Book Review of “The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work” by Randy Hain (Review by: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Book Review of

The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work

By Randy Hain

(Review by: Michele Babcock-Nice)

March 13, 2012

What's in your Catholic briefcase? (Used with author's permission)

In his book, The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, Randy Hain gives numerous examples of how Catholics can and should both live and include their Catholic faith in their everyday lives, particularly while at work and in working with others.  Hain lists and shares many “how to” ideas and ways in his book on how to accomplish this. 

Throughout his book, Hain also identifies Catholic role models and colleagues in his life who are an inspiration for living their Catholic faith, daily, at work and in their everyday lives.  Several interviews with these individuals are shared in The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work so that we, the readers, may more fully appreciate and understand ways that we, too, may more fully live our Catholic faith at work.

Hain begins his book introduction with presenting about “making the transition from a compartmentalized life in which I had no faith and kept everything distinctly separate to an integrated life with Christ at the center” (p. xvii).  Hain states that making the transition was daunting for him, as it may be for many.  At work, some of the reasons in which people may compartmentalize their faith include “political sensitivity, rigid company policies, and simple fear” (p. xvii). 

In being fully honest with himself and realizing that there were areas in his faith and religious life that could be improved in his relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, Hain opened himself up to greater communion with God and his faith.  No doubt, as described throughout his book, Hain has felt and gained countless benefits from letting go of his former self so that a new self could be reborn with increased spirituality and trust in God. 

Hain writes of being a convert to Catholicism in 2005.  He states that he sincerely committed himself to placing Jesus Christ at the forefront of every aspect of his life.  He committed himself to living a life with Jesus at the center, as well as integrating faith, family, and work together (p. xix).  He goes on to share that Catholics have many opportunities throughout each day to positively influence others, thereby “standing out” in our faith and faith journey in example to others. 

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Jesus died so we may live.

It is, indeed, refreshing to read Hain’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs regarding his Catholic faith and faith journey as a positive example to others.  In converting to Catholicism and truly living the Catholic faith, as well as being a role model for others in his faith, Hain has set an excellent example for others in his commitment to leading a more fully-integrated faith and spiritual life in his work and everyday activities.  Hain challenged himself to highly-raise the bar in his pursuit of excellence regarding the integration of his faith into his work and daily life.  

The author writes of remembering to view others in a Christ-like manner, to recall that each of us is modelled after Jesus and has wonderful qualities in our humanity.  Hain further reminds us that we must be persistent and dedicated in fulfilling our ministries – including all sorts of ministries, such as being married, being single, being a parent, being employed, being a leader, etc.  He also identifies that there are many ways in which people excuse their lack of action in integrating our faith and work, and he provides well-explained ideas for actually integrating faith and work.

One of Hain’s statements that really spoke to me is, “It is almost as if we have developed barriers around our hearts that keep the world at an emotional distance” (p.10).  And, three major obstacles to trustfully surrendering to God, Hain identifies as “pride, fear, and excuses” (p. 10).  This is all something that I can reflect on and view in my own life.  Why don’t I profess my faith more openly to others?  Am I afraid of getting hurt, being rejected, being criticized or ridiculed?  I believe that my answer is, “Yes, I am afraid.” 

There are so many experiences in our lives of continually being rejected that it is easy for people to lose hope.  Taking a risk in sharing one’s faith, beliefs, and values is just another one of those areas of potential pain and rejection, so for me, Hain’s statement about emotional barriers being placed around our hearts is really done as a matter of self-protection, though it may end up being a way of distancing ourselves from others.  Hain writes that we must trustfully surrender to Jesus and God that we will be provided with the strength to be successful in our endeavors, both at work and in life.

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Remember to pray the Rosary

Hain further shares that it is important for us to take time to think and pray, so that we can more fully be in tune with God’s will for us.  Hain encourages us to schedule time into our day to pray, to be “gadget free,” to surround ourselves with positive, like-minded people, to live more simply, and to refuse to give in to compulsions (pp. 23-25).  He further suggests to us that we thank God, ask for God’s forgiveness, request God’s help and guidance, and to totally unburden ourselves to God (pp. 31-32). 

Hain also lists and describes many more ways that we can be in tune with God through our thoughts, prayers, and actions.  Also very importantly – and another of Hain’s statements that spoke to me – is that we must “pray with our children every night” (p. 36).  I had realized that, in the everyday stresses and worries of living, I had gotten away from doing that with my own child – saying daily prayers and making holy requests of God with my child.  I have been positively reminded by Hain in his book to “just do it” (p. 36).  It is refreshing, rejuvenating, and comforting to pray to God; what better way to pray than to pray with others, especially those children and/or family members whom we most love in our lives.

In Hain’s chapter five of his book, he addresses the issue of being personal with colleagues at work.  He asks if we have the rapport and trust that is needed to provide comfortable discussions about personal issues that are serious at work (p. 39).  In my work and personal life, this is something that I have never had an issue with, and in fact, is something about which I find many, many people have discomfort.  Not only do most people appear to be uncomfortable speaking about serious personal issues at work, they do not want to hear or engage with others in talking about such concerns. 

In my life experiences, I have found that it is truly the extremely rare individual who can share about serious personal issues, as well as who can listen to and provide support and guidance about said concerns.  Because many people are unwilling or unable to open up about serious personal issues at work, this just becomes another way of distinguishing and dividing out what topics are acceptable for discussion in the workplace.  

Concern about hurtful gossip and of issues shared in confidence being distorted by others are reasons that many people limit their interpersonal relations and communications with colleagues at work, in my experience.  Then, the workplace can become a very hurtful and damaging place to be.  With Hain reminding us in his book that we ought to develop relationships with others that are trusting enough to share serious personal issues, we are reminded that we are all human and that we all share serious issues in our lives that are in need of others’ support and attention.

An additional topic that Hain identified in his book that touched me is, “we often don’t know the people in our community or our workplace who need our help” (p. 42).  Hain recognized that people may often behave in a superficial manner to each other, simply asking how they are doing, but not really caring to do anything about it or recognize how they are truly doing.  This has also been an issue of mine in the past few years since I am an individual who is in need. 

In the past one year, I shared about my need with a volunteer worker of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who was very helpful to me and my family, and one of her statements to me was that I didn’t “look like” a person in need.  One can maintain a good appearance, be reasonably healthy and happy, but still be in need – it is important for people to recognize that and take it seriously rather than overlook, ignore, or deny it because the need only increases when people behave in such ways.  Therefore, Hain’s statement of truly recognizing and supporting those in need is incredibly important.

Hain addresses stewardship in his book, describing ways that he and others “give back” to the church and/or community.  He is involved in several activities in which he gives back to his church, parish, employer, and community.  This is also something to which I can relate because I also give back in regularly and happily volunteering at my child’s Catholic school (for the past four years now), as well as with being an active, assistant leader my child’s scout pack through our local church.  It is very important to return one’s talents, time, and/or treasures to one’s family, church, community, organization, and/or workplace.  It is a healthy thing to do, and it is something that God seeks in us.

Bible & Rosary

Two tools for success

Hain further calls us to lead by example, and to always make the best – or better – decisions.  Hain also acknowledges that, through our humanity, we do make mistakes, however when we make errors, we must learn from them and do better in the future.  Hain states, “Christ…always taught the truth, regardless of the audience or his surroundings” (p. 60).  We must pray and make a concerted effort to also lead our lives in a moral, ethical, and spiritual manner that places goodness and truth above lies, falsehoods, and deceitfulness.

Hain encourages us to be better-connected Catholics.  He reflects that there are many ways of doing this in the workplace – through sharing a meal with a colleague and saying a blessing before the meal, by listening to and truly “hearing” what colleagues have to say, by becoming active on networking websites and/or creating one’s own website, attending and participating in seminars or workshops, and more.  In our places of work, it is important to integrate our faith with what we do everyday; it provides a good example to others and it promotes a healthier, more spiritually-integrated lifestyle.

Something that I believe with which many people struggle in their everyday work lives is becoming overly successful in our work, a topic that is also addressed by Hain in his book (p. 93).  For those people who are single or who are married but do not have children – speaking from personal experience – it is all too easy to become overly devoted to one’s work…because that is what is often demanded of us from our employers, in order to be successful. 

Also, for those who have families, such as myself, it is vitally important for people to remember that quality time with family is significant, as is bringing home the bacon.  For those of us who are not formally employed, it is important to become involved in or create activities that balance family with our activities and/or interests.

