Thrive as a Person of Faith amid Secular Sinkholes
People of faith who feel under siege in secular settings can navigate with strategies such as daily prayer, connecting with those who share your religious beliefs and forging friendships with spiritual naysayers, author Aurora Griffin said.
Challenging situations can arise for people who try to live out their faith in business, in government and in places such as Washington, D.C., where those who seek to uphold their religion can incur harsh criticism from individuals and political opponents who view the world differently. But ways exist to include God in everyday life by adopting practices such as offering work as prayer, Griffin told attendees of her recent talk at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.
People are called by God to become saints, said Griffin, a Rhodes Scholar and the author of “How I stayed Catholic at Harvard,” a book featured earlier this month by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt for tips to help college students and others who seek to live faithfully in secular environments.
“I think that all of these lessons are broadly applicable to people of faith living in D.C. or young professionals making their way,” Griffin said. “These are things that I continue to learn more about and experience in deeper ways in my next phase of life.”
“Put out into the deep” is a phrase from the Gospel of Luke that Griffin said she applies to her own life. The words call for digging deeply into theological truths to clear up confusion and to become more giving in friendships, she added.
In school and in the workplace, Griffin said questions may arise: “Will I be able to find friends who share my values? Will people think I’m prejudiced or ridiculous?”
However, the perceptions of the rest of the world mattered little to Mother Teresa, who once said, “I was not put here to be successful. I was put here to be faithful.”
The faithful still may attain success but the Gospel does not promise “prosperity,” Griffin said.
“Love God, and everything won’t just work out,” Griffin said. “But I do attribute my earthy success to the habits that I cultivated through my faith, the people I met and the worldview it instills in me.”
Griffin said her faith helped her win a Rhodes Scholarship, even though others told her that students who receive it typically are “shiny secularists.”
The former Rhodes Scholars who interviewed the candidates chose Griffin, in part, because she held true to her Catholic beliefs in answering their probing questions, the head of the selection committee later told her. Staying consistent with her Catholic faith by opposing embryonic stem cell research, even if her view might be unpopular with those awarding the scholarship, swayed the panel of former winners to select her, Griffin said.
Not only has Griffin challenged herself by taking the role of someone who others might perceive, at times, as a “barbarian outside the gate,” she urged attendees at her talk to live unapologetically as people of faith.
“You are called to be a saint,” Griffin said. “What are you doing about it?”
In Griffin’s case, she spoke of willingly becoming a contrarian when warranted.
“I kind of thrive being that person who disagrees with everyone in the room,” Griffin said. “I don’t mind that whatsoever. In fact, I find that intellectually interesting and find that energizing.”
Griffin recommends seeking mentors, volunteering, looking for opportunities to lead and to teach others, developing close friendships and using media and technology.
“If you go to a secular university like Harvard or work in a secular job, you will meet a lot of people who are indifferent, or even hostile, to the faith, but you also will meet faithful people who will stand up to fight for what they believe in when it counts,” Griffin said.
The influence of her father as a devout Catholic businessman, who prays before meetings and gives back to his community, has been a positive example, Griffin said.
“My dad has been one of the huge models for me about how to live your faith in a career,” Griffin said.
Her father, Paul Griffin, who received formation through Opus Dei, seems to have a natural sense of how faith and work fit together, Griffin said.
“He understands how business does good on many levels: making quality products people need to live well — in his case, housing, supplying meaningful and upwardly mobile work for employees, providing for his own family and helping those who are less fortunate,” Griffin shared in responding to a question. “Sometimes the Church regards business with suspicion, and we always have to be careful that material things don’t capture our affections. However, when lived well, business can be a very holy pursuit, and I’ve been blessed to see that first-hand.”
Another example Griffin said her parents have provided is how to become “happier, more flourishing” people.
Further, Griffin said faith helps to “anchor” people who otherwise may feel cast adrift by change.
Griffin expressed admiration for the three most recent pontiffs, including Pope Benedict XVI, who said during his homily at the inauguration Mass of his pontificate at St. Peter’s Square on April 24, 2005, “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.”
Paul Dykewicz is the editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications, editor of StockInvestor.com and DividendInvestor, a columnist for Townhall and Townhall Finance, a commentator and the author of an inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain,” with a Foreword by legendary football coach Lou Holtz. Visit Paul’s website at www.holysmokesbook.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulDykewicz.