Corporate professionals “bored witless” in their umpteenth meeting have a powerful ally to call upon: the Holy Spirit.
That was Bishop Richard Umbers’ message for the return of the Bishop’s Blend initiative, which saw Catholic professionals flock to the Radisson Blu hotel for breakfast, formation and networking on 8 August.
The Catholic community was overjoyed with the ordination of five new priests on the feast of the Transfiguration.
But as in the Gospel for the feast, we have to come down from the mountain and work to sanctify and redeem this world, Bishop Umbers said.
“We are all familiar with being in the world, but not of the world. And that really is the Christian challenge,” Bishop Umbers said.
“Because we are called to sanctify this corporate, bureaucratic, corporate, secular world of work.
“When you have to make small talk, or you sit through a session of diversity training, or you’re afraid of bringing up certain topics, or you’re frankly just bored witless, ask ‘What should I do here and now?’”
“In a company that has more than 10 people in it, you’re going to have office politics. You’re going to have bureaucracy, a whole host of things.
“It will seem somewhat meaningless, and that’s one of our big challenges.”
The gifts of the Holy Spirit received at baptism and confirmation, including counsel – practical wisdom – can be drawn upon even in the corporate world.
“When you have to make small talk, or you sit through a session of diversity training, or you’re afraid of bringing up certain topics, or you’re frankly just bored witless, ask “What should I do here and now?’” Bishop Umbers said.
“Turn to the Holy Spirit for that. Do I pray for light to know how to handle this? Or at for least the people concerned, who are doing the ‘boring’?”
Bishop Umbers also said that leaders should remember that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, giving the example of the Old Testament Kings who started well but fell into corruption.
“That’s why you have to be very, very careful if you’ve become ‘the smartest person in the room’. You’re in trouble,” he said.
“St Thomas Aquinas says you can always learn something from the next person. There’s always something in which you can consider them superior to yourself. Do we do that?”
In a wide-ranging Q&A after breakfast and coffee, Bishop Umbers said that a wise balance needed to be struck between witnessing to the Gospels at work, remaining morally consistent, and being a team player.
Being competent and professional, working for the sake of the Kingdom, and sharing the faith later in the context of genuine relationships was a prudent way for professionals to behave.
“We learn to set appropriate boundaries, and we’re careful not to overshare at work,” he said.
“Some things take time. In a work setting you’re always asking cui bono? Who benefits?”
“There are certain no-go areas, things you must not say, must not do. Co-operation in evil, which is what we’re dealing with sometimes – formal co-operation.”
For Catholics called upon to make decisions in which they may be morally compromised, there is no one-size-fits-all rule, and the Bishop advised professionals to seek advice from priests and trusted confidants where appropriate.
“There are certain no-go areas, things you must not say, must not do. Co-operation in evil, which is what we’re dealing with sometimes – formal co-operation,” Bishop Umbers said.
However, material co-operation in a remote sense was a fact of life in the contemporary world, he added, giving the example of buying a newspaper with questionable editorial lines or catching a bus with offensive advertisements.
“It’s important not to get too scrupulous, or you’ll just go bananas.”
The Bishops Blend is presented by Catholic Super, and has returned from a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.