Hain provides this and so much more in his book, The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work.  Hain’s personal examples, intimate witness to God, powerful conversion to Catholicism, strong commitment to his faith and doing good works, and seeing Jesus in others are all extremely meaningful qualities of this author that will speak to any reader, of any faith, in any workplace.  Hain does his best to personally live the words that he has written in his book. 

Hain recognizes that by opening up to God’s will and surrendering himself to fully trust in God’s plan for him, that he will greatly-reap the benefits of doing so in his life, including in his work life.  Hain reminds us that we are called to lead holy lives, that we must be a light for Christ, and that we are made for heaven (pp. 110, 112).  In reading Hain’s book, we are fully informed of that through his careful, thoughtful, and spiritual insights, ideas, interviews, and wisdom.

*Reviewer’s Note: All quotes and photo of book cover used with approval and permission of the author.

Source

Hain, R. (2011).  The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work.  Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications.

“A Spiritual Inquiry: What Really Matters in Life?” By: Michele Babcock-Nice

“A Spiritual Inquiry:

What Really Matters in Life?”

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

“What really matters in life?”  Of course, this is a question to which I already know the answer, but have recently contemplated again and in more depth and detail.  It has also led to asking myself additional questions, all of to which I do not know the answers.  And so, the initial question has led to some personal and deep soul-searching recently.

People are what really matters in life – one’s family, friends, colleagues, fellow church members – everyone, really.  Everyone really matters.  Yes, everyone really matters because I truly believe that we are all connected – no matter what background, race, religious affiliation, age, social or financial status, gender, nationality, ethnicity, etc.  Sometimes, we may not like everyone, however everyone still matters. 

People’s thoughts, feelings, attitudes, philosophies, and actions matter.  As I have gotten older, I have learned in greater depth that, sometimes, people do not take action on an issue if they fear or have concern about potentially making it worse.  Sometimes, however, people do speak out or take action on particular issues, and those issues are, indeed, made worse. 

It is in those situations that people learn to keep quiet, to protect themselves, to come to believe that silence may be better than whatever terrible consequences may be experienced from standing up for or speaking the truth.  After all, most people do not want to hear the truth, especially if it evokes discomfort. 

Sometimes I think that, even if people were truthful with each other and genuinely sought to help and support each other, no positive difference would be attained simply because of so many who choose to disbelieve, deny, ignore, or overlook particular situations.  Sometimes the majority wins, even though the majority may be wrong or incorrect.

Thus, how can a person, establishment, company, or organization hope to improve by not being open to all possibilities, and then, being wise and insightful enough to do what is in the best interests of not only the individual, but also the group?  Leaders of groups and organizations must recognize and be aware that their decisions may be far-reaching and widespread, and therefore, decisions must be carefully-made, wisely-implemented, and sensitively-enforced.

Therefore, the way in which people judge and misjudge, perceive and misperceive, help and harm each other…matters.  I see it happening more and more in our society that people seem to be becoming more immune to violence, more apathetic toward wrongdoing, increasingly led on the wrong path. 

So, how can we help each other?  How can we support each other?  How can we make positive change?  How can we convince those who are blinded by what is accepted in society that may not necessarily be right or good to change their perceptions?  Those who are guided by strong morals and ethics must continually take the lead in these matters, not being led by greed, selfishness, or the desire for status or influence, but out of the desire to assist humanity in living better, as Jesus taught.

Depending on the situation, positive change and changes in people’s perceptions, attitudes, and philosophies may take days, months, years, decades.  A friend of mine recently stated to me that there is little that one person can do.  I respect that person very much, however, it was definitely a disappointment that he stated this to me. 

In my way of thinking, Jesus was one person; Nelson Mandela is one person; Gandhi was one person; Blessed (Mother) Teresa was one person; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one person.  Change, whether good or bad, can begin with one person.  So, what better reason than to be one person who stands for positive change?

People who stand up for and speak out for what is good and right matter.  People who do whatever they can to help each other, no matter what the consequences or what the outcome, matter.  We must also recognize that those who may not be vocal or active about particular issues matter because they may know that to do so may make matters worse. 

Progress as we see it is not the same as the manner in which God see’s it.  To God, our progress is probably more like regress.  There is so much in our lives about which we are busy, constantly on the go, always having to do something, regularly networking or connecting with each other – or maybe not.  Maybe we are not doing enough for ourselves or each other; that may be the opposite end of the spectrum, too. 

