Tag Archives: humility

Restoring the place of humility and manners

Choosing what to wear for Mass one morning, I asked the sacristan why he had chosen a vestment that was rather cheap in design and fabric. He replied that it would be more comfortable. Comfort has become the criterion for dress and for manners in general. Film footage of men at ballgames 60 or 70 years ago show them better dressed than most people today are for almost any occasion.

On Sundays my father would adjust my necktie when I was too young to do it myself, for it was unthinkable to attend church without a suit. The common excuse today is that “God doesn’t care what I wear.” That exercise in self-justification assumes that one knows God’s opinion, when in fact the only hint we have to go by is His parable of the Wedding Garment, describing people thrown out of the banquet for not being properly dressed (Matt 22:1-14). Of course, this parable was about the interior disposition of the soul, but the outer garment is a sign of reverence.

Fashions are of secondary importance, but the issue here really is humility. For to place personal comfort above the sensibilities of others is a sign of selfish pride. It is also a lack of respect for the dignity worthwhile we are given by grace in baptism. This also applies to the “gravitas,” or seriousness, with which one exercises official duties. A judge wears robes for the same reason a priest vests in a Eucharistic chasuble: he is involved in something more important than himself, and he is subservient to his office and task. When George Washington became president, there were no protocols for such a novel office. He could not dress as a king, and yet he embodied the seriousness of responsibilities entrusted to him. Courteous to everyone, he was also austere in the way he carried himself and woe betide anyone who dared to slap him on the back.

As a youth, Washington studied a book called Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior which had been compiled by French Jesuits in 1595 and translated by a twelve-year old boy in London. The rules were of common sense and had nothing to do with pomposity. They harkened back to the best Greek philosophers who defined virtue in terms of piety, dignity, courage, and gravity. Saint Benedict (480-547) linked these virtues with the fundamental one of humility, of which one indication is speech that is not boisterous and coarse. True humility of manners also disdains insults and vulgarisms, while false humility often pretends to be authentic by theatrical gestures like “dressing down” and advertising poverty by rejecting the customary forms of etiquette.

It is arrogant and not true friendliness for official mailings from a bank or business to address the client by a first name. The man who says, “Call me brother call me pal” would not have to sloganize that way if he really were a brother and pal.

G.K. Chesterton recalled how Saint Thomas Beckett wore cloth of gold on the outside to please the people, and kept a hair shirt next to his skin where no one could see it. Today, he said, the modern millionaire does the opposite.

Our Lord was deprived of everything in His Passion, save His dignity. This greatly disturbed Pontius Pilate, even when He was dragged before the governor dressed mockingly as a fool. There was something ineffably royal in the Master, surpassing the ceremonies of Caesar. So the Roman governor ordered that a sign be placed on the cross calling Him a king. When the crowd objected, haunted Pilate said, “What I have written, I have written.”

FR. GEORGE RUTLER is pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City, and author of 33 books – including Grace & Truth: Twenty Steps to Embracing Virtue and Saving Civilization; and A Year With Father Rutler – a compilation of nearly 400 of his most brilliant and beloved homilies and writings (both recently released by EWTN Publishing). Father Rutler was national chaplain of Legatus from 1991 to 2001.

Virtuous leadership is key to energizing workforce

According to Gallup’s World Poll, many people hate their job and especially their boss. Only 15 percent of employees worldwide are enthusiastically engaged in their work – the rest would rather be doing something else. If we could successfully engage the remaining 85 percent, imagine how much more effective businesses would be.

Brian Engelland

Here’s the problem. Bosses often treat employees as a cog in the wheel of production rather than as unique human beings created in the image of God. Bosses mistakenly look past the individual person and instead look at the job he or she is performing rather than the incredible potential that the employee can offer. Employees respond to this myopic view by giving minimal physical effort while parking their minds and hearts elsewhere.

But people, not equipment, are the lifeblood of any business. Some time ago, my company invested in an expensive state-of-the-art production line. We treated that equipment with great care, established shop rules and procedures for its protection, and doubled our maintenance efforts to keep it operating in pristine condition. That machinery was accorded better treatment than any employee! But in just three years, it was obsolete, and sold for scrap at the junkyard.

As Saint John Paul II taught, the worker is significantly more important than capital, and human labor is not merely one factor in production. The great untapped source of economic growth is not physical capital, but human capital leveraged by the creativity and dedication that workers can bring to work each day. Unlike capital equipment, employees can adapt to changing conditions and, through training, be continually refreshed. People really do count.

