Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Faith at Work and Working the Faith

Over the weekend, while driving to perform shows, my actress and I listened to audio recordings of EWTN's The Journey Home, one of my favorite television shows, hosted by Marcus Grodi (whose novels I just recorded as audio books, but more on that in an upcoming post).

One of the Journey Home segments was an interview with Kevin Lowry (pictured here) and his father Douglas, two Canadians converts who had fascinating stories to tell.

The highlight of the interview for me was when the elder Lowry threw out, almost as an aside, his definition of "love", which I can not repeat word for word as I was driving while listening and so could not take notes. But it went something like this ...

LOVE - The persistent and freely willed decision to sacrifice one's self for the good of another.

Dr. Lowry emphasized the "persistence" of this act. Love is not just a feeling or a mood, but a deliberate commitment to persist in offering one's self for the good of another.

And anyone who's married knows how hard this can be - and yet how transcendent such a decision is, particularly when you're on the receiving end. To know that you have a wife (as I do) who would always and everywhere give of herself in small ways and big ways for your own good is to know love.

But not only is the love between husband and wife part of "marriage" - our faith itself is a "marriage". Christ is the bridegroom of the Body of Christ, His Church, which is being prepared for His coming. Thus we must imitate Christ in offering ourselves for Him; we must make the decision to love Him, to persist in offering ourselves for His sake and for the sake of our neighbors - for He is the husband of His Church.

And, as in marriage and the love of our spouse, the real challenge of our love of God is the daily ups and downs we face. Making great sacrifices even unto a dramatic and bloody martyrdom is sometimes easier than not snapping back when the missus is crabby - but these little things are the true test of our love, for he who is faithful in little things will be faithful in big ones.

With this in mind, perhaps the greatest challenge for most of us is persisting in love, persisting in our faith, at work - at our daily calling in the secular world.

Thus, Kevin Lowry has written a book called Faith at Work - Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck. This is an easy read, and a book written with chapter summaries in the form of bullet points and questions to engage the reader so that he might begin to apply the Faith in an area where we're supposed to keep our mouths shut.

The book is filled with little gems, such as the lesson Kevin learned early in his career from Sam, the managing stockholder of the company where Kevin was working, "a gruff, yet gold-hearted man," who had "built up a substantial firm from nothing over a long and storied career." Kevin writes ...

"One day, one of the administrative assistants lost her purse, and Sam found her crying in the lunchroom. Despite deadlines and other pressing needs, Sam dropped everything and assisted the desperate woman in finding the purse. It took hours, but finally the wayward purse was found.

"That story circulated throughout the firm and became part of the legacy handed down to successive classes of newly minted accountants. In fact, this firm legend taught me one of the most valuable lessons I have ever absorbed in the business world: the importance of taking a sincere, personal interest in others".

Indeed, as Kevin points out, this is the best way of "witnessing" at work, particularly when employees are supposed to avoid talking about religion.

"When we enter the workplace, we aren't always in a position to quote Bible verses or to illustrate our points with citations from encyclicals. But we're always able to conduct ourselves with virtue and honor."

And what's impressive here is that Kevin Lowry not only writes about these things, he practices them. Kevin works for Marcus Grodi's Coming Home Network International, and I've been dealing with him regularly during the course of our audio book project. He is delightful and kind and I come away with the feeling that I'm not just dealing with a business relationship, but with a caring relationship, with a Christian, with a man who sees his work as a form of service, a way of loving others.

Of course in much of the business world, and especially in show business, this is really rare. For instance, in show biz, actors have a strange love-hate relationship with their audiences. While we are dependent on them to buy tickets and to come see our shows, to watch what we do and give us the approval we're so hungry for by applauding wildly and cheering, we talk about "killing" them or "knocking them dead", and there exists a kind of brutality in backstage chat regarding these audiences, our primary "clients".

So it's quite tempting to use others as "objects" the way we "objectify" our careers, as mere means to an end.

But the techniques suggested in Faith at Work are a way around this, a way to keep our faith alive in everything we do, a way to persist in love.

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