A new free online class is examining the meaning of work and the important role it plays in human flourishing. Called The Gospel of Work, this 8-part series is made available by the Catholic University of America’s Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship. The course is led by Andreas Widmer, director of the Ciocca Center and international entrepreneur, who explores the topic through the scriptures and draws upon his personal experiences as a Swiss Guard protecting Pope St. John Paul II.
Widmer explains that he found his faith while serving as a Swiss Guard from 1986 to 1988, through witnessing the incredible example of JPII. Widmer’s first encounter with Pope St. John Paul II was on his first Christmas with the Swiss Guard. He shared that he was gripped with sadness over being away from home for the holidays and when the pope passed his way, JPII recognized this and said he would pray for Widmer.
“That was a pivotal point in my life, because from then on the first step was that I admired him and I felt like I want to have what he has, and he noticed. He sort of turned to me and said ‘You don’t want who I am, you want who I have. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is what you want.’” Widmer recalled, “He taught me how to pray and I started to grow in appreciation of him and how he understood his Christian vocation.”
This was the point when Widmer began to recognize his work as greater than just a job to bring in a paycheck. He identified a calling within the work and as he grew in his Christian faith, Widmer began to recognize the ways in which all the faithful can find deeper meaning in even the most menial of jobs.
Widmer has published his experiences with and impression of Pope St. John Paul II in a book titled The Pope and the CEO, which has been called a “must read” for the business oriented and students who seek in the intersection of business and faith. The book outlines how to integrate faith with a secular career, and now Widmer is taking this sentiment to new heights in The Gospel of Work.
The Gospel of Work
In his online class, The Gospel of Work, Widmer presents his approach to business, in which he keeps his Catholic faith in central focus. In eight sessions, The Gospel of Work examines what scripture and tradition have to say about the vocation and meaning of work. The class strives to view and discuss work under the lens of our sanctification and an occasion to live out the Gospels.
Widmer explained in the first lesson:
“When we begin to look at work and business in the light of the Catholic tradition we see that work is not simply a task we have to get done until we get on with life. No, it is life. It’s also not a punishment as many people think. It’s one of the means for our Sanctification. Each one of us, you, me, we’re all called to be Holy, to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.”
Widmer continued, “Our work, our business, all the struggles, successes, and failures that come along with this, they all play a role in our Sanctification … We are called to complete God’s creation; To improve, develop, and innovate. Work is part of our calling as human persons.”
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Each lesson from The Gospel of Work is between 15 and 20 minutes long and is filled with deep introspection on the nature of work in relation to spirituality. Episode titles include “The Culture of Conformity,” “The Spirituality of Work,” “Prayer,” “The Social Nature of Business,” and more. Each video comes with its own worksheet, so that students can review and expand upon the lesson they just attended.
The course is free to attend, but students will have to sign up for the class and create a Teachable account. This should not stop anyone, however, as all it takes to make an account is an email address. When we signed up for the purposes of writing this article, it took about 30 seconds before we were watching the class and beginning our education on the intersection between business and faith.
If you’d like to get an example of the kind of class Widmer teaches before signing up, check out the video featured above. The brief clip, while not from The Gospel of Work, gives an excellent example of Widmer’s conversational lecture style. He effortlessly grabs the viewer’s attention with a personal story before getting into the heart of his lesson.