Lent and the Catholic Business Professional

If you’re like me, you went from "I can’t believe Christmas is already here" to "I can’t believe it is almost Lent" in the blink of an eye. Where does the time go? Randy Hain, Associate Editor of The Integrated Life channel on Catholic Exchange, has given a lot of thought to time: how the fleeting moments of this life must be redeemed, captured and made to serve Christ.  For no people is this a greater challenge than for Catholic business professionals and as a an executive recruiter, Randy knows well the challenges of the demanding business environment, the stresses that it puts on family life and on one’s spirituality and morality.

Attuned to the particular needs of Catholics in the business world, Randy started a Catholic Business Association at his parish and a yearly conference: The Atlanta Catholic Business Conference.  With both the conference and Lent coming on apace, it is a great time to talk to Randy about how Catholic business professionals can make this Lent spiritually productive.

Mary Kochan: Randy, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me even though I know you are very busy preparing for the Atlanta Catholic Business Conference. I am looking forward to the event, as are so many in the  Southeast.  The conference is the 20th of this month, which means we will be into Lent by the time it starts and so I thought we might focus a bit on what Lent means to a Catholic business person who might be out there in a very secular, competitive environment.  The business world has its own set of challenges for someone who seeks to follow Christ from day to day.  What do you think the main challenges are?

Randy Hain: That is a very relevant question and one which we hope to address in our Conference on the 20th.   Most of us spend the majority of our adult lives at work. The workplace today is a challenging environment to be open about our Christian beliefs.  Political sensitivity and rigid company policies have led many of us to compartmentalize our faith in an unhealthy and unnatural way. I often hear people say “I just leave my faith at the door when I get to work.”  But, how can we possibly separate our spiritual selves from our physical being?

I think the best way to counter this cultural hostility is simple:  pursue being a light for Christ in the workplace.  This doesn’t necessarily mean displaying a crucifix on your desk and leading lunch time Bible studies.  It is more about your own faith journey and letting others see Christ at work in you and reflecting your joy to others.  So, to answer your question about challenges more directly, I suggest that the biggest challenges to following Christ openly are surrender, priorities, and time.  We must surrender ourselves to Christ and put His will before our own 100% of the time, rather than when it is convenient.  It is important to understand our priorities and recognize the importance of putting the Lord first in all things, followed by family — and work should be last.  Finally, if our Faith is important, we must make time for it.  Time for daily prayer, time for daily Mass, time for Eucharistic adoration and time given in service to others.  Picture a future encounter with Christ in Heaven at our death.  Will He say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”  That, I think, is the goal which should keep us focused on serving Him in all areas of our lives.

Kochan: I really appreciate your nuts and bolts approach to spirituality.  There are very definite practices that you find helpful and recommend to others. What do you recommend to the business person, the professional person, who wants make the best use of Lent to draw closer to Jesus?

Hain: Lent is a time of prayer, sacrifice and commitment in preparation for Easter.  I encourage each of your readers to start with a quick analysis of their day.  Where do I have opportunities to serve Him?  Do I pray during the day?  I will suggest to you that simply scheduling prayer time is a good place to start.  The Jesuit Daily Examen is an excellent tool which I have been using for over 3 years.  I have 5 scheduled “prayer stops” on my calendar of 2-5 minutes each which force me to stop, reflect and pray during my hectic day.  If it is on your calendar, it is more likely to happen.  I also suggest praying the Rosary in the car on the way to work each morning with the radio off.  This is a great way to work in 20 minutes of prayer into your day.  Is there a parish near your office?  Try attending a 6:45 am or noon daily Mass or stop by for Eucharistic adoration.  Do what ever you can to experience and worship the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  One last thing: get up 30 minutes earlier and make time for  spiritual reading and prayer before you leave your home in the morning.

All of these recommendations are practical and achievable and will transform your life if followed consistently.

Kochan: I know that because of your work, you frequently talk to people who are in career transition  and help them think through important life decisions. From the spiritual perspective such times of introspection are really opportune for conversion. When it to comes to conversion, what do you see as common themes among people in business?  What are particular aspects of life in the business world that call for an examination of conscience regarding certain things?

