The Patron Saints of Business
Born: Cremona, Italy 1111 AD
Died: Cremona, Italy November 13, 1197
Canonized January 12, 1199 by Pope Innocent III
Major shrine Cremona, his head is preserved in the church of Saint Giles
Feast Day: November 13
In the 12th century, there lived in Cremona, Italy, a prosperous merchant who took his newborn son to church and announced to the priest that he wanted him baptized “Homobonus”. The word means “good man”. The parent had chosen the child’s baptismal name with care, and he was determined to teach his son how to live up to its implications. He fulfilled his plan well. Homobonus Tucenghi grew up well-instructed in the skills of merchandising, but at the same time a lover of honesty, virtue and self-respect. He came to appreciate that his calling (vocation) as a businessman was a divine calling. God wanted him to be just where He had put him; it was in the marketplace that he would work out his salvation.
Providentially, Homobonus of Cremona found a wife who possessed the same convictions. Others of their mercantile class might trip over the occupational hazards of ambition, dissipation and vain display, but not Mr. and Mrs. H. Their simple life style gave them all the more means and incentive to reach out to the less fortunate. God appreciated this saintly couple’s works of mercy, and even set His stamp of approval on them by working miracles in favor of those whom they assisted; so the author of St. Homobonus’s biography assured us. Among the worthy merchant’s devotional habits was to go daily to the church of St. Giles to “report” to God on his activities. It was during one of these visits that he came to the end of his life. On November 13,1197, he was attending Mass. At the Gloria he stretched out his arms in the shape of a cross and fell forward into a prostration. Those beside him thought this was just an act of personal penance. But when he failed to stand for the Gospel, they went over to him and found that he had died.
Pope Innocent III canonized this holy Cremonian only two years after his death. No reason to wait longer. Homobonus had obviously lived up to his
name. Like Charlie Brown (if we may make such a comparison), he was a GOOD MAN. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those who survive us could say of us in all sincerity, “He was a good man,” or “She was a good woman.” There could be no higher human praise. It would mean that we had, as St. Paul says, shown ourselves “children of God beyond reproach… like the stars in the sky.” It would mean that we had conscientiously lived up to the particular task God assigned to us and not wasted his graces. This would mean that we had fully understood why we were created: to know God and love Him and serve Him in this world so as to be happy with Him forever in heaven. –Father Robert F. McNamara
Father in heaven, through the intercession of Saint Homobonus, make of my work a constant prayer.
Born: 13 April 1506 Villaret, Savoy
Died: 2 August 1546 Rome, Italy
Canonized: 17 December 2013 (equivalent canonization), Vatican City by Pope Francis
Major shrine: Church of the Gesù
Feast Day: 2 August
“On Dec. 17, Pope Francis signed the bull of canonization recognizing Faber as a saint, and the relatively low-key elevation — no ornate Mass in St. Peter’s Square for poor Faber — is in keeping with his relative obscurity in the Jesuit pantheon. Faber was among the handful who co-founded the Jesuit order in the mid-1500s, but he never quite attained the renown of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier.
His ministry was vital but not headline-grabbing. He was an extraordinarily capable spiritual director who reinvigorated clergy and bishops who had grown decadent, and patiently drew wavering Catholics back to the fold at a time when the Protestant Reformation was sweeping Europe. In an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis praised Faber’s style, his “dialogue with all … even with his opponents … his simple piety … his careful interior discernment … capable of being so gentle and loving.” Faber’s patient but ever-persistent outreach, his “frontier spirit” so to speak, embodies the culture change Francis is trying to engender in our church at large.
Once, on mission to Mainz in Germany, he was appalled by its widespread poverty. “Having arisen in the quiet of the night to pray,” he wrote, “I felt strongly inspired to do my very utmost to provide for the needy and homeless sick wandering about the city of Mainz.” Faber, estimating that there were some 6,500 beggars in the city, concluded: “Perhaps if we [Jesuits] had a flair for business … and we had not such a [spiritual] harvest to be reaped … we could concern ourselves more with this problem.”
Faber’s vision of the positive role of business is remarkable. He wrote two centuries before Adam Smith lifted a pen, during an era when the Catholic church generally looked askance at business. Yet in a few short phrases, Faber crystallizes a profound and profoundly challenging philosophy of business.
First, business, when done well, plays an unparalleled role in enabling individuals to support themselves and their families with dignity. Faber’s reaction upon seeing so many beggars? Not “We need a soup kitchen” but “We need businesses.” Of course, charity is also essential: Jesus told us we’re going to hell if we don’t cloth the naked and feed the hungry. But Faber also perceives the unique role of business in creating positive, systemic, long-term societal change.
Second, Faber recognizes that great business people have a “flair.” The imagination to identify unmet needs, the willingness to try something new and bear the risk of failure, the scrupulous attention to detailed execution, the ability to inspire team members, and a hundred other things all mark the flair of good business people. These are talents, gifts from God, and ought to be recognized as such. It is not a sin to succeed in business by employing these talents fully.
But Faber implicitly challenges businesspeople that their talents are only being used well when they maintain a proper perspective on life. Business and money-making are not the highest ends: “If there were not such a harvest of souls to reaped,” Faber writes. Our destiny lies beyond this world, and we’re here for purposes beyond what we can sell, trade, build, buy, flaunt or own during this short earthly sojourn. That includes, if we are businesspeople, remaining aware that our every business decision impacts, for better or ill, the lives of employees, customers, shareholders and communities.
Faber’s vision of business is an ennobling, inspiring one. Entrepreneurs with a Faber-style flair for business don’t think only of “enhancing shareholder value” and making themselves hog-whimperingly rich; they hop out of bed each morning feeling blessed to help fellow citizens use their talents, support their families in a highly dignified way, and alleviate poverty in their communities.” – Chris Lowney
Father, Lord of heaven and earth, you revealed yourself to Peter Faber, your humble servant, in prayer and in the service of his neighbor. Grant that we may find you and love you in everything and in every person. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
by Joseph N. Tylenda, SJ / Jesuit Saints and Martyrs, 2nd Edition © 1998 Loyola Press