Speaking of Work
A shared need to discuss the challenges and questions posed by their work draws friends together. An invitation to join them.
We started our Speaking of Work calls in November following the interests of some of us to discuss our job as part of our experience. We are a group of thirty to fifty people brought together by word-of-mouth—a rather unmethodical communication--but especially by the same interest in discussing our experience at work.
Challenging questions are not unusual: should we seek happiness at work? (yes); is work necessary for our fulfillment? (yes); is work a human need? (yes); is success enough to make you happy? (your answer here); when is work a prayer? (always); how does Fr. Giussani’s idea of work correct your ideal of work? (a whole lot); what do you need to sustain your heart in your daily work? (a friendship); what is the ideal that you express in your work? (your answer here again).
For many of us, the Speaking of Work group has changed the way we see ourselves in relation to our jobs. We have met every two to three weeks to discuss texts by Father Giussani that deal with work. Father Giussani often remarked that work is the most concrete aspect of our love for Christ, yet we realize that this often gets lost in our everyday tasks. At best, as one of the texts we reviewed says, “We are all too often tempted to reduce the influence our faith has upon life to a series of moral directives (greater honesty, competency and altruism).”
Through the calls, we have learned how Father Giussani and the Movement instead propose work as a human activity that springs from our desire of accomplishment. We have met to learn what Father Giussani describes, to identify how that may happen in our experience at work, and to share our experience, questions, and challenges.
Our work has been very productive, as demonstrated by the sixty-plus pages of contributions that have been posted online in preparation for the meetings. Going through these contributions—some of them now a few months old—is very impressive.
Maris from New York shared that “Father Giussani’s statement indicating that ‘the aim of "work" is not production, rather it is man’ was very simple, yet eye-opening. That doesn't mean that I should not do my best in what my job requires, but without the awareness of the totality of my heart, my job eventually becomes just an energy-sucker.”
Anujeet from Philadelphia asked, “How is work a need? While I have a need to work to provide for my family, there are many different types of work that can meet that need. I find this urgency to use my talents and desire to generate something in my work. How does one live need without passivity, need without a false humility?”
Lucas from South Dakota remarked how his work in an architecture firm has been changed by new “movements” that have arisen, such as photo sharing in meetings, increased interest from the leadership, and a measurable increase in happiness and productivity.
Ellynore from Colorado described how going to the annual MedConference helped her find a place where the true image of men and women is cultivated and how that brought new life into her work. “Now I go to work with a passion that I never expected, that before I never even dreamed possible--which means that you don't go to the job you used to go to, but you perform a ‘new work,’ a more human work that doesn't leave out any aspect, any particular. Nothing is more concrete than love.”
Alessandro from New York shared his discoveries in his job as an information officer at his company, including several chance encounters with random people or old friends who see his love and passion for his work and want to learn more about him and what drives him.
Lorenzo, a professor from Colorado and one of the most fervent contributors, brought countless examples and questions, including the realization that work is an expression of our religious sense. This unfolded at work when he challenged his colleagues by asking about their desires for their students, causing a complete change of direction on a project that had been settled before without too much thought.
Without any a doubt, the most important moment for us so far has been our in-person meeting with Father Julián Carrón during the New York Encounter. As soon as we started, one of us quoted Father Giussani’s statement that “work is a need,” and Father Carrón immediately challenged us: “What does this mean? Everyone must explain every word that we use. What is a ‘need’? In what sense did Giussani say said that ‘work is a need’? Why do you need to work? What is the need that work tries to address? Because the reduction starts at that moment, at the very first moment.”
We immediately realized that throughout our work, we had skipped over the most basic, yet important word. He then doubled down by telling us that discovering what “need” means is what School of Community is for and unsubtly accused us of not doing that work at all. He then started a dialogue with us, demonstrating a unity in the way he perceives faith, life, and work that I felt was just unbelievable.
I was completely in awe seeing someone that doesn’t show any division between faith and work, a person completely certain that what happens at work and in his life is not only good, but it is exactly what he needs at that very moment for his own growth.
Father Carrón left us with a special assignment: Reading chapter four of The Religious Sense, where Father Giussani states that to understand myself and my religious sense, I need to look at myself in action. That was his answer to how we understand what the word “need” means. Looking at myself in action at work is the most concrete way for me to understand who I am and what my true desires are. “Your work is useful because it is your ‘I’ in action; it is the place where I can surprise my ‘I’ in action, where all the ingredients of my own ‘I’ come out,” he concluded.
To quote Father Carrón’s words, “This is life! This is the adventure of life, and it is fantastic because we can learn from every experience we are going through.”
If you want to be on this adventure with us, please get in touch and join us.
Everyone is welcome!
Andrea, New York, New York
Editor's Note: those who would like to join the Speaking of Work discussions can sign up here.