Hain: Great question.  We are typically faced with countless encounters each day with people — in person, by phone or via email.  How are we acting in these encounters?  Are we living out the Beatitudes?  Are we projecting selfless love and helping others?  Are we being ethical and moral in our judgment and decision making?  The Jesuit Daily Examen I mentioned earlier is an excellent way to stop, reflect and change course during our hectic day.

Kochan: I love that Randy, because you are saying that so much of the Christian walk just comes down to that personal encounter with another human being.  When I think about this, it reminds me of Mother Teresa, the kind of thing she would say: see Christ in others and be Christ to them. It is the same principle in a corporate boardroom as on the streets of Calcutta. But let me shift away from the person-to-person perspective for a minute and ask about the larger economic environment that is having such a big impact of people. You started the Atlanta Catholic Business conference during very turbulent economic times last year.  How should our Catholic faith form our responses to circumstances such as this economic downturn?

Hain: It has been a trying 18 months to say the least.  Many feel the country is going in the wrong direction and countless friends and family members are unemployed or under-employed.  But, there are signs of hope and that hope can and should be connected to our faith.  A strong prayer life and focusing on Reconciliation and the Eucharist is the key to survival in these tough times.  All three of these have been my lifeline in the recession.  Also, as tough as we have it, somebody else may have it worse.  Continuing to help others and giving our time and talent as well as our treasure is important even when we are experiencing tough times.

Kochan: Why do Catholics in business need each other, Randy? Why do they need to network and support one another spiritually and professionally?

Hain: Well, one of the four marks of the Church is that we are One. We have a common bond as Catholics that should spill over into our business and professional lives.  Through the shared lens of our Catholic Faith, we have much in common and many tools at our disposal to encourage and support one another.  I also think that outside of the Parishes Catholics don’t always have a strong sense of community and the business/faith link is one of the most meaningful ways to accomplish that goal.  We spend the majority of our adult lives at work, so why not view that time as another way to serve Christ?  Our Protestant brothers and sisters have done this well for years and across the country I see a growing movement of Catholic focused business groups who are promoting the idea of integrating faith and work.

Kochan: Randy, thank you so much for this conversation about faith in the business environment. There is something here for everyone regardless of our daily situation.  Let’s get the conference information from you for our readers.

Hain: Mark your calendars for Saturday, February 20th. Click here for the online conference registration and complete information. I hope to see a lot of CE readers at this great event. Thanks, Mary, for helping me get the word out and I’ll see you there.

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  • dspencer3

    Don’t all Catholic business exec’s pray before going to work, reflect at mid-day and do an examen in the evening? Great job Randy and keep pushing. I have been remiss on my writing, but things are so BUSY (a very good thing) it’s hard to squeeze more in. Here in KC we are up to about 300 members in our Catholic Business Network group. Next month we begin Catholic Leadership Roundtables-one for CEO’s and one for small to midsize firm leaders. We’ll be praying for your conference & please pray for our efforts.

    In Christ,
    Dan

  • laurak

    I appreciate all the suggestions that Randy has for incorporating our Catholic faith into our professional lives as well. It made me think more about my faith life and how to stay better connected to God and recognize his presence in every situation in my day.

    I would like to respectfully add though, that men do not usually have the same amount of responsibilities that women do, especially after work. Many women run errands on their lunch hour, pick up kids after school, cook dinner, clean the kitchen, make beds, do the laundry, pay the bills, clean the rest of the house once a week, buy groceries, household item, and birthday gifts, etc.

    Also, the vast majority of volunteers in the different parish ministries are women.

    I mean no disrespect to men, but if husbands and fathers helped with things at home after work, there would be more time for working women to practice their faith by going to adoration, attend an occasional daily mass or have time for spiritual reading, saying the rosary, and going to confession on a more frequent basis.

    If women did not do all the things at home after work, we would have more time to devote to our spiritual life too.

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