Dear Friends, The following interview is from a friend that I made at my recent appearance on EWTN’s Journey Home program. Kevin Lowry’s book Faith and Work is a great read and has a few interesting points to make with respect to the kind of thing we discuss here at Catholic Spiritual Direction. Kevin agreed to provide us with a bit more insight into his motivation and perspective on living out our faith in the workplace. Enjoy!
Q: What motivated you to write your book Faith at Work?
In some ways, it was more “who” than “what.” My dad was a big influence. When I was a kid, he was a Presbyterian minister with a Ph.D. in business. He spent time in academia, the ministry, and as an entrepreneur – he and my uncle owned a technology firm back in the 80s. So talk around the dinner table frequently concerned faith and work. When I entered the working world after college (a CPA firm), I was well on my way to becoming Catholic. It soon became clear that challenges to the faith in the workplace were enormous, with rampant secularism and poorly formed consciences among some organizational leaders.
With challenge comes opportunity, and I became convinced that in practical terms, the opportunities for spiritual growth in the workplace were even more significant. Living the Christian virtues in the workplace is a powerful concept – if we could all do it just a little bit better, it would cause a revolution of holiness. When we seek to sanctify our work, people benefit – both ourselves and others – and the Holy Spirit can use our successes and failures to accomplish what I like to call an “infinite multiplier effect.”
In a practical sense, living our faith in the workplace can also increase our job satisfaction, enhance effectiveness, improve workplace relationships and teamwork… the benefits are incredible.
Q: In the chapter on “Get Me off of this Roller Coaster” you mention the value of a “plan of life” and how it can help us to integrate faith, family, and work. Can you tell us a bit about this idea?
Yes, this is one that I never seem to perfect, but continue to strive towards. A “plan of life” can sound a little daunting, but it’s really a process of prioritizing certain practices and incorporating them into our everyday routines. It’s not meant to be overly structured, but rather to ensure that we keep our lives Christ-centered, saying “yes” to His plan every step of the way. So things like quiet prayer in the morning, frequent reception of the Eucharist and penance, scripture or other spiritual reading, the rosary, etc. Just as with any relationship, an investment of time is absolutely necessary.
From a practical standpoint, our lives are dynamic, often with many ups and downs each day. There are joys, troubles, minor annoyances, successes, and major tragedies – all going on simultaneously. To think we can function in our various roles with no overlap is just plain silly. When Kathi and I had our seventh child, he had major medical problems that eventually caused me to make a career change. It had nothing to do with what was going on at the office. Instead, God used the situation to speak to us, and to challenge us to re-assess our priorities. Ordering our lives around God helps us to put our faith in Him completely, and to trust Him regardless of where life is headed next.
Q: How is this idea working now in your own life? What does it look like for you on a daily, monthly, or even yearly basis?
Here’s an excerpt from the book on that topic:
Here’s an example of a pretty good day, at least for me. First, I get up right away and go running (physical exercise is another very important thing!). Afterward, I have prayer time, along with some Scripture reading. Then I get ready for work.
During my commute, I pray the Rosary and offer up my day’s work. In addition, I pray for any particularly difficult situations and ask for the grace to act with love and wisdom. When I get to work, I may pray over my workload and ask for God’s help setting priorities and getting things done on time. At noon, I might duck out for Mass or catch lunch with a friend or coworker.
Throughout the day, I’ll say an occasional prayer asking for God’s help, especially when things are crazy. At the end of the day, I’ll pray prayers of thanksgiving for the things that went well, and I’ll ask for assistance with those that didn’t. If I’m lucky, it will be Friday night, and I’ll have a date with my wife. Then we’ll spend time with our children, playing cards, saying a decade of the Rosary, and maybe watching a movie.
The most important part of my day is prayer, whether I feel like it or not. I must admit that I’m struggling a bit with my physical exercise (running) right now, and not putting in the kind of mileage I should. However, I’m a huge fan of the rosary, and making it to daily Mass whenever possible. During my conversion process, I used to drag poor Kathi and our infant children out of Mass early (before communion, which I couldn’t yet receive) because I had such a strong desire for the Eucharist. Twenty years later, this is still huge. I’m also a fan of the sacrament of reconciliation.
I believe it’s important to have written goals, so I tend to do this personally from a number of different perspectives – spiritual, family, health, financial, career, etc. Nothing elaborate, just simple, practical stuff. “Write the book already” was one from last year. This type of ongoing planning and prioritizing really works.
Q: One of the key principals to acquiring prudence or wisdom is to seek counsel from others. You reflect a bit on this idea in Chapter 10 on the topic of mentors and spiritual direction. Can you talk a bit about why we need spiritual direction and how it can benefit us as we seek to lead our families (current and future) and grow in grace?
In my experience, spiritual direction is essential to growth, since it provides objectivity. In addition, it’s great for peace of mind! Left to our own devices, we’re way too prone to fickle emotions or outside influences that may or may not be helpful. One of my weaknesses is the tendency to over-think certain decisions, and sometimes this can result in “analysis paralysis.” I’ve gotten better, but it still happens sometimes. Spiritual direction can break this kind of circular thinking.
Spiritual directors know our strengths and weaknesses, understand our struggles, and have some distance between themselves and the situations in which we find ourselves embroiled. Besides all that, to the extent that they’re properly trained and faithful, they also become tremendous conduits of grace. My spiritual director is Fr. Ray Ryland, a former Episcopalian minister who is also the Chaplain for CHNI. He has been a gift beyond price to me for many years.
In addition to spiritual direction, wise counsel can often be had from mentors or others who can be much more familiar with the nuances of certain situations and therefore bring another useful perspective. It’s important to be careful in selecting these types of confidants, obviously, and we need to respect proper authority and channels within organizations. I tell a story in the book about a trusted colleague with a Human Resources background who really helped me through a difficult situation involving the termination of several employees. It was excruciating, but his counsel was invaluable.
Q: Where can folks find your book?
Anywhere where books are sold. Signed copies are available at http://gratefulconvert.com/ with free shipping, or you can visit your local Catholic bookstore, www.osv.com or www.amazon.com. Thanks Dan, I hope this book helps encourage people to find greater purpose in their work, and for organizations to become ever more faithful and effective!
More About Kevin:
Kevin Lowry is a writer and speaker on topics including faith, work, finances, and conversion. He spent twenty years in secular financial and executive-management roles, and currently serves as chief operating officer of The Coming Home Network International. Kevin and his wife Kathi are converts to the Catholic faith and have eight children. Kevin blogs at gratefulconvert.com and recently wrote a fantastic book called Faith at Work: Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck.