By now you must have heard of the Great Resignation. It’s the effect of the pandemic nobody was expecting which became apparent in the Spring of 2021. It started in the US, and gradually spread throughout the (developed) world. What happened? Large numbers of white-collar workers proceeded to quit their jobs. They are now reinventing themselves as remote contractors/consultants. Others are starting entire new businesses. Many are still taking their time to decide what to do next. Because of the uncertainty and changes the phenomenon is creating in the workforce, some are also referring to it as the Great Reshuffle.
Whichever term you prefer, this “great” phenomenon is a reality, and many Catholic professionals are part of it. TCP would like to examine what this new paradigm means to single or married Catholic professionals who find themselves contemplating a reset or reshuffle in their lives. Perhaps you are one of them. There are multiple considerations at stake, professionally and spiritually. The possibilities seem endless.
Where I Work
This is perhaps the most obvious of all four considerations. We are all aware the pandemic propelled us into the future, causing the growth, acceptance, and widespread use of the virtual platforms for work and communication. It did so to such degree we can now begin to imagine a world where office cubicles are obsolete and most work done from a computer can be done from home, or a coffee shop. And the reshuffling is not only taking place in the minds of employees. The corporate world too has realized some brick-and-mortar operations are an unnecessary cost. Thus, we also see the accelerated growth of online banking, retail, gambling, telemedicine, etc. We’ve even changed the way we release feature films. Nothing is taken for granted anymore.
What does this mean for a Catholic professional conscious of his call to holiness? We can work from home. That means the incidental professional dealings with sinful environments (or behaviors and attitudes not conducive to holiness) can now be minimized or even eliminated from our work lives. This is good. But there can be a temptation here to live in a Catholic bubble and face the world only from the safety of our laptops. However, unless we are called to a consecrated religious life of seclusion, that’s not really our vocation as lay people. So, it’s important we embrace the good found in having greater control of our work environment, while remembering that it is still our duty to be the light of the world, sanctifying ourselves while sanctifying our professional careers. If most of our work will now take place on the virtual platforms, we still have the duty to think of appropriate ways to witness to others for Christ.
For Catholic singles, there is the risk of living lives of isolation, where most of their interactions with others are virtual. Therefore, they must be intentional about being in communion with other Catholics, if not in a parish young adult group in a community like TLI, for example. For married couples, the dichotomy is different. Working from home allows for greater flexibility for the raising of children (No daycare needed, depending on the age of the children). But order and boundaries are key to let God turn this dynamic into a blessing to these families, and not hell at home.
If the children are small or not attending in-person classes, the new virtual paradigm for a young Catholic family might lend an opportunity to go on a family pilgrimage or seek recreational activities to strengthen family life. These are good things but must be planned carefully and in moderation.
When I Work
The next important consideration is the time we spend at work. Depending on where we lived, when we were commuting to the office, prior to the pandemic, most of us were spending thirty minutes, an hour or more to commute to and from work daily. The new paradigm we are in, suddenly gave back as much as two hours a day to professionals who are now working from home. That is a lot of extra time! Initially, it seems remote work allows people to enjoy their lives more fully by carving out additional personal time. However, it’s already the experience of many that having the office at home can become living at the office. They are now working more hours than before, neglecting their personal and spiritual lives. We must be careful (back to order and boundaries) to plan when we will work as much as when we will stop.
How I Work
This is the most fun of all the changes brought about by the pandemic. After all, who doesn’t prefer to work in flip flops, while sipping a home-made cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine for lunch, listening to our favorite music in the comfort of our home office? There are more pros than cons found in this aspect of the new paradigm. For Catholics, for example, it is easier to incorporate devotions like the prayer of the Angelus at noon or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at three o’clock, while working from home. But there is a risk here too, one that Catholics should not flirt with: the potential relaxation of excellence and professionalism at work.
Even during the times of the primitive Church, if there was something that distinguished Christians and made Christianity attractive to the pagan world, it was our work ethic. As children of God, we should be known for the quality of our work, our attention to detail, punctuality, consistency, and reliability. It can’t be the other way around. Even if it’s from the waist up, we should for example still dress up for virtual meetings. We must ensure we present ourselves (even when meeting virtually) in a professional setting. The bar must remain high for our own professionalism.
We must do all this so that others will ask for “the reason of our joy.” But we also do this because it is how lay Catholic professionals should perform their work with a priestly spirit, offering up everything one does at work (a quarterly report, a new project, a business proposal, a work estimate, a visual presentation, etc.) as a gift to God. Remember, if you are to offer something up to Him, well, it can’t be pusillanimous. It must be excellent.
Why I Work
The fourth consideration brought about by this mass resignation or reset is the reason why we work. This is perhaps the most profound question the new paradigm has compelled many to ask themselves. Why do I work? And why this work, and not a different line of work? Many today are discerning the answer to those questions. Some have already answered it and pivoted their careers in entirely new directions. Others are considering new career paths they would have never imagined before. For Catholics, this discernment is always good. It brings us back to the important awareness of our identity and purpose. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my mission? The answers shouldn’t be a mystery. Our shared identity is that of children of God. Our individuality then builds upon that. Our purpose is also common and shared. We were made for heaven, made for holiness, each through a different path.
Amid the great reset or reshuffle, every Catholic professional has today the opportunity to ask those questions again and reimagine the answer in the context of the gifts and talents that God has given him, in the social, cultural, and professional context in which God has placed him. But ultimately, the answer must still be faithful to our common identity and purpose: we are children of God, and we were made for holiness.
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