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A question of conscience – can I display a crucifix at work?

Joan is a project manager for a mid-sized manufacturing company that is experiencing tough times because of the economy.

"I’ve worked here for a few years and it’s never been as tense as it’s been recently. A lot of people have been laid off and we’re all wondering who’s going to be next. I feel as if all our relationships are on edge - nobody wants to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong because we’re afraid it will put us on the layoff ’hit list.’

But I’ve just had the greatest personal experience! I went through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and I have never been so aware of God’s presence in my life. Because of the work atmosphere, I really need to be reminded of that presence during the day, so I put up a little crucifix over my desk. I also thought maybe it would be a conversation starter."

What should Joan do?

Not all of us are called to be John the Baptist, preaching the coming of the Lord non-stop. God gives us the strength to fulfill our roles uniquely. As St. Paul wrote, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (1Cor 12:9)

Allow God to work through you, rather than trying to control each moment. Joan may not be called to be John the Baptist - she may be called to be Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa’s model of quiet service may play out in various ways at work:

- listening to others’ problems.

- not gossiping or bad-mouthing fellow employees.

- defending co-workers who are being unfairly blamed.

- accepting responsibility for problems you caused.

- doing a good job even when you feel you’re not being treated fairly.

If Joan focuses her energy on serving others, she shouldn’t worry that she’s denying Jesus if she takes the crucifix down. Simple acts of service and kindness can serve as a beacon of God’s light as much as any outward expression of our religion.

And what’s best for the boss?

What about management’s perspective? There’s been a rule of thumb that religion doesn’t belong in the workplace. But recent studies indicate that faith in the workplace is positive - when people are able to engage their spiritual nature at work, good things happen for everyone.

- Ian Mitroff and Elizabeth Denton, authors of A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America, discovered that companies tend to be more effective when they respect and enable the spiritual development of employees.

Many companies recognize the value of employee fitness - evidenced by workout rooms and health plans. Humans are also spiritual creatures. In order to be truly successful, companies win by responding to employees’ spiritual needs as well as their physical requirements.