So, what really matters in life to you?  Work is important, having enough money is important, having meaningful things in one’s life is important.  How important are people to you?  What would you do to help or support another?  If you saw or knew of someone in need, what would you do?  Would you turn your back and walk away, or would you assist them in ways to help themselves?  Would you do what Jesus would do? 

We must always remember that, in our humanity, we are not perfect.  However, we can always strive to be better people, to be more kind, more loving, more caring, less selfish, less hurtful, less diminishing, more understanding, more insightful, more wise.  We must not accept less, but expect more and better – of ourselves and others.

We must also always try our best to do our best and to be the best possible individuals whom we can be, however, we must also remember to live in the manner that Jesus wants us to.  It is not enough to be a follower of Christ; we must truly live Jesus’ principles.  We can always try our best to be better people than we are.  We can always do more to help ourselves and others. 

Therefore, we can always seek to behave in a more Christlike manner.  As followers of Christ, we must truly seek to become more like him, to seek to know and understand His will for us, and to be open to and accepting of how He forms and models us in positive ways.  How will you do that today and everyday?

Book Review of “Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer” (Dr. Mic Hunter); Review and Personal Reflections by: Michele Babcock-Nice

Book Review of:

Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer (Dr. Mic Hunter)

Book Review and Personal Reflections by: Michele Babcock-Nice

In his new book, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer, Dr. Mic Hunter reveals to readers an inspirational spiritual awakening in his guidance for utilizing the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in daily prayers for building strength of character, spiritual development, and resistance to vices present in our lives.  Dr. Hunter’s nearly thirty-five years of working with those who have addictions provides both professional and personal meaning, significance, and experience to the writings he offers in his book. 

Dr. Hunter’s insights and expansion on the Twelve Steps as prayers offer everyone – not only those who may be struggling and/or recovering from addictions – to mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically benefit from being both “in touch” and honest with themselves, others, and God.  Though I have personally not been afflicted with addictions to alcohol or drugs, I recognize that I am fallible due to my mere existence and humanity; and therefore, Dr. Hunter’s writing has personal and spiritual meaning for me in a manner that guides and leads me into a closer and more intimate relationship with God, myself, and others.

Dr. Hunter first begins his book by listing Alcoholics’ Anonymous’ Twelve Steps, as well as an adapted version of the Steps.  The Steps provide the basis and foundation for his book, leading the reader to focus on one’s own needs, desires, defects, and spirituality.  Dr. Hunter’s book is directly meant for those who are truly commited to making positive change in their lives, and can be utilized for a wide variety of reasons.

Throughout the next several chapters and versions of prayers in his book, Dr. Hunter writes insightfully and provides the reader much guidance and examples in using models and examples of prayers, as well as in developing and shaping them for one’s own personal use.  Dr. Hunter continually calls the reader to contemplate and recognize certain overall beliefs that we may hold about ourselves, as well as the fact that practicing and performing rituals – such as attending church, for example – may become insignificant, ineffective, or boring without the addition to them of things that have personal meaning – such as prayers that directly reflect our own personal ideas, requests, or needs. 

This is definitely as aspect of religion to which I can relate, particularly since I regularly attend church and participate in the same rituals week after week, month after month, and year after year.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with those rituals and I maintain a respect and appreciation for them, however, after forty years, they have, indeed, lost their impact on me to a great extent. 

In any absence of the opportunities to more personally and intimately participate in my church worship celebrations, the religious rituals designed to give thanks to the Creator have become empty and hollow.  As a result, I have personally recognized my robotic, obligatory, and expected responses and actions to them.  These feelings and actions, have therefore caused me to seek increased participation in my church services and activities, in which I regularly read, serve Eucharist, sing, or participate in other ways, such as in the instruction of children.

Praying Holy Child Figurine

Importantly, Dr. Hunters calls the reader to engage in prayers that will assist him or her in becoming a better person and in being victorious over his or her addictions.  Dr. Hunter also correctly observes that, while people do pray, they may not often take the time to listen to and perform the will for them of the Creator.  I was also importantly reminded of that while reading Dr. Hunter’s book. 

In developing one’s prayers, Dr. Hunter recommends his method of asking and answering several questions that he developed.  The questions include:”Is the focus on my behavior?; Is it simple?; Is it something I can do now or soon?; Does it align with my principles?; Would I be comfortable telling others?; [and] Do I have a sense of peace when I think about it?” (p.33).Dr. Hunter then goes into more detail about his questions by assisting the reader with formulating answers to the questions, as well as developing them into prayers. 

