Several weeks ago, I had lunch with one of my new clients, a senior human resources executive of an Atlanta-based company. Our working partnership had been very business-focused since the beginning, and I wanted to forge a stronger personal connection, which I enjoy with most of my other clients.
We made small talk about a number of subjects until our food arrived. I said I was going to say a blessing over our meal and that she was welcome to join me. As I made the Sign of the Cross and started to pray, I noticed that she also made the Sign of the Cross. I smiled to myself and said a quiet prayer of thanks for the opportunity I had been given.
Between bites of salad, I asked her which parish she attended. She gave me a funny look before responding with the name, then added, "That’s a long story." I told her I would love to hear about it, and for the next half hour, we talked about her faith journey, how much she loved her parish, her devotion to the Blessed Mother and her prayer life. The awkward business-focused exchange at the beginning of the meal had been replaced by a warm conversation about our shared Catholic faith. I certainly achieved my goal of a stronger personal connection!
As we were preparing to leave, she shared that she never spoke of her faith in business settings and really enjoyed our discussion. We speculated on why Catholics don’t discuss faith as openly as perhaps our Protestant brethren do. I suggested it may be fear of persecution or lack of confidence in defending the teachings of the Church. She suggested that it all came down to simple courage. I asked her to explain, and her response was, "When you made the Sign of the Cross in a crowded restaurant and said the blessing for all to hear, I realized that I never do that. My fear of saying a simple blessing is a clear reminder to me that I don’t have the courage to share my faith outside of my comfort zone. I am grateful that you don’t have that issue and also for this wonderful conversation."
Driving back to my office, I reflected on countless other business meals over the last few years that had turned into faith discussions, perhaps because of the simple act of making the Sign of the Cross and blessing the meal.
I don’t know if I see this as courageous as much as following the call of Christ and the teachings of our Church. It is certainly food for thought and worthy of careful reflection.
What would happen if everyone who reads this makes a simple commitment to make the Sign of the Cross and say a blessing over every meal from now on, regardless of our companions? How many incredible faith discussions would occur as a result of this simple and public act of faith? I could easily argue the other side and share the possible negative outcomes, but can we live as faithful Catholics if we are paralyzed by fear?
The answer, I believe, is contained in the words of Jesus: "Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others I will deny before my heavenly Father" (Matthew 10:32-33).
Randy Hain writes from
Atlanta. Adapted with permission of
the publisher and Randy Hain from
The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for
Integrating Faith and Work (Liguori).