I recently returned from a trip to New Mexico, where I had occasion to visit several old mission churches. In their gift shops, I noticed several items related to saints, many of whom were identified as patron saints of various occupations. For example, St. Thomas the Apostle is the patron saint of architects; St. Lawrence of Rome is the patron saint of cooks (apparently because he was martyred by being roasted on a gridiron); St. Martha is the patron saint of dieticians. On one website I found an amazingly thorough listing with about 400 occupational entries.
For me, this saint-oriented way of looking at careers is something entirely new, but its implications are not all that different from the implications I wrote about last year in a blog that discussed the traditional Jewish way of classifying forms of work. (That blog appeared on a page that has since been taken down, but I have re-posted it on this site.) Both of these traditions are reminders that all work has the potential of being sacred.
This notion has attracted some interest from career development practitioners and in the general culture. At this month’s meeting of the National Career Development Association, I attended a roundtable presentation on applying logotherapy to career counseling. Although not an explicitly religious approach, logotherapy is based on the principle (developed by the psychiatrist Victor Frankl) that the fundamental human need is to find meaning in one’s life. Career choice, therefore, should be based on finding meaningful work. Another presentation, which I did not attend, was about finding “a sense of calling in our work life.” Still another was about “the implications spirituality poses for career counseling.”
JIST offers a book that is explicitly about applying spiritual insights to career decisions: The Christian's Career Journey, by Susan Britton Whitcomb. The larger issue of seeking a deeper purpose in life is the theme of the colossal best-seller The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. A less explicitly religious and more metaphorical treatment of this theme is the novel A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron, which I would particularly recommend to anyone who loves dogs.
May you find purpose in your work and in your life.