Pope John Paul II’s thought is well known in certain circles that deal with his Theology of the Body, or the New Evangelization, implementation of Vatican II or his loving approach to Judaism. But very little is written about how he inspired countless business people to find a deeper meaning in what they do.
Through my direct experience with him as a Swiss Guard, John Paul showed me a sort of “Theology of Work,” and an approach to lift up work, entrepreneurship, and business leadership to the spiritual level. I wanted to share this. I wrote The Pope & The CEO: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard (Emmaus Road, 2011) because I wanted to spread John Paul’s wisdom and approach to life, especially as they pertain to business. Having had the privilege to work for him as a Swiss Guard and know him personally has been such a huge inspiration in my life that I felt called to share what I had learned.
Little did I know that two other authors were on the very same journey. These business executives were also inspired by John Paul to seek deeper meaning in life and work, and wanted to share what they’ve found. Randy Hain and Kevin Lowry are both business leaders with impressive careers. They wrote two deeply insightful books which expressed nuanced views of the same subject.
Randy’s The Catholic Briefcase, Kevin’s Faith at Work and my own The Pope & The CEO form a sort of “JPII Business Trilogy”. They are three approaches to the same issue, three variations on a theme: Christian Business Life.
One way of understanding the flow of each book is by only using one word to describe each every chapter; one immediately discovers a complimentarity and a framework to understand the underlying messages.
The Catholic Briefcase
Acknowledge – Balance – Surrender – Quiet – Pray – Help – Give – Exemplify – Network – Share – Prioritize – Start with the end in mind – Begin Now
I – God – Think – Want – Plan – Know – Act – Live – Detach
All three are easy-to-read books with a surprisingly similar structure. Each book has chapters with a main theme, questions for reflection and exercises to drive specific action. That approach beautifully reflects JPII’s practicality and drive to move from thought and belief to action and effect.
The Catholic Briefcase:
In The Catholic Briefcase, Randy uses a rich variety of real-life example from people in the workplace to make his points accessible and real. Randy is an Executive Search Agent; the fact that he knows all these highly qualified and exemplary Christian leaders and that they are willing to share so openly with him is surely an indication of his quality in his own profession. Passing on their wisdom in The Catholic Briefcase is his gift to the readers.
Don’t overlook the appendices of this book – they’re each worth the price of the book by themselves. I was particularly inspired by Appendix 3 – ‘Job Seekers Should Expect More from Us’. Randy provides a meaningful instruction on how to help people in transition, and specific information and guidance on what you and I can do to help job seekers. He’s right, and his advice is great. We have a group in Boston, the Mass Catholic Business Association (http://masscatholicbusiness.com) which is trying to do that same thing: to help each other as we transition through our professional careers, and that often includes someone being out of work and looking for help or guidance. Randy’s advice is both timely and helpful.
Other gems in the book include great suggestions in Chapter 3 about how to live more purposefully and being more present in the moment. The chapter on prayer has beautiful suggestions for deepening your prayer life – and Randy’s description of his own daily routine makes those suggestions very accessible. Take the “exam” on page 90 (What’s in your Catholic Briefcase?) and you’ll quickly see that you will benefit from spending time with this book and the ideas and suggestions that Randy puts forward in it.
Faith at Work:
Kevin’s book, Faith at Work, is full of highly applicable, actionable ideas and inspirations for business practitioners. Kevin’s conversion story, both in his faith and his profession, illustrate his points poignantly as he explains each new chapter. Heart wrenching stories and happy anecdotes draw in the reader to learn lessons and wisdom about life and work.
In particular, I love the chapter on patience. The lesson that trust in God must come before getting “my results” seems so obvious, but I for one haven’t quite mastered it yet and am very thankful for Kevin’s pointers and insights. Make sure you also read chapter 10. In it Kevin writes about various issues connected with discernment and doing the right thing, or doing things right. You’ll find his description of having to downsize/fire employees enlightening and helpful if you ever face this situation yourself.
The chapter on Workplace Witness is brilliant. Personally living out ones faith at work – whatever that work is, is not only a Christians obligation, but doing so will also help heal our corporate culture and bring the economy back on track. Kevin’s examples in this chapter make this self-evident.
Kevin speaks about what he knows- he’s been there, done that in a straightforward style and humble approach. Doubtless this perspective is a result of a career with plenty of ups and downs, victories and losses, and one had him riding on a tricycle.
These three books are a testimony that God is at work on the New Evangelization generally and in the Business community in particular. John Paul’s inspiration of Randy, Kevin and me to write on this topic is no mere coincidence. As I travel the world and present these ideas to business people I can feel how the business world craves deeper meaning. By following the example and theological guidance set forth by John Paul, businessmen and women can fulfill that urge to move from mere success to significance.
Andreas Widmer is President of the Carpenter’s Fund and the author of The Pope & The CEO, John Paul’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard . You can find him online at www.thepopeandtheceo.com and on Twitter @andreaswidmer.