Take God to Work with You - A Letter from Elizabeth Hoyle
(Click on the letters to enlarge)
My dear sisters in Christ,
“Your witness shows through, you know. If I didn’t already know you were a believer, I would know it through how you act and how you go about your work.” I hadn’t been expecting these kind words. I had been listening to a woman, a regular at the library where I work, whose beloved cat had just died. I had given her a hug then she said those words to me. I didn’t know it then, but her remarks calmed a fear I didn’t realize I had been in the grip of for some time.
Though I know Catholics can and do all sorts of jobs, I somehow convinced myself there were about four ways people could truly live their faith in all aspects of their lives, including their work. They could become a nun or sister, a brother or priest, a speaker, or a teacher. My fear was that I wasn’t serving God and advancing his kingdom while working in a library, even though I love what I do. And I do try. I promise to pray for people, I try to be patient and positive, and I listen to patrons when they talk about their non-library related problems, to the point where I’ve gotten told not to on multiple occasions. I still struggle with this idea, though, that what I’m currently doing isn’t enough. That until I am pursuing a certain kind of work, I am not doing enough to live out the truths of Catholicism. That I am not enough to serve God. Oh, how lovely it is that his thoughts are not our thoughts.
While our culture definitely doesn’t make bringing God into our work a simple thing, as Catholics, it can be difficult to realize that we can show (Page 2) our love for and to God in our work, whatever work that might be. It’s unfortunately easy to believe that there are only a few certain ways to be holy and to live in and to share the love God has for us. Most of the saints, especially the ladies, lived a specific kind of lifestyle and it is easy to take that lifestyle as a rule. But that’s not what God wants for us and that’s not what he designed us for. There is no one way to work for God’s kingdom, no one path to the holiness he desires for each one of us. There are as many ways of loving and serving him as there are people in the world.
"There is no one way to work for God’s kingdom, no one path to the holiness he desires for each one of us. There are as many ways of loving and serving him as there are people in the world."
So, my dear sisters, whether you have no degree or have the highest level of education, whether you have an office job, pursue a trade, or aren’t currently employed, I urge you to take God to work with you. Your career is not the source of holiness, it is a means by which you can become holy and I pray that you both see and live it as such. Even if doing so earns you mockery and grief, or even if it earns you the respect of everyone around you, or even if no one notices at all. Ultimately, living your faith in your work is not about what your coworkers or customers or supervisors say about you. It’s about when you enter the pearly gates and your Beloved One says “Well done, my good and faithful servant…enter the joy of your master” (Mt. 25:21).
God will prosper the work of your hands and your hearts. He knows how much you love him and how hard you try for him. Be not afraid.
Lots of love,
Get to know Elizabeth
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi there! My name is Elizabeth. I’m a single 24 year-old living in the wild, wonderful mountains of West Virginia. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in English and theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. I work as a reference clerk at my local library. I’m also a writer, freelance photographer, and publication designer. It occurs to me now that I wear a lot of hats, career-wise. My Myers-Briggs type is INFJ but I could happily talk anyone’s ear off about theology, writing, dogs, ice skating, history, or books. My favorite film is David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago, which I could also go on and on about. I have a silly tendency to both makeup words and burst into random song when I’m talking with my friends. Thank goodness they’re used to it and always sing along.
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
Ever since I was little and first learning about my faith, I knew that being Catholic was something to live instead of just participating in on Sundays. I always try to live each day as a prayer, a prayer that changes as the day goes along. Over the years, I’ve tried to train myself to be aware, as much as I can, that God is with me always and that we are in this thing called life together. I don’t always do too well with that, but I try.
"I always try to live each day as a prayer, a prayer that changes as the day goes along."
From one Catholic woman to another, how have you discovered your sense of belonging in the Church?
I’ve been blessed to grow up in the Church and to be surrounded by many joyful and faithful people both in my immediate family and in my parish family. While I’ve always felt like I’ve been at home in the Church, it didn’t really hit me until a few years ago that it really was my home. One Sunday, I had to go to a non-Catholic church service as part of an assignment. I chose to go to a Protestant service and by the time I got back to school, the only mass I could attend was a Latin mass. I knew about the Latin mass but I’d never been to one before. I felt quite lost, even with the translation pamphlet they provided to guide me. I was increasingly aware, though, that this was the translation of the mass that most of the saints fell in love with and celebrated throughout their lives. Here I was celebrating it, too. I couldn’t help but think of the service I had gone to that morning and how different each experience made me feel, how much more at home and at peace I felt at mass, even though I didn’t know what was going on. I knew then that the home of my heart is the Church, just as it was and is for the saints.
What’s the most empowering piece of advice you’ve been given as a Catholic woman?
There’s no one quote that I can put here, so I’ll just write something our Lord told me while I was praying once: “All that matters is you and I.”
Tell us about a woman who inspires you. What lessons have you learned from her? How has she influenced your life?
Saint Maria Goretti, my confirmation saint. She’s such an example of courage, fidelity, purity, and forgiveness. She both humbles me and inspires me to be better.
What’s your favorite way to pray?
My favorite way to pray is to be in front of the Blessed Sacrament and just talk to Jesus about anything and everything. I love the rosary and reading scripture. I also pray through serving people at work and when I’m writing.
What virtue do you find yourself most valuing right now?
It’s a tossup between courage and hope. Both are so needed in the world right now and there is something so amazing and valiant in embracing either of those virtues in the face of difficulty and uncertainty.
What’s the best smell in the world to you?
Lilac, closely followed by baking bread, and anise oil. And incense.
Fill in the blank
A typical day in my life looks like…
My alarm goes off at 7:30. I say my morning prayers while eating breakfast and getting ready. I work from 9 to 5 most days, then head home and spend some time with my parents (I still live at home.) After dinner, I normally work different projects, or on the book I’ve been writing for nearly two years. I try to end the day by spending more time with my family or talking to a friend and then spending some time in prayer.
My favorite quote is...
“Whom have I in Heaven but you?/There is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you/My flesh and my heart may fail,/but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”-Psalm 73:25-26
I feel most inspired when…
I’ve had enough sleep or I’m walking outside or writing or am in silence. Or some combination of all four.
The Catholic Church is…
An imperfect community and family striving to be worthy of the perfection that has been given to it.