Tag Archives: Fr. Chas Canoy

The richness of simplicity

Over 10 years ago, I was on retreat at a flourishing Benedictine monastery near Tulsa, Okla. One of the senior monks said something that has stuck with me: “There should be a little bit of monk in each of us.” Why? A monk knows what he is about, and he has cultivated an environment that doesn’t pull him away from being what he is about.

Fr. Chas Canoy

Fr. Chas Canoy

The rhythm of the monastery’s daily life fosters what I call “the richness of simplicity.” Many Legates are rich in material terms, but are you rich in what you value most in life? Are you rich in the intangibles that money cannot buy? This sort of wealth can seem counterintuitive since it entails a simplicity where less is more.

Jesus’ simplicity is marked by integrity, unity and a singleness of purpose by which he knew what he was about. For many, however, the experience of life is just the opposite: disintegrated, divided and complicated. The lack of a unifying and universal vision, due to modern society’s rejection of a sovereign God, has led many to live conflicted lives with competing interests and loyalties.

Moreover, most of us are constantly bombarded with data, invitations to events, appeals, entertainment and media. These things often pull us away from being what we are about. Wading through the requests thrown our way can sometimes seem like a full-time job. Even if you have someone helping you filter through all the superfluous material, there always seems to be an overabundance of things to attend to.

The obvious danger with all of these distractions is that we spread ourselves too thin. Consequently, we risk never making the impact we want to in the areas most pertinent to our vocation and mission in life. This may mean never getting enough quality time with our spouse, children or aging parents. It can also mean spending too much time on media or entertainment at the cost of deepening our relationship with God through prayer. It may also mean getting lost in the minutiae of our work instead of investing in the most value-added activities as a business leader. Because of the scope of their responsibilities, business leaders must be all the more vigilant in their pursuit of simplicity.

Your personal vocation statement. It’s good to stretch ourselves, but we must stretch ourselves with the right things. To discern those right things, we must ask, “Why did God make me?” The Baltimore Catechism has the answer: to know God, to love him, and to serve him in this life, so as to be happy with him forever in the next.

That answer is valid for every human person. But why did God make you? Your vocation and specific calling in life are a big part of that. We should know the specific answer to that question. We should be able to write down what we are about. My personal vocation statement reads: “As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am a son of the Father, called to serve as his priest and a pastor of God’s people.”

What about you? Your personal vocation statement becomes crucial to knowing the richness of simplicity because it serves as the litmus test to weigh the countless options that come your way: “Does this action or option draw me closer or further from my purpose and vocation? Does it help me to become more the person God wants me to be?”

Go through purgatory! Jesus told Martha, “You are anxious and troubled about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42). When we feel like Martha, overwhelmed by the flood of activity and our obligations, we need to choose the better part: Jesus and that personal vocation he has given us. That means going through a time of “purgatory” — a time when we simplify and purge away anything that is not of God and his calling in our lives so that the one thing necessary doesn’t get obscured.

In other words, create an environment that doesn’t pull you away from being what you are about! This process doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of our healthy hobbies and the pastimes that we cherish. For example, I am not giving up golf! But it does mean “having a little bit of monk in you” and clearing out even the good clutter that keeps us from experiencing the richness of simplicity.

FATHER CHAS CANOY is the chaplain of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter and pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Jackson, Mich

Understanding Pope Francis’ writing on economics

Legatus chaplain Fr. Chas Canoy writes on the Pope’s recent apostolic exhortation . . .

CanoyAt a recent Legatus chapter event, we had some lively dinner conversation at our table concerning the pope’s view on economics. The question came up of some ways to respond to friends and family who may ask or have asked you about it, given all the commentary out there like Rush Limbaugh’s. If you too are wondering, please continue to read on.  If not, then I wish you and your family a blessed Advent and a beautiful Christmas season!

First of all, I would first encourage you to take some time over the holy days to read Evangelii Gaudium (EG).  Until you get that chance, I think it’s important to keep in mind what the Pope is NOT saying. He did not say, for example, that capitalism is in and of itself an unacceptable economic system. We also know, from past Church teaching such as John Paul’s Centesimus Annus, that this is far from the truth.

What Pope Francis is pointing out are the abuses that exist or to which free market economies can be inclined if the agents of capitalism neglect or have little or insufficient regard for the common good and the dignity of the human person, particularly the poor. It’s important to note that he has also spoken against Marxist thought and liberation theology. Given his South American background, he has observed corruption of both types firsthand.

Pope FrancisThis leads to three essential points that outlines the necessary context to understand better Pope Francis’ comments:

1.  Protecting the dignity of the human person and fostering the common good are two fundamental principles of any just society (see Gaudium et Spes).  Consequently, every sector of society, including economics, should have as its object and aim the flourishing of its people, with these two elements particularly in mind.
2.  Thus, the pope said, “Money must serve, not rule” (EG 58). In other words, just as the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath, so the free market is for the benefit and flourishing of man, not man for the free market. The one who sees it as the latter may be culpable of what Pope Francis calls the “idolatry of money” (EG 55).
3.  The pope is not an economist. The Church is authoritative in faith and morals, not economics. Whatever the pope’s private views are on the economy, he recognizes that economics and all secular fields have their own proper autonomy. At the same time, economics is not amoral. There are ethical dimensions to economics and every sector of secular society, and in these dimensions the pope acts as pastor and guide.

As you may already be thinking, none of these are inimical to capitalism, properly understood. In fact, I would propose, as I’m sure many of you would, that capitalism, properly ordered to the good, is indeed the most conducive at achieving human flourishing and fostering the common good. While the free market has some natural or innate correctives within its system, the Pope however wants us to understand that it’s not impermeable to the exploitation of the powerful and that in fact no economic system is adequate to ensure sufficiently the protection of the dignity of every human person. Systems ultimately don’t do that; people do.

FATHER CHAS CANOY is a priest of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan. He is the chaplain of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter.