9 Jan 2012

The Catholic Briefcase

It is an error, or rather a heresy, to try to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the shop of the mechanic, the court of princes, or the home of married folk. ~St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life 
But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God. ~Luke 12:9

Holiness in the workplace is the theme of Randy Hain's new book The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work. A convert to Catholicism since 2005, Mr. Hain, co-founder of the site The Integrated Catholic Life, shares the methods which have helped him to combine faith and work in the business world. He demonstrates how our Christian beliefs must be just as alive at the office as they are at home or at church. We do not know when we may have been chosen to be the sole instrument of grace to persons in a certain venue, therefore with prudence and charity we must always be ready to speak of our love of Christ and His Church. As the author explains:
In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), the Second Vatican Council weighed in on this particular struggle, saying that we have grown to become erroneous in our ways by creating this dichotomy between a so-called professed faith and the practice of daily life. One of the main points was to emphasize that a Christian who shirks his temporal duties does so to his neighbor, neglecting God and endangering his eternal salvation. (p.xviii)
The necessity of cultivating an integrated life rather than a compartmentalized life is illustrated throughout the book by means of the Mr. Hain's anecdotes as well by the personal testimonies of his friends. The importance of self-surrender to God is shown as being one of the initial steps in the journey. Establishing a daily routine which balances prayer with action is emphasized; it is vital for every soul to find a few minutes a day for solitary prayer. The author gives many practical tips on how to find quiet time in the midst of a busy schedule. Prayer is not something we can compromise without severe repercussions to our spiritual lives, for it puts the present in its proper perspective.

One sentence in the The Catholic Briefcase which I would like to reflect upon is this: "We must trust that in return for our trustful surrender, Jesus will provide us with the strength we need to be successful in business and life and overcome the obstacles of pride, fear and excuses." (p.16) In light of the bad economic times, which Mr. Hain mentions later in the book, it is important to acknowledge that our ideas of success, particularly of success in business, may or may not coincide with God's plans for us. In some cases a failure may be better for our souls. We have to trust that God knows what He is doing. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said: "We are not called to be successful, but faithful." Perseverance counts more than any material success.

An aspect of The Catholic Briefcase which is particularly timely is Mr. Hain's discussion of networking and social media. Catholics in the business world need to support each other more and networking on and off the internet is a way to reach out. To those who say they do not have enough time to network, the author responds: 
This is simply a scheduling and commitment issue. Most people I have met in my professional life think this way but later regret their lack of attention to networking....You will be more likely to 'have time' if you schedule it. Take a client out to lunch, invite coworkers out after work, or just send correspondence to somebody daily. (p.78)
The Catholic Briefcase is helpful on many levels. While intended for those who are commercially or professionally engaged, the advice on prayer offers guidance to anyone seeking to deepen their relationship with God, especially those new to Catholic spirituality. Written in a direct and simple style, Mr. Hain takes a topic which many find formidable and presents it with both clarity and warmth. Holiness is within the grasp of each of us; we need only to be open to grace.

(*NOTE: The Catholic Briefcase was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.)

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