Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Direct your goods to the common good

In a recent Wednesday audience, Pope Francis addressed a subject he has not broached often: entrepreneurship. He offered negatives and positives, admonition as well as inspiration.

“What is lacking,” said the Holy Father, “is free and forward looking entrepreneurship.” He urged the flock to understand that “ownership is a responsibility” and that “the ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence.”

Think about that one. It’s a line not only from Pope Francis but from the Catechism. Entrepreneurs and business people: Have you thought of yourself as a steward of Providence?

It’s a poignant thought. It’s also a powerful reminder of how we should view our gifts and our goods.

Quoting St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, Francis reflected on the statement that the love of money is the root of all evil. It isn’t money that’s evil, or making money. What matters is how we perceive money and what we do with it. As only Francis could say, “the devil enters through the pockets.” The love of money leads to selfishness, arrogance, and pride. The goal for the person with money is not to love your goods but to “love with your goods.” Then, says Francis, your life becomes good and your property truly becomes a gift.

This is a message where we, as Catholics, must apply our faith and reason. We need not empty our bank accounts tomorrow morning, dumping every dollar into the lap of the first homeless guy we see. We need not give every dime to the Salvation Army while not leaving a penny to our kids. We should, however, carefully consider our money’s ultimate destination. We must be stewards of our gifts, and of the gift of entrepreneurship some of us have been blessed with.

Francis urges entrepreneurs to use their entrepreneurial spirit as an “opportunity to multiply them creatively and to use them generously, and thereby to grow in charity and freedom.”

Here, Francis quoted the Catechism (section 2404): “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.”

It’s important that Francis anchors this in the Catechism. Let’s be honest: Many Catholics fear that these wealth exhortations by Francis are calls for government collectivism and income redistribution or clubs to beat rich people and make them feel guilty. But Francis said no such thing. This is a call for private initiative, for individuals to give of themselves, without state coercion.

It’s also in keeping with Pope John Paul II’s classic Centesimus Annus, which states that a person’s work is “naturally interrelated with the work of others” and should be seen as “work for others.” John Paul II said that work “becomes ever more fruitful and productive to the extent that people become more … profoundly cognizant of the needs of those for whom their work is done.”

If I may conclude on a personal note, I’ve spoken to many Legatus groups. Just in the last year, I spoke to Legatus chapters in Cleveland, Lexington, Jersey Shore, and Bucks County, Pennsylvania, among others. The wonderful men and women I meet at these gatherings are Catholic businesspeople and entrepreneurs in the best sense. I’ve witnessed no selfishness or arrogance or pride among them.

And yet, it’s incumbent upon all of us, myself included, to take these words from Francis and John Paul II and the Catechism to heart. We should indeed love with our goods so that they become a good, and above all for the common good.

PAUL KENGOR is professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century

Winding down the Jubilee Year of Mercy

As I was greeting the parishioners after a Sunday Mass recently, one of them approached me and said it was so nice of the Church to change the Mass prayers to incorporate so many references to mercy during this jubilee year. I told her that the Church didn’t change any language in the Mass for this year, but that she now had a heightened awareness of mercy because of the holy year.

Monsignor Michael Billian

She was surprised. Then I thought to myself: “What a hidden gift we have had all along, that this special year dedicated to mercy has helped us unwrap for the sake of our salvation!”

This Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy comes to a close on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20. We’ve been offered many lessons and opportunities during this beautiful year. Pope Francis hoped that we would develop in three ways. First, he offered the invitation to come to a deeper theological understanding of mercy, which is concrete and reveals God’s love. He wanted us to learn practical ways to engage in this year by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation. Finally, he challenged us to answer the call for justice and conversion.

From the very first words of the document announcing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy — “Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy” — Pope Francis has been calling us to live out the mercy that God constantly extends to all of us. So as we come to the end of this special year, we must ask ourselves: Are we more in touch with the Father’s greatest attribute? Are we more readily generous to share the Father’s quality of mercy with others? Are we prepared to work for justice through the Father’s characteristic of mercy?
Mercy is the way in which God shares his love with us, a love much like that which is shared between a parent and a child, a love that is deep and lasting, a love that renews and refreshes us. The Holy Father teaches us that “the name of God is mercy. There are no situations we cannot get out of; we are not condemned to sink into the quicksand.”

holy-doorMercy is the primary way we receive the Lord and give him to others. As we have developed a renewed understanding of mercy throughout this year, we are truly called to be merciful like the Father. Have we come to an understanding of mercy and found a way to communicate it to others through our words and actions?