So, how can we reflect that difference in our businesses? Virtuous leadership has the ability to bring out the greatness in others. The secret to obtaining the faithful collaboration of employees is for the boss to exemplify the two most important leadership virtues, magnanimity and humility. Magnanimity is the realization that individual talents are a gift from God and are only valuable when they are used to help others become better at what they do. Humility is the conviction that everyone is important and Christ is present in the least of us.

Virtuous leadership creates enthusiastic followers. The teachings of Pope Paul VI explain why. When employees perceive that the boss is offering the opportunity to help them perfect their own individual capacities, to engage in work that is both useful and profitable, and to contribute according to their abilities to the service of the company, they respond favorably. Employees feel compelled to adopt some of the boss’s same energizing spirit.

A restaurant run by my “bring out employee greatness” friend doesn’t open on Sundays. Why? He explains that his restaurant concept requires a high degree of personal service, and that means hiring and retaining good employees. But none of his really good employees want to work on Sundays – they’d rather spend quality time at home with their families. By implementing his “closed-on-Sunday” policy, he helps bring out the greatness in his staff. His employees are happier, his service quality is higher, and his training and retention costs are lower than his 7-day-per week competition.

A boss who exemplifies magnanimity and humility can help employees understand that work is an essential expression of our human nature as created in the image and likeness of God. Be that virtuous boss! Understand the potential of each employee, and help each one reach their potential. Help them learn new skills, gain insights, make friends, enhance self-esteem, and become more than they were before the work began. Employees who experience this type of boss will engage, and become the outstanding workforce we all desire.

BRIAN ENGELLAND is the Pryzbyla chair of business and economics in the Busch School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity, published by Sophia Institute Press.

Meekness, not weakness, is leadership key

Ethics is not simply a matter of doing the right thing, but about becoming the right sort of person. It’s about building the kind of character and virtue that makes one ethically strong. A problem with strong personalities, however, is that they tend to intimidate others.

Marcellino D’Ambrosio

There are special virtues that prevent this. One is meekness. It has nothing to do with weakness. Rather, meekness is strength under control. It is power that builds up rather than tears down. It is closely connected to humility, which involves the ability to recognize what is of God in others, whether they be subordinates or superiors, friends or foes.

One of the best examples of humble leadership in recent American history is Judge William Clark. Ronald Reagan’s most influential advisor, Clark ran the gubernatorial campaign that launched Reagan’s political career. He went on to serve under President Reagan as Deputy Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of the Interior.

Many who rise to the top are driven by ambition. In contrast, Bill Clark wanted to be nothing more than a rancher, family man and good Catholic. Too poor to finish either college or law school, he nevertheless qualified to take the bar exam. After 10 years running a thriving law practice, Clark received a phone call that changed his life. It was Ronald Reagan asking him for help with his campaign for governor of California. Before he knew it, he found himself Governor Reagan’s chief of staff.

Humility and meekness can be seen in how a person deals with superiors. The issues facing Governor Reagan were complex and opinions, even among staff members, were diverse. Clark developed a memo system to give the governor a summary of each issue with all pros, cons and a final recommendation, all in four paragraphs, on one page. In this, Clark fairly presented the governor with all sides of the story, never “cooking” the facts to prejudice the governor’s decision in favor of Bill’s own opinion. Many of his staff tried to maneuver around, change, or manipulate the governor. Not Bill. It was at this time that he coined the famous phrase “let Reagan be Reagan.” When he left Sacramento, Reagan appointed him superior court judge, then promoted him all the way to the state Supreme Court. It seemed that Reagan kept advancing Clark’s career, in part, because Clark was the one person who did not use the governor to advance himself.

Humility and meekness can also be seen in how people treat subordinates. People in power often are oblivious to the humble people that serve them. Bill Clark knew not only the names of every janitor and maid in the White House and State Department, but he knew their spouses’ and kids’ names, since he was always chatting with them and praying for them. When the president insisted that he accept a limo and chauffeur, he befriended his African-American driver, arranging for him to meet the president. Human dignity is a result of being made in the image and likeness of God. Clark’s humility caused him to recognize and acknowledge that dignity in everyone, especially those “on the periphery,” elevating and ennobling people as he did so.

Clark’s humility and meekness also enabled him to respect the human dignity of adversaries. After Reagan’s landslide victory over Jimmy Carter, Clark convinced Reagan that they needed to learn all they could about foreign affairs from the former president. So Bill reached out. The Carters, still smarting from their humiliating defeat, were reluctant to talk. But when Bill told the former president just how much he and President Reagan valued his wisdom and advice, the ice broke. Before long, Clark and Carter were hunting together and Carter was phoning the Democratic congressional leadership to tell them that Bill Clark was a true gentleman and ought to be treated right.

