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Answering Questions and Overzealous Catholicism | Catholic Life

Answering Questions and Overzealous Catholicism

One of the difficult things about moving to a new city and meeting new people is that I am faced with unusually challenging questions. Some of the questions are obvious parts of the job hunt and some of them are unfortunately stumbled upon by people simply trying to make conversation.

It is not the questions themselves that are the problem; it is my answers.

Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Most true answer: I don’t. I love to think about the future and am actually something of an obsessive planner. But not only do I feel no “control” over the future, I do not have any particular job/activities/anything else that I plan on fulfilling me. I want to live well. I want to love. I want to help others achieve their goals. I want to be so absorbed by my savior that all who interact with me interact with God. And so it does not actually matter whether I am consulting on “important” projects with 70-hour work weeks, answering telephones and filing, cleaning up bodily fluids, or washing dishes. I would love to have meaningful work that allows me to further the Church’s mission on earth, but even that isn’t necessary. What I really want is not at all dependent on what I do. The thing that matters is being fully in God’s presence while living.

Question: So, why did you choose to attend that college?

Most true answer: because I was going through a significant time of transition in my faith and it seemed to me that God wanted me to go to that college. I actually got a bad feeling when visiting the campus, and I was accepted at two of my dream schools, but I was so certain that God wanted me to do what I did not want to. And then the financial aid letter came in the mail and it was as if God was telling me that obedience was not going to be impossible.

Question: What do you do for fun?

Most true answer: I like to visit new churches/shrines/monasteries, to read religious books, to blog about religious questions, to discuss theology with friends, to visit museums (and spend the time in the sacred art sections, or better yet, just make it an icon museum!), to run (it is the best for praying through emotion!).

Honesty of the fullest sort is good, but it sometimes conflicts with the essence of my vocation: living in the world in such a way that others can find God through me at points when they are not yet ready to approach the Church directly. Even Catholics are often put-off by what they see as overly obsessive religion. And yet I do not want to lie, so I try to prepare ahead to have true, vague, and perhaps slightly misleading answers. But sometimes I am not prepared, either because the question is phrased in a new way or I simply was not expecting it at that point. And then I stumble over my words trying to figure out how to honestly seem normal.

Advice welcomed! I would love your stories and suggestions for talking to others about your Catholic life without making it seem obsessive or crazy!

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15 Responses to “Answering Questions and Overzealous Catholicism”

  1. practicinghuman 18. Aug, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    My general approach is to keep things short, because unfortunately I find most people are less than interested in your answer. The “most true” answers also tend to be the most in-depth.

    • Rae 19. Aug, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

      Short and snappy is good. :-)

  2. Nomad 18. Aug, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

    Job searching is always tricky- I find myself being totally honest but so vague that I walk out feeling “vaguely” dishonest.

    As a convert to Catholicism, most of those who react negatively are my family and friends, who have a hard time reconciling the “new” me with the old, Protestant-raised me. My life experiences on the road to the Church also taught me a good deal of skepticism about those who seem overly religious; sometimes I think this has made me my own toughest critic. I constantly evaluate myself to try to see if I am being too Catholic.

    • Rae 19. Aug, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

      “I find myself being totally honest but so vague that I walk out feeling “vaguely” dishonest. ”

  3. catholicmutt 18. Aug, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    Vague is the way I go. I know that isn’t real helpful, but you have my sympathy! I’ve had the whole “where do I see myself in five years” question before. I’ve avoided the real answer: “I don’t know the plan, but God does.”

    • Rae 19. Aug, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

      Well, thanks for the sympathy. :-)

  4. Rebecca 18. Aug, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    I tend to go with vague as well. And I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter where I see myself in 5 years, because it’s not MY plan that’s going to happen. It’s hard to express that AND that I’m okay with it without going waaaaay too in depth.

    You are welcome (for this extremely helpful answer) 😉

    • Rae 19. Aug, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

      Thank you! :-)

  5. Kathleen 19. Aug, 2010 at 5:30 am #

    Here’s the thing: talking God and religion, however true it may be, turns most people off. And there are other, more “secular” reasons, why you made the choices you did. If your goal is to live a holy life, one that reflects God’s will and one that evangelizes–well, let’s just say evangelization must be effective, and in my experience, “spoken” evangelization just isn’t. Lived evangelization *is.* So answer questions using the true, but secular reasons, for your choices, and don’t fret about half-truths. Because it’s in living around these people–coworkers, I mean–that you will do God’s work. Not by talking about it.

    • Rae 19. Aug, 2010 at 1:55 pm #


    • Rebecca 21. Aug, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

      Such true words Kathleen!

  6. Mark 19. Aug, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    First, let me say that I’m not an authority on interviewing by any means. I’ve been with the same company for almost 30 years now, so I haven’t been on that side of the interviewing table for a long time. On the other hand, I have conducted many interviews, so I can give some insight to that side of things.

    The interviewer asks the applicant various questions in order to assess whether the applicant possesses certain skills and attributes that she/he feels are important for the position. These can range from very specific technical questions that are aimed at determining whether the applicant has the required skills and knowledge, to open ended questions aimed at learning about personal behaviors and goals. It’s the latter type of question that we’re interested in here. The interviewer is looking for qualities in the applicant when asking these questions: drive, commitment and life balance are a few example desirable qualities.

    So, it seems to me that an interviewee should reply to those types of questions in a way that makes it easy for the interviewer to assess those qualities. You want to interview honestly and clearly. However, you want to present yourself appropriately for the position. I know that isn’t very specific, but I hope it helps.

    • Rae 20. Aug, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

      Thanks! I think that you are entirely correct about what the interviewer is looking for. I try to answer questions with that in mind after having thought about where I would like to be in 5 years if the particular job worked out.

  7. Marc Cardaronella 20. Aug, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    I agree with Kathleen. While the honest answer is…well…the honest answer, it may not be the best answer. If you get the job and then live around your coworkers for a while your faith will show. Then, when someone asks about your faith you will get the chance to give them the honest answer.

  8. Frugal Librarian 21. Aug, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

    I spend my life not speaking, editing and censoring. I cannot imagine actually answering anyone, outside of my family, completely. I answer honestly, but the replies are always secular. If you are in the secular world, I’d stick to secular answers to get a job. I know of one woman who won’t, and she’s almost a transient. That’s her choice, and the reality of navigating the secular work world.

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