A few years ago, I helped several people put a business deal together. One of them was a rather prominent Catholic businessman. During the process, he acted in ways that raised a few eyebrows. His behavior spawned questions about both his ethics and his values. A long time personal friend of his was also involved in the deal. During a side conversation, I asked the friend if the businessman was, indeed, the good Catholic he was reputed to be. The response was, “Yes, he’s a really good Catholic. But when it comes to business, he just thinks business is business.”
As CEO of Origin Entertainment, I’ve been working for the better part of the past decade to bring our movie Fatima to the global audience. We’re telling the story from the point of view of the three shepherds to vividly show what they experienced in the context of the times. I knew it was an amazing tale before we started the project, but had no clue about how amazing the story actually is. Of particular interest to me has been the transformative impact of the events on the shepherds as they happened.
Like many people, I viewed the story as being somewhat linear. An angel told the shepherds to get ready for something big. Our Lady appeared. The word got out. The kids were hassled by a lot of unwanted attention as Our Lady appeared five more times, until 70,000 people witnessed The Miracle of the Sun. Oh, if it were all that simple.
In particular, the events of August 1917 sparked my interest because of the profound changes those events had on the character and attitudes of the shepherds. August was the only month when the apparitions didn’t occur on the 13th. August was the month the local administrator arrested them, put them in jail, and threatened them to death by boiling them in oil if they didn’t disavow their story. They were eventually released and the August apparition took place on the 19th. But from that time forward, the shepherds had a completely different demeanor. They became almost indifferent to the crowds and the activities surrounding them and focused almost entirely on praying, doing penance, and getting the message out. Their commitment to Our Lady’s message was unequivocal.
Ironically, Father Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., who is one of the world’s leading authorities on Fatima, and I discussed all this over lunch on August 12 of this year, which was the hundredth anniversary of the children’s arrest. Father Apostoli believes that through those events the children became living martyrs, having satisfied the criteria for martyrdom. Without starting a major debate about martyrdom, if martyrdom largely consists of “the voluntary enduring or tolerating of death on account of one’s faith,” then during this period of incarceration, the children certainly crossed this threshold, even if those who threatened them did not ultimately carry out the threats. It can be argued that by agreeing to die for what they believed, they achieved martyrdom.
Whether or not the shepherds crossed the threshold of martyrdom, history makes it clear that through these specific events, they crossed a threshold of maturity in their faith that only a few have achieved. They internalized the words of Our Lady in a deeply profound manner. They became almost indifferent to the taunting, crowd noise and conversation around them and became singularly focused on living the mission for which they had been called.
All this begs an important question in my mind regarding Catholics in business. Aren’t we also called to internalize Catholic teaching and behave accordingly in everything we do? Few are ever called to martyrdom through their business activities. But all business people are called to be authentic Catholics in all we do, no matter who we’re dealing with or what the circumstance.
Heaven didn’t call upon Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta to be its messengers so they would cave in to worldly pressures, no matter how severe. Nor has God called Legates and their spouses to the business world so they could suspend their Catholicity in the name of business. We may never have to test our faith by facing the same call to martyrdom as did the shepherds, but we all are tested every day by more mundane challenges to put our faith aside in the pursuit of business objectives. We must view each of those challenges as a way to strengthen rather than weaken our faith in the spirit of Fatima.
DICK LYLES is CEO of Origin Entertainment, a Hollywood film company wrapping up production of FATIMA, slated for 2018 release. He’s a prolific, award-winning author of nine books; host of “The Catholic Business Hour” radio show,; and was past membership chairman and president of the San Diego Chapter.