There is a tendency to compartmentalise the lives that we lead in Church and the life that we live outside of it. For us who do, we lead a kind of a double and disconnected life – on one hand, one that is interiorly aligned and connected to God – I attend the Eucharistic celebration every Sunday, I frequent the sacraments, I serve in ministry, on the other hand, a professional, family, personal, and social life that is distinct and separate. For some of us, this disjunction is enunciated at the threshold when we exit the worship hall immediately after the Eucharist, and we make our way across the carpark. Suddenly, I am not a God-loving and Neighbour-loving Christian anymore, but I am shouting rudely at the person who has parked his or her car in front of mine.
While we may live such disparate lives, the reality is that there is in actuality one life that we have which comprises the unity of the Spirit and the flesh, and the Christian is called to glorify God in both body and soul, to thrive in holiness, and to be sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit in every undertaking.
We spend a lot of our waking hours at work, and work is usually the pivot where our family lives, ministerial lives, and our social lives revolve. While it is not often thought of in this light, work is in fact the hinge where the action of the Holy Spirit can be seen. St. Josemaria Escriva (2013) takes this a step further, to describe Professional Work as the pivot or hinge of our sanctification.
St. Josemaria explains that our professional undertakings are the means which persons are inserted into society, and the means with which humanity discovers our place in the symphony of human relationships, and the instrument which allows us to be assigned a position in human society. Our professional work and our being in this world are two facets of the same diamond – “two realities that require each other, so that it is impossible to understand one outside the other.” (1945, 13.)
In our professional work, is derived our professional vocation. Each person’s professional vocation is determined by a number of variables – first, the aptitudes, gifts, talent, qualities, and charisms that we receive from God; the Graces we receive from the Holy Spirit; the responsibilities that we have and the needs of our family and of society; and the choice that we make in choosing our career pathways. These, together with what make up our personhood, comprising of our likes and dislikes, our preferences, our strengths, and weaknesses configure and constitute our professional vocation. If we are sensitive to the voice and workings of God, we come to realise that the concurrence or coincidence of these factors reveals and represents the unique call that God has for us to choose the profession that is most suited to aid us in becoming holy, and that which will empower and enable the people that we meet to become holy as well (St. Josemaria Institute, 2013) –
St. Josemaria writes, “Our ordinary activities are not an insignificant matter. Rather they are the very hinge on which our sanctity turns, and they offer us constant opportunities of meeting God, and of praising him and glorifying him through our intellectual or manual work.” (1981, 81)
He goes on to elaborate: “The professional vocation is something continually being defined throughout our life. It often happens that a person who began a particular course of studies discovers afterwards that he is better gifted for other jobs, and switches career; or he ends up specializing in a different field from the one foreseen at the beginning; or he finds, in the full exercise of his chosen profession, a new field of work that allows him to improve his family’s social position, or to contribute more effectively to the good of the community; or he is obliged, for reasons of health, to change his environment and occupation.” (1948, 7.)
Accordingly, if this hinge is well-oiled by the Holy Spirit and grounded firmly on Divine affiliation, then the door will swing open in a stable fashion, and with maximum safety. The work then becomes a testimony of the mysterious Graces and Providence of God. However, if this hinge is rusty due to neglect, or broken, or bent, or badly aligned, then it has no use whatsoever and may even hinder the work of God (St. Josemaria Institute, 2013).
We are reminded of how Jesus worked quietly in his formative years as a carpenter. While the work appeared monotonous, boring – the unvaried prosaic of the mundanity of the everyday, therein was hidden the Divine Dimension and the quiet action of the Holy Spirit – “The days seem the same, even monotonous. But don’t forget that our condition which is apparently so common has a divine value. God is interested in everything we do, because Christ wishes to become incarnate in our things, to vivify from within even our most insignificant actions.” (1974, 174.)
The work that we do may seem insignificant, but in these structures of human aspirations and ideals, the Christian is invited to respond daily to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, to enthrone Christ as the King of our activities, and to articulate our daily response to the mission that God our Father has entrusted us with.
