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Business and the Light of the World

December 9, 2021 4 min read
By Dr. Karel Sovak Dean, Gary Tharaldson School of Business, University of Mary
A lighthouse in the morning

A central focus of mission-driven Catholic business education is the formation of the whole person, and the ultimate meaning behind this formation is found in the truths held within the Nicene Creed. This creed, which Bishop Barron has referred to as the grammar of our faith,” is a key component of the Oath of Fidelity that many Catholic universities require of their faculty, offering a beautiful witness to others as to our adherence to our faith.

The Nicene Creed speaks of the relationship of God the Father and God the Son with poetic beauty: God from God, Light from Light.” This beautiful description of God the Son offers us insights into how we can strive to imitate the perfection of God, recognizing that we too, in our own way, are from God. While it is said that there are three paths to holiness, there is only one path to sadness: not fulfilling who God created you to be. Teaching students not only to use the gifts they have received from God to better themselves but even more so to be light to those around them is essential to mission-driven Catholic business education. This fraternal humility allows students to understand an exhortation commonly (and lovingly) given to students at the university: Get over yourself.” Until we are able to receive our identity in humility and ask what it means to be light for others by properly applying the gifts we have received, we fail to reflect the divine characteristics of our Creator.

We are each created in the image of God, from God, called to be light to the world. In 2014, Pope Francis offered the context in which we are to understand what it means to be light, saying: The Christian should be a luminous person; one who brings light, who always gives off light! A light that is not his, but a gift from God, a gift from Jesus. We carry this light. If a Christian extinguishes this light, his life has no meaning: he is a Christian in name only, who does not carry light; his life has no meaning.” Such a life lived in the light cannot be lived apart from a life of prayer and ultimately comes from an intimate, sacramental relationship with God. In fact, a life lived in the light is a direct gift from God, echoing G. K. Chestertons elegant insight that a thing must be loved, before it is lovable.” The business sector can learn a lot from such an illumination.

Only through the grace of God can the integrated life around which mission-driven Catholic business education – and in fact, mission-driven Catholic education in general – be achieved. The truth, beauty, and goodness found within the human person are gifts from God meant to be acted upon for the sanctification of others, but first must be drawn out. (Education, after all, comes from the Latin educere, which means to draw out”). This drawing-out requires faculty to recognize the depth of their vocation, which extends far beyond ever-important professional duties and touches on the personal integration of students and their development through prayer and the sacraments. The world of business is in constant need of students who benefit from such a vision of education, being more attuned to the demands of the common good and the depth of their individual vocations.

For mission-driven Catholic education, helping students to understand the origins of their existence and vocation and drawing out their God-given gifts so that they can be light to others is a central concern. But does not such a focus get in the way of the obvious demands of business educators to give students the tools they need to be technically competent contributors to their professions upon graduation? St. John Henry Newman offers helpful insights: Society itself requires some other contribution from each individual, besides the particular duties of his profession,” and, Today, I have confined myself to saying that the training of the intellect, which is best for the individual himself, best enables him to discharge his duties to society.” In this sense, then, a mission-driven Catholic business education program that seeks to offer students formation for the whole of life benefits not only the student but society and their future industries, as well.

Ex Corde Ecclesiae notes that a Catholic university has to be a living unionof individual organisms dedicated to the search for truth.” Such a community of scholars who understand their role in terms of vocation (rather than merely profession) provide students with a greater sense of the connection between their professional development, moral reasoning, and faith. Within such a community, guided by the truths contained in the Nicene Creed, mission-driven Catholic business education comes to life. This is the way the business sector can empower its people.

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