No one had greater impact on Ronald Reagan’s pro-life stance, his partnership with Pope John Paul II, and the winning of the Cold War than Bill Clark. And yet most Americans don’t remember his name. Why? Because Clark never sought the limelight. He didn’t need it. Secure in his own dignity as a son of God, he spent his life recognizing that dignity in others.

MARCELLINO D’AMBROSIO, aka “Dr. Italy,” writes from Texas. Connect with him at dritaly.com or on social media @DrItaly. For more info on William Clark, see Paul Kengor and Patricia Clark Doerner’s bestseller, The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius, 2007)


Unsung heroes: those who make things happen

Mary and I sat in the outer suite of the CEO’s office, making small talk to cover for our mutual nervousness. As president of a Catholic high school, Mary was there to ask for a gift to the school’s capital campaign; I was riding shotgun.

Gregory S. Jeffrey

With a Ph.D. in education and 20 years’ experience, Mary looked cool as a cucumber, save for a “poker tell” that only her closest associates had discovered: a blushing on the side of the neck, the kind people get when they’ve overexerted themselves.

The more we waited, the more it looked as though she had spent an entire Saturday in the Florida sun—and for good reason. The gentleman we were about to meet had a daughter at the school and we were there to ask him for a million dollars. Weeks earlier Mary and I did the math, and reluctantly concluded that without a gift of that magnitude the project just wouldn’t happen.

When the CEO finally saw us, he could not have been more gracious. He loved the school, the leadership and the project. But when asked for the gift, he smiled and explained that “I have three more people coming this morning to ask me for $1,000,000.”

Even for someone with 30 years’ experience in fundraising, his simple honesty was a wakeup call. I’ve since calculated the number of charities seeking such gifts relative to those who can make them. It is a ratio of about 30:1. Those are tough odds, but charities focus on a few key people because without them no expansion project would ever see the light of day. The entire physical infrastructure of the so-called ‘third sector’ would not exist without the lead gifts that make major projects possible.

I wish more people understood this.

Instead, it has become fashionable, especially among young adults, to speak in derogatory terms about the very people who built their universities, provided their college scholarships and endowed their professors’ positions. How did we get here?

The blame rests in the continued secularization of American culture. Reason, devoid of faith, leads to a puffed-up intellectualism quick to judge everyone but oneself.

In contrast, the spiritual life begins with the practice of humility. Say what you want about “Catholic guilt,” it has its place: virtue and vice are best understood when studied in the first-person. It’s the starting point of personal conversion.

Christian humility also informs the intellect. The speck in the other’s eye becomes abundantly clear only when you’ve first removed your own. Having honestly confronted one’s own sinfulness, humble souls are rewarded with a wider understanding of human nature.

But self-examination is not a pleasant task. Without the promptings of Scripture or a preacher, the secularist is never called to examine his own motivations. This impoverishes not only his soul, but his intellect— leading him to a false conclusion: If one is wealthy, the assumption is that he must be greedy. Therefore it’s OK to disparage him.

I find this shallow and irritating. If the secularist had an ounce of spiritual insight, he would know that greed has nothing to do with one’s pocketbook. It’s a matter of the heart. I’ve met plenty of middle-class people who were greedy; they just lacked the skills to exercise their vice with any degree of success.

In the final analysis, the assumption that wealth correlates with greed is just another form of prejudice. Sadly, in a secularist culture this trendy attitude won’t change any time soon.

Yet, despite the unjust rhetoric, the people who “make things happen” continue to give. I count them among America’s unsung heroes.

GREGORY S. JEFFREY is principal of Catholic Development Group, LLC.


Humility – antidote to “leadership kryptonite”

Superman has long been famous for his nearindestructible nature — superstrength, super-speed, X-ray vision, and a long list of other impressive attributes. As for weaknesses, well, there’s only one. Kryptonite.

Kevin Lowry

Although business leaders may not match Superman’s fictitious ability to leap over buildings in a single bound or stop a runaway locomotive, they have their own long lists of real-time attributes. They’re successful, smart, determined visionaries. They can rally others around common goals. They persevere when most give up.

But they can also have a weakness commensurate to kryptonite. Pride.

Think of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. Eve falls for the serpent’s ploy, and makes a prideful, egotistical choice, which she convinces Adam to follow. Voila, original sin for the ages.

Think of some of the highestprofile business failures of recent years. Enron comes to mind — an enormous company brought down by an extraordinary confluence of circumstances revolving around a series of regrettable, egotistical decisions. I read an interesting analysis recently by George Weigel, who makes the case that the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign was its own undoing, because loyalty was its highest value. Criticism (even of the healthy, constructive type) of the candidate was not tolerated. Could this have been due to pride? What would have been the antidote? Humility.

