“The Catholic Briefcase” by Randy Hain, Liguori Publications (2011), pp136, $9.99.
Randy Hain, a 2006 convert with an extensive business background, has written a useful book for Catholics struggling to integrate their faith and work lives. “The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for integrating faith and work” is a short guide for professionals who want to live their faith 24/7.
Hain encourages us to schedule time for prayer — even in five minute blocks — into our daily calendar. If it isn’t scheduled, it won’t happen, he says, and as one who is dependent upon my electronic calendar, I can attest to that.
He encourages us to surround ourselves with people who challenge us and make us think. He encourages us to ask “why,” rather than focusing on “what.” Perhaps his best suggestion is to use the Jesuit-developed Daily Examen, which encourages us to pray, reflect on our day, and plan for the future. An appendix walks you through the steps.
On page 111 of the 136-page book, the author asks the reader to consider whether your job supports your family or whether your family supports your job? That is a provocative question that could have opened this book. Anyone who attempts to come up with an answer is forced to consider the purpose of their work and whether their actual practice matches their desire.
Hain also writes about courage, saying “our willingness to place the needs of people before the bottom line is an act of courage sorely needed in business today.” I would say that the needs of people and the bottom line do not have to be in conflict with one another. Successful companies figure out ways to align the two, just as successful employees often figure out ways to integrate their faith with their work.
A few more questions needed
The book does not go into some of the gritty practical questions that many workers might have about their careers, such as “Should I sacrifice income for more time with my family?” “When do I fire an under-performing employee?” “Should I report a colleague who may be padding his expense report?” “Should I quit my job if I work for a big retailer who sells magazines, some of which can be considered pornographic?” or “What should I do if I work for a drug store that sells contraceptives?”
These are the kinds of real life questions that people have to deal with all the time in the workplace. Hain, who was a vice president at a major restaurant chain, certainly has experiences with these kinds of questions and probably has insight about how to answer them. Some of that insight would have helped this book.
However, if you have a son or daughter in the workplace, and you want to help them see that their faith has a role in work, this book would make a nice gift.
Hain gives us useful pointers for considering the role of our faith in the context of the workplace. Given the time many people spend on their careers, this book could be an important guide in the next portion of their faith journey.