Photo: Unsplash/Stephanie McCabe

Austria: Monday is the best day

What is the meaning of work? How can it be truly human? And what does it have to do with faith? Some time ago in Vienna, an initiative started where, over an aperitif, people began to tell each other and compare notes.
Lidia Zorzoli

Summer 2019. During a conversation among friends an idea emerged: it would be interesting to discuss the topic of work and its underlying problems, including the relationship between work and faith. What would be most helpful would be a dialogue with someone who has more experience and is further along the journey than we are. This is how the WorkAps (Work-Aperitiv) were born. We meet in the house of the priests of the St. Charles Borromeo Fraternity for an aperitif or dinner and each time a guest is asked to share his or her experience, starting with three questions. We would invite people who seemed interesting because of the way they live their work and their Christian faith. The pandemic interrupted the initiative for a while, but the questions keep pressing, and as soon as circumstances allowed, the exchange began again. Our meetings have become a way to get to know new friends and experiences of faith.

People from a wide variety of fields gathered around the dinner table: surgeons, artists, researchers, bankers, insurance agents, pharmacists, engineers, teachers and many others. Of course, there is never a shortage of good food and excellent wine! Immediately after the first toast comes question number one: what is the source of your fascination and passion for your work?

A bank manager recounted that as a student he became interested in other fields, such as literature, philosophy, and law. When he was unexpectedly offered a job at the bank, he accepted. Gradually he discovered a passion for this work. "When you seriously face something, a desire to go deeper is born, and with that comes passion." A chief neurologist recounted, "When I was studying medicine, the realization that everything in the human being works perfectly led me to wonder if there could be a God. Thus, amazement at neurological systems turned into amazement at the fact that human beings were created and in the discovery that each patient is truly unique. "This is why we wish to make everything we can available to others. As a physician, you cannot remain detached from patients, you have to connect with them with your whole self, with your whole heart.'" A heritage protection officer says the passion for their work came from an interest in details. "Because right there you can see that there is an inherent beauty in things, in reality. There is a kind of unity, a connection in the world. That is why we also want the time we spend between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to have meaning and value."

After a few slices of cheese and tomato, it was time to move on to the second question: does working in a world where performance expectations always exceed available resources not overwhelm you? What room is there for creativity and freedom? A top manager recounted there is also a good deal of stress that drives people to act, and the most important thing is that we are always aware of this: we work to live, we do not live to work. "But what if the stress is too much?" "I look at stress pragmatically; I look at the cause to see what the solution might be. There is always a solution; you should never lose hope. And I pray a lot. God always gives me what I need. I ask him for two things: discernment and health. The rest is up to me." The neurologist admitted, "God loves us as we are. This frees me from any anguish." The point is to discover that even under pressure there is a goal, a "North Star": "It's about finding a way. Things 'find' us, we simply have to be open and allow reality to ask us questions."

Dulcis in fundo. It was time for dessert, a good grappa and the third question: what does being a Christian have to do with your work? An architect confessed that he was puzzled by this question. "But then I thought that I have received gifts and talents. They have been given to me by God, and my job is nothing but to pass on these talents, to make them available to others. Kind of like in the Gospel with the parable of the king who makes a wedding feast for his son. I think my talents are like the garment I want to wear to be ready for that wedding when we meet him on the last day. So I try to do everything with love. And the more effort and time I put into each other, the more beautiful the final product will be. In the end, everything we do is a way to grow."

Read also - Germany: "Who am I?"

A business executive said that he initially had the same reaction, but then examined his own experience, "At critical times in my life, when I was almost in despair, I always looked for a church to gather in silence. In the United States, where they do not ring bells, I realized how much I missed that sound! I have always looked for evocative places, and these have always had to do with faith, like the Way of St. Francis. Even when I go to Luxembourg to visit my relatives, I always take time to visit my deceased loved ones. At first I did not talk about faith at work. But then I matured and began to open up. At some point my colleagues did, too. So I was able to share with them the values I live in faith: it is possible to share life with anyone you meet." The top manager firmly stated "Work is nothing but an important part of my daily life. The two are paired; they are one. So if God is not with me in the office, it means He is not with me in everyday life!" A friend added, "Jesus worked as a carpenter for 30 years. He did not need to do anything extraordinary to prove that he was God. So work is not an alternative to life, but is in deep unity with my life. That is why I want to offer everything I do to God. Only then can everything I do be useful." What about Mondays? "Monday is the most beautiful day of the week! Because on Monday we start again, we get back on the road."