My brother, an Air Force veteran, once shared with me that his co-workers and subordinates have always been aware of his Catholic faith and devotion to God. Occasionally, they come to him with questions and difficulties, knowing that while he has godly wisdom, he won’t launch into a lengthy sermon. When it comes to evangelizing in the workplace, it is possible to share the life-changing message of the Gospel without proselytizing or turning people off.
If we find it challenging to share Christ with others in the workplace, it doesn’t make us bad Catholics, but “hiding our light under a bushel” is not an option. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the baptized are to proclaim Christ, “by word and the testimony of life” (905). Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us in our own unique circumstances as we consider how to witness to our faith in the workplace.
First Things First
When it comes to evangelization, it isn’t primarily about a list of things we should do or say. We should first take a look at our own lives to be sure we have the proper motivation and are authentic witnesses to Christ.
Make your own intimacy with Christ the priority.
The foundation for all true evangelization is a “vital union with Christ” (CCC 864). Through daily heart-felt prayer and by humbly and expectantly engaging in the sacraments, our hearts are softened, opened, and capable of receiving God’s love. This superabundance of love should be the motivating factor behind our desire to see everyone come into a relationship with Christ and His Church.
“Be holy as I am holy.” Being a virtuous person is the only way to earn the trust and respect of our co-workers. St. Timothy was advised to “train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Tim 4:7-8). When we grow in holiness, our behavior as Christians is the irrefutable testimony to God’s love and power. Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”
With those foundational principles in mind, let’s consider specific ways we might share our faith with others.
Subtle but Effective
I took an informal survey of several devout Catholics of various ages and types of employment and asked them how they witness to Christ in the workplace.
- Lifestyle and relationships. Most of the people I interviewed said they evangelize at work by speaking openly about their life and relationships. For example, my 25-year-old son, who is a nurse, regularly expresses to his co-workers how much he looks forward to being with his wife and little daughters on his days off. People are surprised he is married, and even more surprised that he is happily married and not ashamed to say so. His lifestyle and his attitude demonstrate to his co-workers that by following Christ, we really can experience the blessings of a stable, satisfying family life.
Even if we have broken relationships, our godly approach to them can be a powerful witness to others! I have several female friends who realize that until and unless their marriages are annulled, they are not “single women.” They witness to their faith in the workplace by speaking and acting as married women.
- Publicly prioritize. Make it clear that your religious commitments are a priority to you and talk about them. One young woman I spoke with said that she has signaled the importance of her faith to others simply by requesting non-negotiable time off to go to Mass on Sundays. She thinks it is the reason other co-workers feel free to discuss God and religion with her.
There are other activities besides church which can be a witness to others. For years, my husband took off work to attend the March for Life in Washington, DC and, though he didn’t make a big deal about it at the office, he made casual references to it. His trips to DC generated numerous fruitful conversations.
- Prayer is priceless. We should pray and make sacrifices for our fellow workers. If we try to “win friends and influence people” for Christ using mere worldly wisdom, we will fail. After all, the battle for souls is a spiritual one, and it calls for supernatural power. No matter how convincingly we speak or what kind of “Catholic show” we put on in order win souls to Christ, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that will change hearts.
Also, when co-workers are having a hard time, we can offer to pray for them and then make sure we do it. Later, ask them how things are going. It is a great way to show people that you care. If you discern it is appropriate, you can offer to pray with a co-worker. The most important aspect of praying with someone is to be with them in the presence of God, asking our Heavenly Father for His help, His love, and His healing touch. Recently, my cousin took a step outside of his comfort zone and prayed with a co-worker for a physical healing and, much to my cousin’s surprise, the man’s shoulder pain and immobility was immediately resolved! (Learn more about how to pray with people here.)
- Offer an invitation. Rarely do people feel offended by a sincere invitation suited to their circumstances. Invite a fallen away Catholic to attend Mass with you or invite the unchurched Christian to a Bible study. Invite a lonely co-worker to attend a parish dinner with your family, or tell your receptionist, who has a couple of teenagers, about a youth group event.
I know of a man who stops by his daughter’s workplace whenever he can and the two of them have casually invited her co-workers into their conversations, which are light-hearted and affectionate and somehow make the love of God palpable. Her co-workers enjoy it when “dad” comes to visit.
- Physical reminders. Don’t underestimate the power of images, holy cards, prayers, and other items you might be able to put in your workspace. While they help you stay focused on what is good, beautiful, and true during your workday, they may be used by the Holy Spirit in ways you never know to touch the heart of someone who sees them.
A helpful analogy I have heard when it comes to sharing our faith with others is that we should be like a reservoir not a firehose. As a reservoir, we allow ourselves to be filled with the things of God and overflow with love and truth, rather than blasting people with our zeal and knowledge. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said it this way, “So urgent is the charity of those [who know Christ and His Church] that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled. They are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not yet grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.”
While avoiding the firehose approach, sometimes we are so concerned about being subtle that we miss a perfect opportunity to go deeper with a colleague. At some point a co-worker might approach you and be curious to hear your own conversion story or be interested in learning more about the Catholic Church. Be ready! Occasionally, we need less subtlety and more holy boldness! Again, the Holy Spirit enables us to discern when, where, and how to witness to Christ, particularly when we lean into the graces of the sacrament of confirmation.
Above all, when we take our own daily conversion to Christ seriously, people notice. Then our co-workers will encounter Christ in the conference room, at the morning meetings, and at the company picnic. What an awesome responsibility and privilege! Whether they react negatively to us like many did to Christ Himself or whether they welcome the love and truth of the Gospel is beyond our control. Our job is to love our neighbor for the love of God, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).