To have a better sense of how the Holy Spirit is moving through our professional lives, some parishioners were asked to write a short reflection and provide a picture (if their work environment was not sensitive) of an artefact or occurrence at work that would challenge and remind them of their calling. The following present their testimonies:
I usually have long working hours due to the nature of my job as a chef. Everyday is early in and late out for me. Despite the long hours, I also try my best to squeeze in exercise time as a form of discipline to keep my physical and mental strong.
Christ is present in my work because I always try to remind myself to be as Christ-like as possible through my thoughts, actions and speech. Be it having to deal with a difficult customer, or keeping the hygiene standards high, giving customers what they pay for and not trying to cut corners with the ingredients, or even speaking gently and patiently with my colleagues especially during very busy periods can remind me that Christ is alive at my workplace.
I feel that God has given me the charism of giving, hospitality, and encouragement. I love giving people my positive energy, my time, and also to encourage people around me to treat each other with respect and speak with love. The kitchen culture can be pretty crass and toxic and to really be different sometimes can be challenging, but God has given me the strength to really be aware and try to make minute changes to how I can react to situations that could be more filled with love.
I honestly still am discerning what the Holy Spirit is truly leading me to because I had multiple occasions in my life thinking the Holy Spirit wanted me out of the F&B industry. However lately, it seems like the Holy Spirit wants me to use the gifts from our Lord given to me (Cooking) to bring people closer to God. There was an incident which happened recently that actually made me realise was when I was cooking in church one evening and someone who was not a parishioner (or I would think not even a Christian) came into the church thinking that it was a cafe. This event actually struck me that food could also be a medium to bring people closer to God in many ways if it was executed right and by praying for proper guidance. I am still working my way towards how I can do this.
An artefact of something that you encounter/use often in your workplace is my chef knife:
Some use it as a weapon, I use it to serve.
Peace be with you dear brothers and sisters in Christ! My name is Jacob and I’m currently a University student.
Apart from battling the tough academic rigour, I am very much involved in the Catholic Students’ Society in school. Many of my closest friends are also Catholics and we often meet up every week to share about our own struggles in life in our cell-group sharing.
These struggles extend beyond academics, but involve the living of our lives as Catholics, and about the speaking to our own classmates about God in such a highly secular environment.
I believe that the Holy Spirit is leading me to inspire those around me to live a life for “more”. There’s definitely so much more to live for apart from chasing that piece of paper (called our degree) for 4 years.
Can I dare to say at the end of my Uni journey that “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race” and most importantly, see all those around me take 1 step closer to heaven?
An artefact/ occurrence of my every day:
My name is Emmanuel, and I am currently serving in the SSVP ministry in CSM. My day job comprises of being an equity dealer. The primary function of my role is to provide trade execution service and advisory to our client. On a day-to-day basis, we need to execute orders for our clients in a fast and timely manner. Clients will also engage us to seek our opinion on the fundamentals of the stock that they are interested in. We will then provide them with research materials for them to make an informed decision on whether to purchase the stock of that company.
My job allows me to interact with different people from different walk of life. During those interactions, I am given the opportunity to share my faith with my clients. The nature of my job can be stressful at time. Whenever I am feeling stressed, I will always spend time in prayer with our Lord. I always believe that the best form of evangelization is through how we live out our life. I think one of the charisms that I have is generosity. I always try to be as generous as possible with what I have with other.
The Spirit is leading me toward a journey of constant conversion toward the path of a deeper and closer relationship with our Lord.
I am a Homeopath and I run my clinic together with my husband Neil who is a Chiropractor. I see patients who seek a non-drug approach to their physical ailments and well-being.
To be able to help others recover from acute/chronic illnesses is my vocation to serve Christ visible in each person. My work helps me to share my faith journey with my patients, share spiritual books, and Scriptures to them.
I feel the Holy Spirit is always nudging me to fully trust in the God and in all that I do, I am not doing it according to my will but God’s will. To share the peace, love and joy that I have received from the Lord to everyone around me.
Enclosed is a photo of the crucifix I have at my workplace… whenever I encounter a challenging case, I ask God to send the Holy Spirit to guide me.