One of the most powerful ways we celebrate the Father’s mercy is through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Perhaps you participated in the “24 Hours for the Lord” or went to Confession during one of “The Light is On” opportunities that took place in many dioceses across the country. The Church has made a concerted effort to offer the grace of the sacrament in abundance to all of us. Once we have acknowledged and celebrated this wonderful gift of mercy, we should have felt compelled to engage in the works of mercy so that we could be instruments of God’s love and mercy to those we encountered throughout the year of mercy. During this year, have we celebrated the outpouring of the Father’s mercy through the sacrament and shared the gift through the works of mercy?

Pope Francis’ final call for this jubilee was that of justice and conversion. At first glance, many people have the sense that justice and mercy are opposed to each other, but the truth is that these virtues are two sides of one coin. Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us that justice is the will to render everyone their due and mercy is the compassion in our hearts for another person’s misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help them. While we may sense a moment of mercy outside of justice, the long-lasting effects of mercy cannot penetrate our lives or world without justice. Have we found a way during this jubilee to invite both of these gifts into our lives and the world?

The outpouring of God’s mercy does not stop when this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy ends, nor does our opportunity and duty to participate and share God’s mercy. Rather, the gift of this year has been a springboard to a way of life where we proclaim with all our being that God loves us and wraps us in his mercy so that we can share this precious gift with the world.

MONSIGNOR MICHAEL BILLIAN is the chaplain of Legatus’ Genesis Chapter and pastor of Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Toledo, Ohio.

The Name of God is Mercy

Pope Francis
Random House, 2016
176 pages, hardcover $26

In his first book as pope, and in conjunction with the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis invites all humanity to an intimate and personal dialogue on the subject closest to his heart — mercy — which has long been the cornerstone of his faith.

Through memories from his youth and moving anecdotes, the Holy Father explains why “mercy is the first attribute of God.” The book itself is a conversation with Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli, which resonates with the desire to reach all who are looking for meaning in life, a road to peace and reconciliation, and the healing of physical and spiritual wounds.

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Pope Francis: The challenging pontiff

In the early Church, people lined the streets so that St. Peter’s shadow would fall on them and heal them (Acts 5:15). Not much has changed in 2000 years!

Fr. Daniel Firmin

Fr. Daniel Firmin

Our Holy Father Pope Francis comes to our shores and his shadow — like that of his predecessor, Peter — falls upon us, healing us with his presence and challenging us with his preaching.

It seems Pope Francis leaves no conscience untouched! From left to right, from Wall Street to Main Street, he is rattling cages and we are made uncomfortable, our lives are disturbed. When this happens in us, it’s perhaps because he is speaking the truth. And in speaking the truth, he is causing us to stretch and grow in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He is challenging us to be renewed spiritually in our thinking and in our actions — to evaluate anew what we have done and what we have failed to do. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are confused, unsettled and provoked by his words and actions: He stretches each one of us. No “side” can claim him fully except the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the truth of our Catholic faith!

Every papal visit is an extraordinary event, and Pope Francis’ visit was no exception. For five full days, Peter was among us and people from all corners of the country, from all walks of life, and from all religious backgrounds were interested in our Holy Father and in our Catholic faith. We saw politicians moved to tears. We saw the poor and the sick being embraced and loved. We saw a saint being canonized. We saw history being made. (Click here for full coverage of the visit.)

Never before has a pope addressed a joint session of Congress. In that speech, Pope Francis challenged every U.S. citizen to remember the ideals upon which we were founded. He referenced Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. to remind us of the beauties of liberty and freedom on the different planes of religion, politics, as a people, and as individual human beings. He challenged us to live and to uphold our God-given liberty and freedom.

