Blessed are you poor (Lk 6.20).
Earlier this month, I heard Rush Limbaugh make reference to some kind of economic forecasting related to Apple’s market value. It was a bit confusing, but I gather the corporation is doing quite well, and it was making predictions related to its fourth-quarter earnings – although we’d call them “third-quarter” earnings. “Apple is like the United States,” Rush explained. “Their fiscal year begins October 1, so their fourth quarter is the September quarter.”
“So New Year’s Day for the U.S. Government and some big corporations is October 1 – the feast of the Little Flower,” I thought to myself. “What if everybody’s new year started with her feast?”
As it is, our secular new year begins with an even more significant and propitious feast on January 1: The Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. It marks the last day of the Christmas Octave, and it focuses our attention on Mary’s unique role in our salvation, but also her role as our heavenly mother and advocate. Moreover, since 1968, our Popes have designated January 1 as the World Day of Peace. We’re asked to offer special prayers that day for an end to war and violence, and to reflect on how we can all help bring that about.
But let’s say, just as a thought experiment, that the Church decided to align its fiscal timetable with the timetables of the world’s mightiest powers, both political and corporate. That is, what if the Church’s financial calendar started in October instead of January? What lessons could we learn from such a shift, especially if the underlying liturgical calendar was left intact.
Considering the wealth of feasts in the first week of October, I’d say there’d be plenty to chew on – particularly with regards to how differently the Church views money matters relative to how the world views them.
Anyway, with regards to my little experiment, here’s what I came up with.
- October 1 (Fiscal New Year): St. Thérèse of Lisieux. What better saint to ring in the new financial year than this youthful Carmelite and Doctor of the Church. Her whole life was dedicated to self-denial, hiddenness, and her Little Way – the total opposite of the world’s obsession with consumption, self-aggrandizement, and bigger-is-better. As E.F. Schumacher said, and St. Thérèse lived, “small is beautiful,” and we’d do well to imitate her example according to our abilities and state of life.
- October 2: Guardian Angels. The second day of our Catholic fiscal new year coincides with our annual reminder that we each have a spiritual being assigned to us by God – and that on Jesus’ own authority (Mt 18.10). As with other angels, our guardian angels are God’s messengers, but they also can act on our behalf, protect us, and promote our welfare. In other words, their whole purpose is to serve us – to serve others, not themselves. Would that we held a similar perspective with regards to our wealth, and that we strove to increase our selflessness in our generosity and giving.
- October 4: St. Francis of Assisi. Here’s the showstopper for my Catholic fiscal new year: The patron saint of voluntary poverty. His rejection of worldly wealth and prestige in exchange for temporal deprivation and derision was considered madness in his day, but he sparked a revolution of love. Not everyone is called to live his radical life of downward mobility – someone has to pay the bills, after all, and have enough left over to pass along to those who beg alms – but his appearance at the start of our imagined financial calendar would set a spiritually profitable tone for the whole year.
In the interest of brevity, I’ll have to skip over other relevant saints in that first week of October – like Bl. Francis Seelos, a Redemptorist missionary to the U.S., on October 5, or the founder of the Carthusians, St. Bruno, on October 6. Besides, we don’t want to stretch this idea too far.
However, there is one more coincidental date that makes this thought experiment especially timely now. Our next would-be fiscal new year’s day, October 1, 2017, will fall on a Sunday – Respect Life Sunday, in fact. It’s a fortuitous confluence of observances that comes every seven years or so, and if it were to also mark financial day #1, think of the unmistakable message if would transmit regarding what the Church truly holds dear: not market share or stock price, balanced books or cash reserves, but the intrinsic and absolute value of every human life.
image: Hendrick ter Brugghen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons