Many people I have spoken with seem unhappy with the prospect of working a 9 to 5 job in a cubicle. In fact, whenever I tell someone that I am excited to start work as a tax consultant I usually get the look that says, “Well have fun with being a machine for the rest of your life.” I believe something that has led to this negative perception of a traditional or mundane job is the “follow your dream” culture we have in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong; it is not bad to have ambitions and to pursue them. The problem with this western ideal of pursuing your dream at all costs is that it can result in us ignoring or resisting God’s calling for us.
It seems that many young Catholics feel that they must do something extraordinary in order to be living a life for Christ. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently misguided about wanting to do something extraordinary for Christ. My problem is that it sometimes seems that people are narrowing down what they consider living a Christ-like life to just the extraordinary. It is this narrow view on how we can serve Christ that worries me. Some people may feel that in some way they are not doing enough for Christ by working an ordinary, mundane job and that they need to be founding the next amazing evangelical organization or must be super-involved at their parish. I have to reemphasize that there is nothing wrong for having those kinds of ambitions. However, when we narrow our sight so that we see those extraordinary callings as the only possibility for us, that is where we must check ourselves and make sure that we are open to whatever God is calling us to do.
Christ is calling us to be saints through and through. However, sanctity is something that is achieved through the ordinary, day to day, humdrum activities of everyday life. Christ calls us to take part in ordinary/common activities. It is the way in which we do these common activities that must be extraordinary. St. Josemaria Escriva really emphasized the sanctity of your everyday work, making it one of his hallmark teachings. We can glorify God by doing our work, no matter how cool or ordinary, for Him. By uniting our mental or physical labor with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, our work can take on a salvific nature. It is in this way that we can more readily bring Christ into the workplace and show Him to our co-workers. By offering our work up to our Lord, we participate in both the salvation of ourselves as well as those around us. Many of us will be in workplaces where we will not necessarily have the opportunity to bring up Christ and our faith in conversation…but we can always show Christ to our co-workers through our work and demeanor.
So, let us not be afraid to work in occupations that we might consider “too ordinary” or do not seem to be directly contributing to the Church’s mission. The truth is that God is calling the vast majority of us to work in the secular workplace and to bring Him into the midst of it. Think of all the good we could do and souls we could bring to Christ if we do our work with the same fervor with which we pray or try to evangelize others.
I will wrap this short little post up with some words from Pope John Paul I: “There, nel bel mezzo della strada (in the middle of the street), in the office, in the factory, we can be holy provided we do our job competently, for love of God, and cheerfully, so that everyday work does not become a ‘daily tragedy’, but rather ‘a daily smile’”.