He referenced Catholic Worker cofounder Dorothy Day, laying before us the challenge to care for our brothers and sisters in accord with their dignity. He referenced Cistercian monk Thomas Merton, who argued for peace and brought deep interior prayer to the consciousness of millions through his writing. Through Merton,

Pope Francis challenged us to peace and to openness to God. During his remarks, he also issued a challenge to all engaged in business to continue in their noble vocation. He challenged them to contribute to the common good and to improve the lives of their employees and of those who are impacted by their businesses.

At the Catholic University of America, Pope Francis declared Junípero Serra a saint. Serra’s evangelical zeal for spreading the gospel and his missionary spirit was held up for us to emulate in our daily lives. Serra was a man of great faith and love. This love of God impelled him to move out of the comfort zone of his classroom in Spain and to enter the mission field of the New World.

We are called to follow his example by bringing the good news of salvation to all we meet, whether to strangers in far off lands or to our next-door neighbor, our employees, our spouses and children. This is the challenge of evangelization for every Catholic.

This visit revolved around Pope Francis’ participation in the 8th World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He called for the strengthening of marriage and the defense of the family, which have been and are under attack in our own country and around the world. By his presence and in his words, he emphasized the richness and beauty of family life while understanding how difficult and messy it can be. He encouraged and challenged all of us to work tirelessly to strengthen and support marriage and family by living according to the truth of the Gospel and in charity — charity in every situation and with every person around us, from our immediate family to our entire human family.

While Pope Francis walked among us and his shadow fell upon each of us, he gave us an example of true fatherhood — he loved us, he led us, and he challenged us to live as the children of God. Through his example and his words, this healing and challenging pope’s shadow found its way down to Savannah, Ga., and touched the soul of this priest and continued, I pray, the renewal of his mind and thinking — and his growth in charity and in the truth of the Gospel.

FR. DANIEL FIRMIN is the vicar general of the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., and the chaplain of Legatus’ Savannah Chapter.

Taking America by storm

Pope Francis’ historic first visit to the United States transcends politics

Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States was historic on many fronts: the first pope to address congress, the first world meeting of families in America, and the first canonization on U.S. soil.

cover-nov15The Sept. 22-27 visit was also the first time that secular cable news networks aired non-stop live Catholic content for six days straight – which, in our day and age, is nothing short of miraculous.

In New York, Philadelphia and Washington, people lined up patiently for hours just to see Pope Francis pass by.

“There is still something unique about the papacy and the church,” said Matthew Pinto, president of Ascension Press and a member of Legatus’ Philadelphia Chapter. “I actually think humanity is hard-wired for the church, whether they know it or not. What other religious figure would draw the kind of crowds we saw, waiting in some cases for six or seven hours?”

Congress

For many observers, the Pope’s Sept. 24 address to Congress stands out as the most important speech of his visit.

Pope Francis discussed the sacredness of human life and the need to respect immigrants. In unison with his predecessors — Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI — he called for the abolition of the death penalty and the arms trade.

And Legatus members worldwide were happy to hear the Holy Father laud business and the free market.

pope-1

Pope Francis at Ground Zero

“Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world,” he told members of Congress. “It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”

In the speech, Pope Francis recalled four Americans who stood out for their contributions to the nation: Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Merton — two Catholics and two non-Catholics.

The Pope also alluded to the redefinition of marriage as a major challenge.

“Fundamental relationships are being called into question — as is the very basis of marriage and the family,” he said. “I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.”

United Nations

Pope Francis addressed the 193-member United Nations in a wideranging 48-minute speech in Spanish on Sept. 25. His talk touched on the environment, the sanctity of human life, the unborn, human trafficking, slave labor, the drug trade and nuclear proliferation.

With regard to the environment, the pontiff carefully connected the reasons for safeguarding the earth’s natural resources to safeguarding human dignity.

“First, it must be stated that a true ‘right of the environment’ does exist, for two reasons,” he explained. “First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value — in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures.”

Pope Francis also spoke about the difference between men and women, and parents’ primary right to their children.

