thought you were not supposed to proselytize at work?

I agree…No proselytizing at work. But evangelizing is a completely separate matter. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says to us:

“Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, “that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.” For lay people, “this evangelization…acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.” (paragraph 905)

I would say work qualifies.

In my research with 10 Catholic women who work at state institutions of higher education, several mentioned a simple prayer we have either heard sung or said at Mass or other faith gatherings. It is simple in approach, and beautiful to the ear. It is the Prayer of St. Francis. It is a way be Christ in the work place, without ever opening your mouth. I invite you to pray this prayer with me now:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, Joy.

O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled As to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The participants in my research saw this as a way to bring your faith to work, and it translated into a theme I titled, “Valuing Others,” as a way to stay integrated in the work place. I am reminded of what Sacred Scripture says about valuing others, as well:

“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3).

I feel challenged thinking about this concept. I am challenged because I don’t always practice this kind of love in the work place. I am challenged because I allow the emotion of the situation or the pressure of the task dictate my reactions sometimes.

I can reflect on the Prayer of St. Francis and hear it as a call to me as a working Catholic woman. Here are a few ways we can hold one another accountable in the next few months as we work in our vocations, and in our jobs:

1. Forgive one another at work. If you made a mistake, apologize. I remember a time at work where I was in a conversation about an employee, and he overheard my disgust at his work ethic. When I realized he heard me, I was utterly disappointed in myself for speaking out of turn. However, I was most disgusted with myself because I had hurt my colleague. Most of the time, incidents like this get swept under the rug. I knew I could not do this. The next day, I walked into his office and asked for his forgiveness. I told him how sorry I was, and that I would never want to hurt him with my words. I also told him I should have spoken directly to him about his work ethic, and not involved anyone else. Thank God he forgave me for my folly. I wish I could tell you this was the last time I needed to ask forgiveness at work, but that is not true. Seek forgiveness whenever you need to, and forgive others as they seek your forgiveness. It restores relationships and values others at work.

2. Be a beacon of hope, even in times of stress and crisis. I will never forget the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Our staff worked hours on end taking care of the needs of students, guests, and families on the campus. The staff was putting in well over 70 hours in that first week, and we were developing policy and protocol on the spot. I remember vividly my supervisor rising above the fray and bringing a sense of calm and peace to the situation. It was in the way she trusted us to do the best job we could – giving us direction, but not specifics so we could work to solve the problems. It was in the way she checked in each day to see how I was doing with the staff, see how the staff was doing, and reassuring me we were doing the right things and she trusted us. It was her calming presence that allowed me to do my job in a very stressful situation, knowing that things were going to get better each day.

3. Console others. This means you are going to have to get to know them! I get to know others in my work place. I want to know what is going on in their lives, because if I can assist as a supervisor to lighten their load, or to speak words of encouragement to their situation, I want to do that. It is the only way I have survived so long in the work world…people paying individual attention to my situation, and offering consolation, words of encouragement, and action to help me be the best I could be at that moment.

What are the ways you bring Christ into the work place? Where are you challenged with this? How does the Prayer of St. Francis challenge you to integrate your life, and live the call to the lay person of our Church to evangelize? It is definitely not an easy task, but one that will bring us closer to Christ, and perhaps others as well.

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Comments

  1. Jesus taught and exemplified a radical, revolutionary love-ethic… to love our enemies who hate us, to turn the other cheek when we are struck, and to live the kind of life that this prayer of St. Francis calls us to live. Our lives are made up of our choices; and when we choose hope, light and joy over despair, darkness and sadness, we reflect the Light of Christ – no matter if it is overtly in His Name (say, when we serve the homeless at a church soup kitchen) or more subtly from our souls (say, when we choose to let that snide remark dissolve away without reaction or a grudge). Divine Love is brought into the world and God is glorified anytime we make a choice that – as you so rightly said it – values others.

    And I believe that living life this way changes US even more than it changes others. I think it’s easy to compartmentalize our everyday life, from our worklife, from our life of faith, but that is the opposite of the message Christ brought to us. He came to revolutionize (sanctify) our WHOLE selves – especially in the day-to-day work we do! Romans 12 is one of my favorite passages that speaks to this.

    Thanks as always, Mary, for great thoughts to “chew on”!

    • Kim…So true. I’ve heard so many people blame their poor choices to love others on “Well, that’s just how women are…we’re caddy, we gossip, etc.” But the truth is that God made us in His image, with free will. There is nothing estrogen related that I can find that MAKES us gossip or hurt others…it is a choice.

      The Prayer of St. Francis has always been for me an open invitation to live differently. It exemplifies how so of my heroes have lived: Mother Teresa, St. Theresa of Avila; St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). These are all blesseds and saints of the Church who lived a life of sacrifice, love, and consolation. They remind me that Christ’s love is alive, and how we respond to that love in our love to others is a choice. I was always reminded of that during Steve and I’s marriage encounter journey – To love is a decision.

      It does change us. How can it not? But how do we remember to put the principles into action in all arenas of our life? That’s the million dollar question to me. I am praying this blog, along with comments of others, help further all of us along in that journey!

      Love to you!

      Mary

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