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The Biggest Mistake a Catholic Can Make At Work

OfficeA few years ago I was working in a small office of five or six people. Everybody in the office knew I was Catholic. It was hard to hide, considering I went to Mass nearly every day, a blessing afforded to me by the fact that my parish was one block away from the office.

But people knew I was Catholic, not only because I went to Mass, but because I talked about it. “Hey, what did you think about the news of the Pope?” or, “Have you ever given a second thought about coming back to the Church?”

One day a Protestant coworker plopped her cheery self down into the chair in front of my desk. “I have a question about Catholics,” she exclaimed.

“Sure!” I responded. “As a convert, the tougher the question, the better,” I laughed in reply.

“Why do Catholics have to go to Mass on certain days of the year that aren’t Sundays,” she asked.

As I began to respond to the question, another coworker of mine in the adjacent office piped up. “They’re called Holy Days of obligation.”

Suddenly, the face of my Protestant coworker went sour as she whipped around in her chair to face the other co worker. “Wait, how do you know that?” she demanded.

“Well, I’m Catholic!”

“What?!” my Protestant friend exclaimed. “You, are Catholic?”

And at that moment, I realized what I had just witnessed. These two people had worked with each other for over a year at this point. An entire year, together, with three other people, and nobody in the office knew that the other was Catholic.

Contrast this lack of saltiness with the ferver and passion of the first disciples. Paul was so bright and salty, simply telling people that Jesus was alive, that “they dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead” (Acts 14.19).

Are we called to get beat up for our faith? Maybe, maybe not. But if the people you spend 40 hours a week with don’t know that you’re a follower of Jesus, it’s time to tell them and show them through love.


Ryan Eggenberger is a partner at Little Flower Strategies, LLC. He writes about travel, marketing, and his terrible parking skills. Follow him on twitter at @RyanEggenberger.
  • MP

    “As a convert, the tougher the question, the better,” I laughed in reply.

    Seems kinda cocky to me.

    • al

      Oh, calm down, it’s called being cheerful in the office.

    • anilwang

      Not really. Catholicism has 2000 years of history across all countries of the world. Every question that can be thought of has already been asked and answer. Even someone who know little of the faith can find the answer to any question of the faith if one is willing to do a bit of digging (e.g. the Catechism, Catholic Study Bibles, parish priest, Catholic Answers forum, Summa Theologica, google, etc).

      When confronted with a question one doesn’t have an answer to, all one needs to do is be honest and say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”.

    • St Donatus

      I don’t think that it is cocky at all. I have the same feeling about it. When one is learning the truths of the Church, we want to learn more, we want our knowledge tested, we want to find out if we really know our stuff. I want to be a Catholic apologist, but if I am not tested, I am not driven to looking into the deeper things of the faith. I am not pushed to leave the infancy of my faith. As St Paul said, I shouldn’t be drinking milk but adult food (knowledge of God).

      Secondly, the harder the question, the better the opportunity to witness for Christ and the Holy Catholic Church. God Bless this author for risking perhaps his job for Christ. Sad to say, I am not so forward about my faith. I think most that I directly work with know but I need to think of ways to make it more obvious. Some have told me that I am very nice, did I tell them it was because of my faith, did I point them to the life changing power of God’s grace, know. I timidly thanked them and walked away. We are to witness for Jesus with our actions, our kindness, our long suffering. If we don’t give honor to God when complimented, we are not evangelizing like we should.

    • Hey MP, sorry for the late reply. It sure wasn’t meant to be cocky. I laughed more out of a “bring it on” kind of thing, as that’s the way that particular friend and I talked about the Catholic faith. Sorry if I scandalized you!

  • al

    Mr. Ryan Eggenberger, YES! Thank you! We Catholics (living under the the Fullness of the True Faith) must be a people on Fire for the Faith & show it. Jesus wants Faithful Catholics & makes it very clear not lukewarm ones. In a short sense, a Saint is someone who makes it to Heaven to worship God forever unceasingly. If this is not enough to get you on fire, nothing else will. As Mother Angelica says: “We are ALL called to be Great Saints, don’t miss the opportunity.” There is nothing more exciting than to be a Saint. “Catholic” means universal (no more Jew or Gentile, but One in Christ). The Communion of Saints is a Universal (Catholic) reality. Those of us in the Faith are united with Saints that have passed to the next life (& are now cheering us to persevere here on Earth so that we may one day join them). How exciting is it for us Catholics to say that? VERY? We baptized Catholics on Earth are the Church Militant (both “saint” & sinner at the same time), those Catholics in Heaven (whether canonized or not) are the Church Triumphate, & those we must pray/remember for are the Church Suffering (souls in Purgatory). The Church’s Canonized Saints & Martyrs should be our heroes & we should tell all non-Catholics about them. Remember, in the Mass, we say to God: “look not to our sins but to our faith.” To Non-Catholics we should say: look not to our sinfulness but our Saints. Being a Saint means to be Holy (which is subjective

    • al

      Sorry, I meant being to be a Saint is to be Holy (which is objective) & it doesn’t mean as many want to interpret “nice” or “perfect” (based on subjective human standards). NO Saints are Holy & strive for Christian (not human) Perfection. And most we’re “nice” or had “nice” personalities (just read their lifes; for example St. Nicholas (who world has devolved as a kid spoiler) was known for both his Charity & punching Arian heretics in the face for insulting our Lord Christ, not so nice, eh, but very holy). TO be HOly (as the Saints) means to always do God’s will & Show Christ’s overflowing Love to others & be unafraid (as Pope JP2 says) & should be the #1 priority of our lives & example to others. In short, make Church’s Saints (who are now with Christ) be your Heroes. Read about them, & pass them on to the non-Catholics. It’s our rich faith. Our Catholic Faith started like a small Mustard Seed & now we have a HUGE MUstard Tree of Family of Saints. Pass the word.