Canonization

John Garvey

John Garvey

Another historic first was Pope Francis’ canonization of Junípero Serra — the first Hispanic saint for the U.S. and the first canonization on American soil. Serra evangelized Native Americans over 200 years ago, founding the first nine missions in California. The Sept. 23 canonization Mass took place at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

While there had been some controversy, with certain Native American groups claiming that Serra had mistreated Indians, Pope Francis set the record straight.

“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” he said.

Pope Francis used his homily to explain what the nature of mission is — not just for missionaries and priests, but for all baptized Catholics. “Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.”

Matthew Pinto

Matthew Pinto

For John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America and a member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C., Chapter, the canonization was a high point.

“It was a beautiful day,” Garvey told Legatus magazine. “I agreed with the Holy Father that he thinks of Serra as one of the ‘founding fathers’ of America. The Catholic part of America in the West and South is much older than most people realize.”

World meeting of families

The World Meeting of Families brought tens of thousands to Philadelphia for an Adult Congress, a Youth Congress and a family film festival from Sept. 22-25.

The Adult Congress, which featured renowned speakers like Bishop Robert Barron, Helen Alvaré and Pastor Rick Warren, consisted of 20 speakers and 12 panel discussions. Many of these speeches were standing room only.

The Youth Congress featured 17 talks and 10 musical performances, organized by Legate Matthew Pinto’s Ascension Press.

Curtis Martin

Curtis Martin

“It was like a mini-World Youth Day,” said Pinto, who presented a talk on balancing family life at the Adult Congress. “It was an extraordinary event, probably life-changing for my family. We brought five of our six kids. I was deeply moved by Pope Francis’ love for broken humanity, which at the end of the day, is all of us.”

Curtis Martin — founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, member of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter — spoke to a crowd about the New Evangelization.

“Pope Francis is a remarkably engaging person,” Martin explained. “Everyone sees his radiance and his hunger to see the world transformed from consumerism to being Christ-centered.”

Toward the end of the World Meeting of Families on Saturday evening, Pope Francis put down his notes and spoke from his heart about the family.

“This was the high point for me, when the Pope spoke extemporaneously,” Martin said. “My wife turned to me and said, ‘This is spectacular!’ When you put down your notes, you get a sense of the man. He shared his heart — which is the heart of a father — when speaking to us.”

Politics and the church

Timothy O'Donnell

Timothy O’Donnell

The vast majority of people who encountered Pope Francis either in person — or simply by watching on TV — felt elated and energized by his visit.

Still, there were naysayers on the political Left and Right.

Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College and presenter of two talks at the World Meeting of Families, noted the tension for Pope Francis’ critics.

“You have people on the Left who were really upset that he didn’t say ‘yes’ to same-sex unions,” explained O’Donnell, a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter. “One theologian from Fordham University was incensed by the comment Pope Francis made about mothers-in-law. Then you have traditional Catholics who don’t trust the media. He did speak about abortion to the U.S. bishops. Some wanted him to speak about it more.”

Ultimately, O’Donnell said, those who learned something from the papal visit were those who truly listened and read the Holy Father’s speeches thoughtfully and with an open heart.

“Some conservatives feel that Pope Francis should have said specific things, but this is arrogant,” said O’Donnell. “Every time he spoke about the family, he was speaking about the normal understanding of men, women and their children.”

Michael Warsaw

Michael Warsaw

O’Donnell underscored the fact that while the secular media tends to paint the Catholic Church as always saying “no,” Pope Francis underscored that Catholicism is a “yes” to Jesus. Michael Warsaw, president of EWTN, concurs.

“The problem in America is that we tend to impose political constructs of the Left and Right on the Church and the Pope,” said Warsaw, a member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C., Chapter. “It doesn’t work and leads to incorrect conclusions.

“Pope Francis is a Pope of gestures more than words. He has a different style than the past two popes, but that doesn’t mean he is less Catholic or less committed to the Gospel.”

In fact, people will remember Pope Francis’ gestures on this trip more often than his words — blessing handicapped children, visiting the homeless and prisoners, visiting the Little Sisters of the Poor and meeting with Kim Davis.

