“Ask a Priest: As a Chef, How Could I Evangelize at Work?”

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Q: I’m a chef and work in a very secular environment. I tend to get along with everybody, and people easily open up to me. A few co-workers have talked to me in a manner that clearly supports the LGBTQ movement. I make no secret of my Christianity, and when they speak of these things, they don’t do it in a “challenge the Christian boy” kind of way; they just talk about it. One girl told me that she’s bisexual and spoke of a Christian at a previous job who said, “I don’t accept your sins, but I still love you.” That hurt her. Another girl casually speaks of her girlfriend from time to time, and another told me about her frustrations with her conservative family, describing them as “homophobic [expletive].” I know it’s wrong to remain silent, but I simply don’t know how to respond, especially in a way that won’t invite conflict. Again, they aren’t arguing with me, just casually mentioning this stuff. Working in a kitchen isn’t really the time or place to get involved in debates, so I’m kind of at a loss. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated. – P.T.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Your question is a very relevant one. These situations are becoming more common.

Obviously, these are waters that you need to navigate day by day. The situation could change month by month, for the better or the worse, and sometimes it will go different ways with each co-worker. Some might be receptive to what you say; others might grow hostile.

You mention that working in a kitchen isn’t the time and place for debates. Yet, your co-workers seem to have no problem with speaking about their beliefs and ideas and situations.

While you need not stir up heated debates (kitchens tend to be hot enough), this particular workplace apparently allows for some sharing of personal beliefs.

To the extent that they share their beliefs, maybe you can share yours. You don’t have to do it in a confrontational way, of course. You might look to state your beliefs positively. “I learned a lot from Genesis where God creates man and woman and commands them to be fruitful. That tells me he has a plan for intimate relations.”

It might be no coincidence that co-workers are revealing aspects of their private lives with “the Christian boy.” Perhaps a few of them are having second thoughts about their lifestyles and looking for a perspective from someone with whom they feel comfortable speaking.

You might invite them to reflect on issue through the Socratic approach; that is, by asking questions in order to understand them. In the questions themselves, your co-workers will explore the truth or inadequacy of their answers. Some examples:

— “Do you think some things are the right thing to do in some circumstances, no matter what? What things?”

— “If someone tells you something you consider right is wrong, how does that make you feel? How do you process that?”

— “Is happiness deeper than feelings?”

— “Is the right thing to do deeper than good/bad feelings?”

— “When that Christian said that hurtful thing to you, do you think she said it to hurt you?”

— “Is your family afraid of what you are, or concerned about what you are? … Concern is not necessarily a bad thing, is it?”

These are the kinds of questions that can give food for thought in a non-confrontational way.

In the meantime, you might want to intensify your prayers for your co-workers. Ask the Holy Spirit to open their hearts and minds to the Gospel. And keep letting people know where you stand, through subtle signals such as wearing a religious symbol.

It’s a way to sow seeds. Remember that it’s the Spirit who will cause those seeds to sprout.

You might want to tune into Catholic radio programs if they are available in your area. Shows such as Relevant Radio and Catholic Answers Live are resources for learning more about the faith and the Church’s views on moral issues.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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One Comment
  1. Father, THIS! This is exactly what we need! It is so hard to figure out what to say, when and how. This very practical advice and wording examples help so much!

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