      • al

        I meant “Weren’t ‘nice’ nor ‘perfect'” (subjective)
        my bad, I’m new at commenting.
        Being ‘nice’ is ‘nice’ but by our Baptism we are called to Holiness (which sometimes makes us be un-nice for the sake of others) & not called to “Niceness”. Can you imagine Jesus saying: “Follow my teachings, unless it offends you, or you think I’m mean, if that’s the case just party on, & ignore my message.” lol

  • kasia62

    Well, a good indicator is saying grace before eating lunch. The other thing is curtailing gossip or refusing to become involved. The hardest is that tug a Catholic can get when issues present themselves and all of a sudden I hear my voice responding to real sticky stuff like abortion, politics, and “different” behaviors. It’s usually within a matter of seconds to which I hear the old sayings like, “never mix politics and religion” or “holier than thou” entreats depending upon the position to which I may support. The saddest is to hear Catholics giving testimony to rationales for things that are clearly not representative of Catholic teaching. On a wing and a prayer and knowing that whatever comes out of my mouth is merely inspired by the Holy Spirit, sometimes we just all need reminders or clarifications. I have also experienced situations whereby a discussion does ensue only to become the platform for argument. It quickly gets very obvious regarding those for or nay, and at those times, I may have chosen to back off in a sense – not in agreement or signifying such, but because I do not want to participate in judging and I also believe that the truth comes to us and our ways of providing the opportunities may only be very small. Like the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how the truth is spread, they are many. I figure God knows what He’s doing with each one of us and when we listen, we do well by Him.

    • Here here! Great points. I appreciate you taking time to chime in. 🙂

  • Christine W.

    Ryan,

    From my perspective, we have a faith of both/and, not either/or. Why can’t you be a witness the way you are and your coworker be a witness the way he or she was? Maybe the less brash approach of building a relationship over time and being picky about the entering into a discussion of faith (like when it comes up naturally) has merit. Maybe it attracts a different type of soul.

    It takes a certain kind of personality to be so open about faith and to go out of one’s way to frequently bring it in to conversation. Many people are not built that way. For example, my incredibly faithful, introverted husband could not operate like that. I don’t think we’re called to abandon who we are when we evangelize, which means different people will have different approaches.

    God bless,
    Christine W.

    • Love the perspective, Christine, and great points. Thx for sharing 🙂

  • Bea

    Prudence… Much depends on how an employer or company responds to political correctness, or complaints that Catholic talk ‘offends someone.” We can be convicted Catholics and effective evangelizers, but in the workplace if the employer is not a devout Catholic who approves of Catholic enthusiasm, then my sense is that you can be written up for the complaints and eventually dismissed (FIRED!) As the political scene secularizes and separates itself from its relationship with God, I think we will see more grounds for dismissal than equal ‘tolerance’ of Catholics. Off the clock, at lunch breaks, before and after work, is ‘suppose’ to be a time for ‘free’ speech among co-workers. However, in competition or vengeance that information can still be used negatively by a foe at a given moment- even other Catholics. In today’s work climate, we are not free to speak our Catholic minds frequently enough. And when we do, we better be connected with the Holy Spirit and use the brain God gave us to discern the right moments to evangelize… or be ready to face the possibility of ‘logical’ consequences.

    • lroy77

      We must defend our faith whenever and wherever possible. We must use our Catholic faith in what we do, where we work, and how we work. If we ignore our faith in the workplace regardless of the consequences, then we are without faith.

    • Bea, in certain circumstances sure. My workplace was definitely not a place where we would have gotten written up. My boss prayed in front of us daily and encouraged us to join in. Even after that, my coworker did not know the other was Catholic after an entire year.

  • Forgive me, (“Father, for I have sinned”? no) but I think the easiest way to solve problems is to avoid them. “Don’t talk about religion or politics in public” must be revisited by evangelical Catholics. But for me, a very devout Catholic who does not get into others’ business, (the ole “Do unto others…” is a big part of my ethic) the workplace isn’t the place for evangelizing. That’s my final answer, Alex.

    • Interesting perspective, Kevin! I disagree, but that’s okay too 😉

  • kohkis

    I’m not sure if I agree with you — I mean, he/she *did* speak out right there, even though she didn’t have to! If she was hiding her faith, she wouldn’t have said anything. Maybe the topic had never come up? If there was no good opportunity for him/her to talk about it, I don’t blame her for keeping it to himself — what else can one do? Announce it out of the blue in the cafeteria? As someone who’s pretty shy & doesn’t talk much when she doesn’t have to, I’m not surprised that you don’t necessarily know someone even if you’ve been working together for some time.

    I might be totally off track of course — I wasn’t there, I don’t know what this person is like 😀 I’m just saying that based on the info you gave here you can’t absolutely know if this person is a good catholic or not. One has to be careful of making judgements! Better to focus on one’s own failings, IMO, even though it’s super difficult.

    • Totally right. She probably just didn’t feel comfortable for some reason.

  • Matt Yeager

    Ryan,

    Great post. Reminds me of a book, “The Other Wes Moore”. In short the book talks about two men both named Wes Moore and how one grew up to be successful in his job and life and the other gets involved in drugs, gangs, jail, etc. All while living only a few blocks apart. Yet they never knew each other.

    Let’s be great examples of our faith by practicing our faith in word and deed. It was great the other guy in your story was able to speak up. Give others an opportunity because most likely they are sitting on the edge of their seat just looking for the words to say.

    God Bless and have a great week ahead.

    ~ Matt

    • Matt, great point! I appreciate your feedback brother. God bless!