“As someone on the front-lines of the HHS battle,” Warsaw continued, “these gestures were very meaningful to me and encouraging. He told journalists on the plane back to Rome that conscientious objection is a human right — and we have a right to live out our faith in the public square.”

Living out the Catholic faith in the public square during this papal visit became a “super reality.” The Catholic pride that came through was, perhaps, the biggest miracle of all.

“Our young students at Catholic University are taken by Pope Francis,” said Garvey. “He is an unlikely media celebrity. He wears clunky shoes, speaks bad English and uses a small Fiat. But he speaks volumes through his gestures. And our young people are just drawn to him.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

Legatus writer’s joy-Filled papal experience

I had a surreal moment on Sept. 27 at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on my way home from covering the papal visit.

First, the TV screen at my gate was showing the World Meeting of Families closing Mass, uninterrupted by commercials. At one point, my daughter was thirsty and I walked around the airport to find her a bottle of juice. At every restaurant, there were multiple TV screens on — all airing the Holy Father’s homily. At every newsstand, every newspaper and magazine cover featured Pope Francis.

pope-2Everyone at the airport was listening intently to the Holy Father.

“They can’t all be Catholic,” I thought. “What’s going on?”

Something was going on because I saw Pope Francis capture people’s hearts on this trip.

I saw it everywhere: When I had to catch a cab and tell the driver I was going to cover a papal event, the driver would wish me well. When I had to pass through police barricades to get to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one policeman gushed about how lucky I was. The doormen at my parents’ apartment could not wait to hear what it was like for me to have seen the Pope. My friends waited six hours in Central Park to see the Pope drive by for five seconds.

Everyone said it was worth it.

Security had us journalists go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral seven hours ahead of time. We waited patiently for the Pope to arrive. The hours flew by and nobody complained. Not even me!

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi

When Pope Francis finally did walk into the Cathedral, it was as though an electric force had suddenly permeated the atmosphere. Something was different and everyone could feel it in the air.

Some of the journalists near me were practicing Catholics. But not everyone. One woman in particular who wrote for a business magazine started weeping openly when the Holy Father walked in. When I looked at her, she said, “I’m supposed to be a jaded journalist, so why am I crying?”

Perhaps it was the way Pope Francis sweetly waved at everyone — or the way he went to bless every person bound in a wheelchair. Perhaps it was the simple words he spoke during the vespers service, telling us the importance of counting our blessings.

“There is something unique about the papacy,” Matthew Pinto, president of Ascension Press, told me. “There is something going on beneath the surface when people encounter the Pope. It’s a movement of theSpirit and a deep resonance, whether people know it or not.”

That’s why even jaded journalists, tired policemen and Indian taxi drivers felt something when Pope Francis came to town. New York City became an extremely difficult place to get around — and people could not have been more pleased.

—Ferrisi

Learn more:

popefrancisvisit.com
WorldMeeting2015.org
USCCB: Papal Visit

Pope Francis’ mission of mercy

Some days I think I have a tough job as the father of five children and editor of an important monthly magazine for Catholic business leaders. But what if Jesus Himself appeared and gave you this task: “Prepare the world for my return”? Now that would be a tough job!

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

During a series of visions, which began in 1931, the Lord asked St. Faustina Kowalska to have an image painted as she saw him. This Divine Mercy Image graces many Catholic churches around the world today. But less known is the fact that Jesus told her, “You will prepare the world for my final coming.”

In the late 1960s, the archbishop of Krakow asked his top theologian to examine Faustina’s writings, which were popular but not yet approved by the Church. Shortly after they were authenticated 10 years later, that archbishop was elected bishop of Rome. Needless to say, Pope St. John Paul II recognized the truth contained in Jesus’ revelation to this simple Polish nun.

Why would Jesus ask her to prepare the world for his return? Because now is the time of mercy! We don’t know when Jesus will make his final return, but it’s clear that right after we draw our final breath, we’ll meet him face-to-face. Will we meet our just judge or our Merciful Savior? That’s up to us, actually. We choose our destiny by how we live our lives here and now.

John Paul knew this well. Long before his death, he became known as the Pope of Mercy. Not surprisingly, Pope Benedict XVI continued to unpack the theology of God’s mercy in his writings and addresses, and Pope Francis has hit the “mercy accelerator” since his election more than two years ago.