I am currently working as a staff nurse and just started about 3 months ago. On a day-to-day basis my routine includes having to receive the patients’ report from the previous shift, dispensing medications, carrying out any new orders for the patient, answering the patient’s call bells and attending to their basic needs as toileting and feeding, just to name a few. A characteristic that is more unique to my workplace is that a significant number of the patients I work with are towards the end of their life.
Being new to my work, I struggled initially to cope with the tasks that I had to do on a regular basis and this prevented me from being able to do as much as I would like for both my patients and their family. However, I saw that God was guiding me in how he wanted me to bring him to others although I could not speak much about Him verbally. I remember one situation that left a deep impression on me. There was a situation in which a husband was visibly distraught over the passing of his wife and was in deep grief. During that period, I was preoccupied with doing other work matters and one of my colleagues pointed out to me this patient’s husband and encouraged me to go up and check in on him as I was only Chinese-speaking staff on duty that shift. It was when she encouraged me to check-in on this man and went up to approach him that I saw more clearly how the Lord would have wanted to be present for him in his grief. There was another similar situation when there was a mother who I saw was deeply saddened by the visible deterioration of her daughter. During that shift, I was again caught up with my routine and tasks I thought I had to complete, that I failed to extend compassion towards this mother. It was only during my reflection of the day that I realised that was an area God was calling me to be more present to. Perhaps by God’s plan, I happened to be around when this patient passed on and I felt I was able to extend compassion to her mother through a gaze of compassion and a comforting touch/squeeze on her shoulder. It was through reflection and through my colleagues that I saw God guiding me in how He wanted me to bring Him to those I encounter through my work and this is something I try to take note of and do nowadays.
Being in a line of work where we sometimes deal with uniquely stressful situations and people, there is often a tendency for people to vent to pour out how they feel but, in some instances, this venting can become gossip. In such moments, I know the Lord invites me not to join in or make any comments, but to stay silent instead and this is what I try to do as best I possibly can (I am still not perfect but trying).
Not too long ago, I came across some videos on YouTube about the rosary and devotion to our Mother Mary and how she can lead us more closely to our Lord, which I found truly very inspiring at that time. Interestingly, I then recalled that there was this painting that looked like Mother Mary which I had happened to come across before on the same level as my ward, but had not really paid much attention to. This to me was a tangible way God was showing Himself present in my work by linking what He used to inspire me on video to a very real painting that I could pass by prior to starting each shift. Now, I will often say a short prayer before that painting of our Blessed Mother, if I pass that way, for her guidance in both bringing Christ and being led more closely to Christ in my work.
Of course, I also have the special opportunity to say short prayers for the souls of those patients, whom I have encountered and who have passed on. It is really quite different when I have faces and names to pray for during the part of the Eucharistic Celebration where we pray for those who have departed this life.
More recently, I feel the Holy Spirit challenging me to dare to encourage and speak about the Lord to those patients and family who share the same faith, which I sense may be the next step in the journey for this newbie nurse.
The following is a painting of Mother Mary that I encounter every day at my work place on the way to my ward:
By the Grace of God,
Brian Bartholomew Tan
With thanks to Augustine Sam, Jordan Hong, Jacob Hong, Lilly Stakes-Leong
St. Josemaria. (1945, May 6). Letter. Cited by E. Burkhart & J. Lopez, Vida Cotidiana y santidad en la enseñanza de san Josemaría, Madrid, III, p. 161.
St. Josemaria (1948, October 15). Cited by E. Burkhart & J. Lopez, Vida Cotidiana y santidad en la enseñanza de san Josemaría, Madrid, III, p. 180.
St. Josemaria (1974). Christ is Passing By. New York: Scepter.
St. Josemaria. (1981). Friends of God. London: Scepter.
St. Josemaria. (2013). Notes taken from his preaching, cited by E. Burkhart & J. Lopez, Vida Cotidiana y santidad en la enseñanza de san Josemaría, Madrid, III, p. 165.
St. Josemaria Institute. (2013). The Hinge of our Sanctification. St. Josemaria Institute. Retrieved May 24, 2023 from https://stjosemaria.org/hinge-of-sanctification/