Within the Twelve Steps is information intended for people to personally apply to themselves regarding recognizing the existence of the Higher Power; asking for God to remove their faults; being honest about themselves, their character, and their flaws; being open to the care and guidance of others; asking forgiveness for those whom they may have harmed in some way; continually taking a personal inventory of our character and actions; improving our spiritual connection with God; and reaching a spiritual awakening through the practice of the Steps.  

Dr. Hunter shares examples of formulated prayers, both in general and those more personally-related, that include the aims and goals of each of the Twelve Steps.  Thus, the reader is both provided with the groundwork for using the prayers, given general models to begin practicing, and later, encouraged to more personally and intimately relate the prayers to his or her own needs and reflections. 

Of significance and addressed in his book, Dr. Hunter recognizes that we, as people, are human and have fallibilities.  He also recognizes that those strengths and weaknesses make us who we are.  In those individuals who are recovering addicts, Dr. Hunter addresses how he believes people should recognize their weakness and continue onward toward recovery should they experience a relapse.  It is important, therefore, for people to recognize that there is fallibility in our humanity – that’s what makes us human.  Not to recognize it is a danger, as is being too harsh or critical on ourselves for our mistakes, faults, and errors.  

To quote Dr. Hunter regarding relapse in his book, he states:”I have always thought there ought to be a word to describe a relapse that leads to improved recovery.  A word that indicates something valuable has been learned that makes future relapse less likely.  However, far too many people don’t learn from their relapse; either they don’t take the slip seriously and continue on as they had before, changing nothing, somehow expecting that another relapse won’t happen, or they take it far too seriously and are so hard on themselves for having relapsed that their guilt and shame drives them into a binge” (p. 81). 

Of further importance throughout the next two pages of his book, Dr. Hunter describes the manner by which people may grow and develop in their humanity, character, and spirituality, becoming better and more compassionate individuals.  He writes that through our weakness, grief, injury, and/or pain, we have opportunities to grow into people who are stronger and more caring and compassionate toward ourselves and others.  Dr. Hunter also identifies within those pages the needs that we have of God, as well as the hopes, feelings, and actions that we offer to God.  

As an individual who has taken inventory of my own character flaws and about what I would like to change and improve, pages 82-83 of Dr. Hunter’s book are those that most “spoke” to me, personally.  Throughout our lives, everyone experiences good, mediocre, bad, and even tragic situations.  Each of those situations is an opportunity for us to increase our spirituality, become better people, reach out to God and others for guidance and assistance, provide leadership and confidence, and be open to God’s will in our lives.  

In my own life, Dr. Hunter’s book pertains directly to me because I can relate and utilize his writings and developed prayers toward my own faults, including the desire for too much materialism, too little healthy eating and exercise, wanting my own way, being too independent, not being open enough to or trusting of others (but this is also exercised with caution), negative thinking and worrying, having unrealistic expectations, and other flaws.  Dr. Hunter’s book, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer, thus, has personal and spiritual meaning to me because I can insert my own fallibilities, needs, and shortcomings into the prayers provided.  

Dr. Hunter’s book has given me a much-needed spiritual jolt in my general daily prayers, previous to which I had often given up due to their lack of meaning and eventual belief that little or no good was accomplished from them.  Though I do believe that prayer is helpful, over the years, it had just lost so much personal significance for me, causing me to give up hope that such meaning would ever be re-introduced.  

Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer is another of Dr. Hunter’s books that I will keep closely at hand, referring to it regularly in the redevelopment and enhancement of my own spiritual life and personal daily prayers.  Thus again, Dr. Hunter’s book has provided me with needed rejuvenation and revitalization in my own faith, prayers, and spiritual life.  More importantly for me, by sharing about his own humanity, Dr. Hunter has again renewed my faith in others, showing me that there are those in our world who truly care about the needs, feelings, and lives of others. 

Whether you are a person who is recovering from an addiction, or an individual who is seeking to re-energize your spirituality, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer is another of Dr. Hunter’s must-reads!  Dr. Hunter has proven, yet again, that truly being “in-touch” with one’s inner self is the key to being in conscious contact with God, themself, and others.   

Source 

Hunter, M. (2012).  Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer.  Charleston, South Carolina: Mic Hunter.