“Do not be afraid to look into [Jesus’] eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls,” Pope Francis said in his message for World Youth Day 2016, to be held next summer in Krakow — the home of Faustina and John Paul II.

World Youth Day will be one of the most significant events during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which begins on Dec. 8. Why a Year of Mercy? Because Jesus wants to lavish his mercy right now on a world so blighted by sin. Just scan today’s headlines and you’ll see what I mean.

The truth is that we can all take part in the job given to St. Faustina only 80 years ago. Give yourself completely to Our Merciful Savior and let others know that hope can only be found in Him!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

A tale of two “Francises”

The choice of papal names often communicates something important about the man just elected pope. In 1903, Pope St. Pius X signaled his desire to continue the confrontation with modernity begun by Blessed Pius IX during the 19th century.

Lance Richey

Lance Richey

Similarly, Pope St. John Paul II (following John Paul I) indicated his embrace of the reforms initiated by St. John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI in the Second Vatican Council.

When Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio chose the name Francis, he too was sending a message to the world. Like St. Francis of Assisi some 800 years earlier, Pope Francis was saying that his leadership style would be based on personal humility and his agenda built around solidarity with the poor. The near-universal love expressed for both the Pope and the saint shows the perennial appeal of this message. These two “Francises” have valuable lessons for leaders.

First, they show the immense power that comes from rejecting the trappings of power. Saint Francis famously stripped naked publicly to renounce all claims to his father’s wealth and social status, becoming a beggar in the process. When Pope Francis first stepped out onto the balcony after his election, he wore only a simple white cassock and black leather shoes, rejecting the fur cape and red slippers traditionally worn by new popes. These were decisive moments in establishing their leadership style and moral authority.

In both instances, the message was clear: True authority comes not from ceremonies, titles and fine clothing, but from humility and authenticity. Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with expensive suits and spacious offices; they have a legitimate place in most corporate cultures. Nevertheless, both Francises remind us that these things are only symbols of leadership, not substitutes for it. The greatest courage we can show as leaders is to step out from behind the perks and titles that come with our offices. When they are surrendered (if only temporarily), the leader behind the title is revealed, for better or for worse.

Second, both men not only declared their solidarity with the poor but actually demonstrated it. The Holy Father chose the name Francis when, during the final ballot his election had become inevitable, a fellow cardinal whispered to him, “Don’t forget the poor!” Spending his first Holy Thursday washing the feet of prisoners and non-Catholics rather than dignitaries, Pope Francis made good his promise. Likewise, after his conversion, St. Francis sought out the poor and sick, ministering to those who had nothing to offer in return. In effect, the new CEO made his first stop not in the boardroom but in the mailroom.

By doing so, these men — in modern language — transformed and humanized the “corporate culture” of the Church. Their example challenges every leader to ask, “Who are the poor in my company?” and “How am I serving and honoring them?” Every company, even the most successful, has its “poor” — those without organizational power, social status or economic security. Of course, hard decisions will always have to be made about hiring, firing and compensation. Not even popes and saints can avoid making them. However, a faithful Catholic leader will always remember that these decisions are always about human beings deserving of our love and concern.

Finally, both men recognize the absolute necessity of integrity for any leader. Toward the end of his life, St. Francis met a peasant who offered him a ride. During the trip, the man asked, “Are you the Francis about whom everyone is talking?” When he replied that he was, the peasant told him, “Well, make sure you are as good as people say you are, because they have put their trust in you. Don’t do anything to destroy their faith and hope!” Saint Francis responded by kissing the man’s feet.

Every leader — from Supreme Pontiff to shift manager — needs to hear the same warning on a regular basis. Hypocrisy is a great threat to any leader’s authority. But such behavior is usually the result of deceiving ourselves rather than seeking to deceive others; we simply don’t know our own weaknesses and limitations and confuse our true selves with the image we present to others.

