The Angelus recently asked a handful of traditional Catholic businessmen some questions related to the Faith and their daily work. We have kept the responses anonymous.
Angelus Press: Can you tell us how the Faith influences your business practices?
“I try to see every major decision in the light of the Faith, which keeps me grounded on moral questions, especially principles of justice. Thoughts of eternity or even just the quiet presence of the Blessed Sacrament help put things in perspective, making even big problems manageable.”
“The Catholic Faith influences our business decisions in as much as we try to treat others as Christ told us: to love our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”
“One area where the Catholic Faith has influenced me directly is in my hiring practices. In the early days of my business career, I would go out of my way to give a chance to traditional Catholics with little or no background in my company’s line of work to help build up their experience and set them on the pathway to successful careers. Also, in accordance with principles of justice and the social teaching of the Church, I would make sure to pay married men with families higher wages than unmarried men, even if the latter were more experienced or skilled.”
Angelus Press: Is there any particular aspect of the Church’s social doctrine which you have found relevant?
“Every business owner or manager ought to read and re-read Rerum Novarum.”
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
“We demonstrate our love of God by loving our neighbor and helping him to prosper.”
Angelus Press: How do you balance prospe- rity and success with detachment and humility?
“Statistically speaking, most businesses fail—even good ones—within a few years of their founding. There are a multitude of things that can and do go wrong which are nearly impossible to foresee. Assuming you are fortunate enough to succeed in some measure, it has little to do with your personal talents or worth. There are too many moving parts. To the extent that I succeed it is only by the grace of God and the hard work and loyalty of my employees. To take too much personal credit for success would be a mistake, I think.”
“This is done by keeping in mind that all that we have is a gift from God and all that is ours is our sins.”
“It is a constant battle to keep balance. Even if one has financial means, practicing frugality will help keep you grounded in a spirit of poverty. It also helps to remember that we are only caretakers of the wealth that we have and that God can take it from us at any time.”
“Always remember that what God has given God can take away! Try to have an image of the Righteous Job in your mind and have an attitude of detachment. It’s okay to be successful, but never lose sight of those less fortunate. You could find yourself in their position someday.”
Angelus Press: Are there any particular crosses for Catholics in the business world today?
“None that can’t be overcome with perseverance, courage, hard work, and—above all—confidence in God.”
“Yes, but I try to look for the advantages, too. In an age when anyone can put up an online advertisement promising all sorts of benefits from whatever goods or services they may be selling, honesty and treating others well goes a long way in setting your business apart. If you run your business in accordance with Catholic principles and customers or clients see this, they will be more likely to remain loyal and, just as importantly, spread positive words about your enterprise to others.”
“The most profound cross is understanding the great duty we have to our employees, and keeping that balanced with the financial success of the business. The family also bears the cross of sharing your time with the business for the common good.”
Angelus Press: What are some difficulties particular to today in paying employees a living wage?
“For my part, the first difficulty is knowing what a living wage actually is in every circumstance. Take, for instance, two families with similar earnings and similar expenses: one family may live in relative comfort by being frugal and the other family may live in perpetual dire financial straits. In my opinion, getting along financially is influenced as much by spending habits as it is by earnings.”
“The difficulty is not so much in paying a living wage itself, but rather maintaining a successful business which can pay such wages. If a business is run poorly and cannot generate sustainable profits, it cannot pay the bills, let alone pay its employees a living wage.”
“In the context of large companies and corporations, payroll is the biggest expense and thus the one they seek to reduce whenever possible. This is often achieved by laying off more experienced and well-paid workers in favor of entry level employees; slashing health and retirement benefits; and foisting additional responsibilities on the extant work staff so they don’t have to hire on more hands. When large companies depress wages in this way, it makes it difficult for competing firms not to do the same without risking profitability and sustainability. Any competing business looking to pay a living wage will have to find other ways to cut costs, which is not always feasible in our current economic system.”
Angelus Press: What struggles in business have you had that taught you lessons you’d like to share?
“Struggles in life in general or business are overcome by perseverance, hard work, the willingness to assume risk, fortitude, and reliance on God’s generosity.”
“Reality wins. If something doesn’t work, there generally is a reason. A huge struggle in business is to have the self-awareness to watch for mistakes and future failures. Often I have blamed someone or something else for things going wrong when, in reality, it was my fault for not having the right mechanisms in place to prevent the failure and guide our operations to be successful. Another struggle is taking the time to make sure the numbers work. So often we want to just try something and there are times when that is the only way to learn. However, most of the time if we take the time to plan it out we can tell if an idea will work or not.”
“One important lesson that emerges from the struggle to maintain a successful business is the value of truth and honesty, not to mention doing little things well. In the sales and service sectors, for example, relationships are key for building trust and drawing in more business. I have seen many of these relationships last decades and be the difference-maker between having a healthy, successful business rather than a failed one.”
Angelus Press: What advice do you have to young men and women about to enter the world to earn their daily bread?
“Find a job that you will enjoy for a lifetime. Think outside the box when applying for a job. For example, there are many traditional college students pursuing careers in the teaching field and yet there are only so many teaching positions available at traditional schools. Keep in mind that large corporations have internal training departments, external education departments, a need for technical writers, and so forth. Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons when pursuing a job. Start thinking about your work years before you start knowing that you will need references, a resume, and experience to help boost your odds of finding a good position. Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up in the organization, and don’t expect to graduate college and run the company (unless it’s your own).”
“My advice to young men is do not neglect a good education for the sake of a job. In other words, focus on your formation with a liberal arts foundation and you will have many doors opened to you. Do not be content with just getting by in life. If you are, you will end up feeling robbed of precious years and time better spent with your family. My advice to young ladies is develop your mind with the liberal arts, too, as they will help you to be a real support to your husband and a true partner in all his endeavors. Do not marry a man who desires to be mediocre. You will not save him, and he may destroy your future and the future of your children.”
“In my opinion, in today’s world, nursing, teaching, skilled trades, and engineering would be areas to gravitate towards. Also, the importance of being prepared to work long, hard hours at some useful endeavor is invaluable.”
“Set goals for life: spiritual, family, financial, career, social, and personal goals are all needed. Without goals, it is hard to stay on the path towards a good and helpful life.” Angelus Press: As a Catholic, how do you view the worth of money?
“I view money as ammunition in the culture war in which we are engaged. It is a volatile type of ammunition, which, if mishandled, will explode and destroy your own people. If handled with detachment, it can be utilized to fight our enemies, primarily through promoting those things that are good, true, and beautiful. When we treat money as an end, it has already begun to backfire. It really is just ammunition—we need more, and need to control it. If you have it, pray hard for protection.”
“Money is a tool like any other that allows us to accomplish worthwhile objectives. In and of itself it has little appeal.”
“Money is needed in one form or another, but it is not the goal but rather simply a necessary means which is generally needed to reach our goals. How much a person needs depends largely on their circumstances and what they seek to achieve. A businessman seeking to build-up a successful enterprise in the fields of engineering or medicine is obviously going to need more than a parish priest or bookseller. We should always be mindful of how much we truly need in relation to our goals and talents and ask God always for the gift of discernment in such matters.”
Angelus Press: After years of business practice, would you do things differently if you were to start over?
“In the big picture, only God really knows if we have followed our calling as He desires. There are mistakes I have made which I would certainly change if I could, but all I can do is seek forgiveness from those I have failed and ask our Lord for the strength to carry on further in accordance with His will.”
“I am thankful that by and large I wouldn’t do much differently. I pray that my success in business, which comes from God, has allowed me to better service both the Church and my neighbors.”
“I hope that I have been able to serve my neighbor and the Church well.”