Jesus Christ Himself was the ultimate example of humility: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” (Matthew 11:29) We may equate meekness and humility with weakness, but it’s not so. Rather, the humility of Christ sprung from His complete submission to God the Father. This ought to be our goal as well.

Think for a moment of Lucifer. The father of lies began as a fallen angel who refused to serve. Lucifer’s “non-serviam” has resounded throughout history. His lies cause us to draw inward, to prioritize ourselves, to neglect or refuse service to God and others.

So how does this play out in our lives today?

As Legates, we are Catholic business leaders, not simply business leaders who are Catholic. Being Catholic should make a difference in how we lead.

In my first book, Faith at Work: Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck, I recount one of my early career failures that helped me discover humility. I was working with a CPA firm, and audited the books of a company with a controller who was a “pompous, arrogant, foul-mouthed, rude, sexist, sanctimonious jerk.” No, he didn’t like me either.

At the culmination of my job, my boss gave me the flesh-shredding evaluation of a lifetime.

While in my mind, the entire episode had somehow become all about me, his evaluation helped me regain perspective by ingesting a large helping of fraternal correction, businessstyle. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Although it has taken years, my awareness of humility in the workplace has sharpened.

Humility helps us to keep priorities straight, focus on serving God and others, and avoid selfabsorption. We’re all smart in different ways, and humility helps us to appreciate the gifts of others – and acknowledge them with sincerity.

Humble people make better teammates – when we’re humble we play off each other’s strengths rather than exploit others’ weaknesses. Humble leadership perpetuates a humble culture, and helps any organization be more effective. Humble leaders are open to correction – and therefore less susceptible to self-inflicted scandal and poor decision-making.

Humility not only helps us to imitate Christ in our vocation as business leaders, it helps us sanctify our work and fulfill our shared Legatus mission.

Pride is leadership kryptonite, but our Lord has shown us the most effective antidote: humility.

KEVIN LOWRY is an executive at RevLocal, a rapidly growing digital marketing company, and member of the Columbus Legatus chapter. His latest book is How God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming Into the Catholic Church (Our Sunday Visitor). His website is gratefulconvert.com

Humility, humility, humility

It’s the one characteristic all saints have in common; Mother Teresa knew it well . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Someone once asked St. Bernard of Clairvaux what the three most important virtues are. He famously replied, “Humility, humility and humility.” Anyone who has studied the lives of the saints will tell you that this 12th century saint had it right. Humility is a prerequisite for sanctity.

Prior to Mother Teresa’s death in 1997, people called her a living saint precisely because she lived humility. She wore the same old, patched sandals until they fell apart. Everything she owned fit into a small bag, yet she built one of the largest, most vibrant religious orders of the 20th century.

As we close in on what would have been the famous nun’s 100th birthday on Aug. 26, we take a look in this issue at how she touched the lives of four Legatus members. (Click here for a related story.) On her birthday, the U.S. Postal Service will honor the Nobel laureate with a stamp bearing her image, and the Catholic League is working to have the Empire State Building lit up with blue and white lights in her honor. (Thus far, the owner of the building has refused; a petition and protest are in the works.)

Those who have read about the famous nun’s life often ponder how a diminutive little woman from Albania came to build an order of 4,500 nuns in 133 countries in less than half a century. There is no question that Mother Teresa’s secret is found in her total surrender to the will of God. Secondly, humility.

In our cover story, we relate how Christopher Nalty once rolled his eyes after hearing Mother give her “stump speech” to visitors on how many houses the order had. She wasted no time in telling the future priest that she didn’t build the order, God did.

I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa myself, but a few months after her death, I had a sit-down interview with Sr. Nirmala Joshi, her successor as superior of the Missionaries of Charity. I asked her about Mother’s legacy, her work and Divine Mercy.

She told me that Mother learned about the Divine Mercy message and devotion shortly before her death. Then, just nine days after she died, the sisters began spontaneously praying the Chaplet at Mother’s tomb. “She did not know the Chaplet,” Sr. Nirmala said. “Her main devotion was the rosary. But her life was Divine Mercy.”

The one thing that I’ll never forget about that encounter with Sr. Nirmala was that the answers she gave were exactly what I’d expect to hear from Mother Teresa. In all things, she gave thanks to God, taking no credit for her work. In fact, Mother Teresa said she hand-picked her successor because she was among the least qualified. In that way, any success could only be attributed to God. Lesson learned.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus Magazine’s editor.