However, once I summon the courage to see myself as I truly am, flaws and all, I am then able to see my coworkers as God sees them, flaws and all. Then, and only then, can I recognize their unique value and equal dignity as individuals. Humility leads to authenticity, which in turn leads to solidarity. Only when we possess all three can we call ourselves leaders in the spirit of Francis. Not a bad goal for any leader.

LANCE RICHEY, PH.D., is an associate professor of theology and director of the John Duns Scotus Honors Program at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The Joy of Family Life

popeThe Joy of Family Life
Pope Francis
Our Sunday Visitor, 2015
384 pages, paperback $16.95

There is no question that “joy” and “family” are hallmarks of Pope Francis’ pontificate. This book — with the full title Pope Francis and the Joy of Family Life: Daily Reflections — is a collection of the Holy Father’s talks and writings on these topics.

Using brief meditations followed by questions for reflection, the book offers insight into how readers can create an oasis of joyful love within their own family. The book is a perfect companion for daily prayer. The Pope’s insights will help readers discover God’s plan in which every family member “feels that God is close and feels loved by him.”

Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

(Re)introducing St. Homobonus of Cremona

As Fr. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, points out in his June 18 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical Laudato Si does indeed pose a “major challenge” for free market advocates.

Paul J. Voss, Ph.D.

Paul J. Voss, Ph.D.

Pope Francis apparently doesn’t view the free market as a primary tool for reducing poverty or increasing access to health care and other vital services. He likewise doesn’t see private enterprise as a promising school for virtue — as an opportunity to foster and develop prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice.

The Pope challenges academics, economists, politicians, clergy, communities, and others to act in order to change the dominant economic and environmental policies. He candidly admits that he (and by extension, the Church) doesn’t have ready answers for the myriad, specific problems besetting the global economy, and he offers few precise policy recommendations. He does, however, encourage “honest debate” and robust discussion regarding these crucial issues. Supporters of the free market ought to welcome this debate for we have much to offer.

In that spirit, I offer a few humble suggestions. I suggest that we start the discussion in 1197 AD with the death of Homobonus of Cremona. Innocent III canonized him in 1199. Saint Homobonus is the patron saint of business and thus serves as a model of “heroic virtue” for Catholics interested in leading lives of sanctification while working in the world. The Church provides those models to assist the faithful as they navigate the complexities of modern life.

Around 1100, with the rise of medieval towns in Italy, a new form of life emerged that emphasized trade and negotiation between and among people. It soon became apparent that this pre-capitalistic trade required special virtues in order to function properly, and the Church responded by articulating the type of ethics needed in such transactions. This ethic was first seen in the various guilds and brotherhoods voluntarily established by merchants themselves. The Church saw the need for a model of virtue and in response canonized the lay-merchant Homobonus. In this act, it became apparent that no state of life was foreign to the quest for holiness and sanctity: Business could indeed become a vocation.

The spontaneous veneration that formed organically after Homobonus’ death was a clear sign of genuine holiness. However, he is almost universally unrecognized by most Catholics. A simple explanation exists for this benign neglect: Most of the documents regarding his life, work, holiness, and canonization have never appeared in English in a collected and accessible form. Yet if we desire to have a genuinely open and honest debate, we must include these documents and consider the virtues of properly ordered private enterprise.

This important “life of the saint” exists today in rare manuscripts extant only in single copies, scattered among a small handful of archives in Milan and Cremona. The magisterial Acta Sanctorum, already 300 years old, has yet to begin editing the November saints (Homobonus’ feast day is Nov. 13) and will not reach him for at least a decade, if ever. Once collected and translated, Homobonus’ full history will provide the terminus a quo necessary for having a sustained and informed discussion.

Consequently, my colleague Don Prudlo (a professor of medieval Christian history at Jacksonville State University) and I are preparing a trip to Italy to begin the project in earnest next January. When completed and disseminated, the history of St. Homobonus will allow scholars and non-scholars alike to read and learn from this axial figure.

In this way, scholars must work with economists, business leaders, pastors, laity, and others to consider the proper relationship between faith and business. If business is truly a noble vocation — a calling for many millions of men and women — these documents will provide an apt point of departure for reflection and discovery of the venerable and classical tradition of dignified, charitable, and heroic free market activities.

