Virginia Woolf said “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Since most of us aren’t in the fiction writing business, it would seem quoting Virginia is an odd way to begin a column on spirituality at work. But maybe not.
I think what Woolf was getting at was the idea that in order to be creative we need a place set apart from the pressures of daily life; a place where we can be in touch with the deepest longings of our soul and the depths of our creativity in order to do our best and most meaningful work. Do you have such a place at your office? Before you laugh and say, “Right, you should see the shoebox we call an office!” let’s consider for a moment a few reasons why you should have such an area.
First, such an area is a constant witness to the reason why we are in this business in the first place. It helps us to remember that we serve, not a priest, bishop or an archbishop or a CEO, but the Lord himself.
Second, think about your home. If you didn’t have a kitchen, you’d probably still find a way to eat, but you wouldn’t be preparing meals on a regular basis. Without a prayer area in your office, you may still pray, but it won’t be as consistent or as frequent as it would if you had a designated place.
Third, an area for prayer creates a safe haven for those times of stress we all experience. In that locale, a person can briefly set aside the urgent and immediate and focus on the lasting and immortal.
For some of us, a nearby chapel or even the Cathedral provides a ready-made location. For others, creating such an area is much more of a challenge. And yet, I encourage you to think about it for your office.
Here are a few ideas:
Clear off a bookshelf (or part of one) and arrange a small statue, a bible and a vase with a few fresh or silk flowers on one shelf. Leave a blank journal nearby and allow staff members to write prayer requests.
Take a corner of a conference or lunch room to set up a small altar with a crucifix and candles. Put a chair or prayer bench (if you have room) nearby. The Daily Roman Missal or a daily devotional can be kept here as well.
Convert an area now used for storage into a small, one-person “chapel.” Remember the old-fashioned confessional boxes and how much prayer went on there. You don’t need a lot of space for it to be effective!
Having a designated area for prayer is one way to begin consciously incorporating the strengths of prayer and the riches of our faith into our work lives. Since most of us spend a good deal of our lives in our offices, making sure our work environment supports our faith should be a priority.