By doing so, we both respond to the Pope’s call for informed, intelligent debate regarding the merits of the free market and the intersection with Catholic teaching and tradition. Once collected, the evidence in favor of a free market working in conformity with the freedom of the individual will prove to be very compelling. As Homobonus demonstrated over 800 years ago, the free market, coupled with individual virtue, is a potent mix capable of producing both individual holiness and promoting the common good and collective well-being. Let the conversation begin!

PAUL J. VOSS, PH.D., is president of Ethikos, a professional organization offering ethics training, and an associate professor of literature at Georgia State University.

Rejecting euthanasia: The gifts of the elderly

Assisted suicide is gaining speed in the United States. First effectively legalized in Oregon (1997), followed by Washington (2008), Montana (2009), and Vermont (2013), “physician aid-in-dying” will have been considered in 25 state legislatures and the District of Columbia during the 2015 session. Seventeen will have considered it for the first time in history.

John A. Di Camillo

John A. Di Camillo

In addition to our obligation to resist unjust laws, we’re being called to deeper reflection on the family and the personal ways in which we can celebrate the true dignity and vital role of all family members — especially those whom the dominant culture would discard.

In this context, it’s helpful to recall the beauty, purposes, and gifts of elderly persons who are susceptible to neglect and its lethal relatives: assisted suicide and euthanasia. We’re talking about parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, friends, priests, religious, educators, and, sooner or later, ourselves.

“Our elders are men and women … who came before us on our own road … in our daily battle for a worthy life,” Pope Francis said on March 4, 2015. “They are men and women from whom we have received so much. We are that elder — in the near or far future, but inevitably.”

Behind the appeals to autonomy in the push for legalized assisted suicide is the insidious lie that life is not worth living under certain conditions — that it has no purpose, nothing to give, and no relevance to the family or the community. Our “throw-away culture” tells the lie, sending the message that the elderly are useless, expensive, outdated, and generally would do society a favor by getting out of the way. It’s easy to fall prey to this thinking when we are made to feel irrelevant, worthless, disconnected, or otherwise abandoned by society. The leading reasons for requesting assisted suicide in Oregon reflect this mindset: loss of autonomy, inability to participate in activities, and loss of dignity.

This is why, in speaking to the elderly on Nov. 12, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that “those who welcome the elderly welcome life!” God offers unique gifts at different stages of life, which we are called to use and share, and the elderly are no exception — but we need interaction! In Benedict’s words, “the elderly are a value for society, especially for the young. There can be no true human growth and education without fruitful contact with the elderly.” Not only must we care for them because of the gift that they are, but they also have unique gifts to offer that we need.

Pope Francis has called the elderly a “reservoir of wisdom,” pointing out that “old age has a grace and a mission.” Both Francis and Benedict have noted the fundamental importance and power of prayer at this stage of life, strengthened by a wisdom that understands difficult situations. The elderly teach us that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. They show us how to overcome anxieties about the future. They are even pioneers, leading the way through the complexities and novelties of old age in a medically advanced society, giving us a glimpse of what lies ahead. They can also be guideposts of commitment and fidelity in their different vocations, modeling these virtues for young people who are steeped in rapid change.

The elderly offer a most profound gift in the call to humility. Pope Francis points out that they “are abandoned … out of a selfish incapacity to accept their limitations that reflect our own limitations.” By seeing their limits, we are faced with our own. We are called to help others with their limits while accepting their help with ours. This contains a spiritual lesson about strength and humility when we recall St. Paul’s words: “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me … for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10).

Benedict, whom Francis has lovingly called “a wise grandfather,” summed it up beautifully: “This is important at every stage of life: No one can live alone and without help. I see, with pleasure, that all those who help and all those who are helped form one family, whose lifeblood is love.”

In the spirit of the World Meeting of Families, let us live this out on a daily basis, seeing our own need for help as a gift to others, an opportunity to teach others through humility and creativity within our unique limits — and an occasion to strengthen the human encounters that are an antidote for the poisonous mentality of assisted suicide and euthanasia that particularly impacts the elderly.

JOHN A. DI CAMILLO, BE.L., is a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center.