Photo by Brodie Vissers (2017) via Stocksnap.io, CC0
The rise of the entrepreneur in our times is undeniable. Numbers don’t lie. Even a surface reading of news, trends, stats and articles reveal that entrepreneurship is booming. Enrtrepreneur.com calls it the “transformational megatrend of the 21st century given its capacity to reshape economies and industries throughout the world.” Even in such hard-hit places as the Middle East and North Africa, personal enterprise is emerging as a viable solution to economic stability for those families who have suffered under social unrest. Interestingly, it seems to be that when times are tough, we get more creative.
I know this to be true in my own family life. Coming from several generations of entrepreneurs on both sides of the family, when the going gets tough, my inclination is to think up a new project or dig my heals into a pathway that allows me the freedom to create my own way.With varying degrees of success, I am committed to teaching my kids the principles of entrepreneurship — not only for an economic reason, but because I believe that the Church and my children’s character need such lessons in innovation, personal growth and hard work.
It is strange to me that the Church is often perceived as favoring a type of economic socialism. This is certainly the economic trend of many in the world, but can they truly say this is the preferred economic model of the Church? The short answer to that question is “No.” The Church has always supported the innovator and in that spirit, She has became the great builder of western civilization.
We look to Our Lord to see the foundations for this spirit. Christ himself calls us to be creative in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-28. And since the beginning of the Christianity and growth of the Church, we see that innovation was central to the expansion of the Gospel. We started small. The 12 apostles took Christ seriously and got busy finding pathways forward, trudging away at sharing the Gospel and organizing the enterprise of early faith communities. From there we had the rise of a totally new model in monasticism, the vibrancy of the innovation amid the so-called Dark Ages: art, architecture, financial bookkeeping methods, scholasticism, medicine, science, etc., — you name it, the Church had a hand to play in breaking the molds of the time through the holiness and audacity of individuals open to swimming upstream.
Sadly, we have become bogged down in bureaucracy, legality, political correctness and the poison of worldly philosophies which have tainted the minds of many of the faithful. Dioceses are drowning in litigation and priests are hampered by administrative duties. Confusion is rampant at every level regarding liturgical, doctrinal and moral issues. So we’ve become a laity afraid of innovation and success. We have fallen for the modern falsehood of Marx that we are economically determined, rather than determined by God’s unique purpose for every soul. It is a purpose oriented only to great things and a purpose which requires an heroic faith that believes “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
The extremes we see today are the faithful who hold prominent professional jobs as doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers, etc. who then have excess money to give to the Church. This is a laudable approach to caring for the family and serving the mission of the Church. The other extreme is where many of the JPII generation and millennials find themselves. They believe in the call to serve the Church and in their pursuit of that call, pursue a theology degree and accrue an enormous debt. With that degree many became youth ministers or DRE’s, struggling to make ends meet. A smaller group assumed even more debt to obtained graduate and doctorate degrees and became professors. In most of these cases, these college graduates have ended up settling for jobs completely unrelated to their passion for ministry, but pay more of a living wage. Constantly struggling to provide for the material necessities of life and pay off their student loans, they feel they have to abandon their dreams for ministry or outreach. They live frustrated, not knowing a viable financial path to allow them to pursue their passions and callings in ministry, teaching and evangelization. Compounding that frustration are the seemingly endless consortia of naysayers who think only with a conventional, industrial “paycheck” mindset when it comes to “jobs.” “Being prudent” becomes an escape from taking necessary risks that require faith and trust in order to pursue one’s God-inspired dream.
What these Catholics are really yearning and waiting for are creative Catholics who see the inevitable stagnation and creative sterility of the industrial age mindset and offer an opportunity for innovation and optimization with a positive “can-do” attitude. They think to themselves:
“Can we not pool our talent, formation, business prowess, financial resources and break forth into an era of unparalleled Catholic entrepreneurship?”
The answer is yes, the time is right, and the time is now. This is the age of what my husband and I have coined as the “Catholicpreneur.” The New Evangelization has been heralded, but not yet fully implemented. It’s time to create something new! It’s time for the entrepreneurial spirit that is catching wind in the economic sphere to be embraced and Christened in the hearts and minds of the Catholic faithful. It’s now the time to unlock and invite the faithful to be equipped and ready to take on the next wave of struggle headed our way.
Examples of a new way of approaching evangelization are all around us. Fr. Nathan Cromly, CSJ, and the the St. John Institute; Real Life Catholic; The Cor Project; Dynamic Catholic; John Lillis & Lifeboat Coffee; Rebecca Dussault of Fit Catholic Mom; Marriage Missionaries out of Denver; The Alexander House and our own Heroic Families are some of the ministries that are employing entrepreneurial approaches. I particularly admire the creative efforts of Zelie and Co., Lumi Box, and the Catholic Balm Co. and even other homegrown Etsy and blog-based initiatives. New online institutes and individuals are creating, crafting, writing, singing and dancing with the intention of being successful in their field — for the sake of their families and for the Kingdom. And then you have the revitalization of monasteries who are booming with cottage industry. Coffee, beer, icons, candles, etc., are pouring out into the world not just for the sake of survival, but also with a deliberate attempt to infiltrate and influence a secular culture by an authentic encounter with the Church’s ingenuity in expressing truth, goodness and beauty.
Many of you moms are involved, as I have been, in the waves of network marketing businesses sweeping the mom world because of the potential economic and time freedom they offer us — and let’s be honest, we naturally thrive in relationship-based enterprises! So, just imagine if we can harness some of that skill-set, drive, commitment, Pinterest ability and webinar skill, and start referring our friends and families to the latest champions of the Gospel, the latest Catholic culture creations and the latest ministries that are healing the broken.
Why not champion the Catholic homesteading movement to regain self-reliance and dig up again the art of living on the land? Why not innovate products, books, new learning systems, health care models, etc.? Why isn’t the Church encouraging the small business owner and the entrepreneur? Pope Francis seems like a lone voice when he says to young people and families: “Woe to you people who do not know how to dream, who do not dare to dream!” Let’s educate our kids for innovation, not just the conveyer-belt “job” pre-selected for us.
It’s not easy to think outside the box, to challenge the status quo, to be willing to fail repeatedly in pursuit of one’s dream, but to me, the path forward is clear and the fruitfulness of the New Evangelization rides on this. What is our faith without the works that prove it? What is a life of security, without significance? How will that transform the world and lead it back to Christ in a meaningful and heroic way?
This is my contribution . . . I want to be a voice uniting our efforts, helping to inspire and launching families into the discovery of their “Family Why” — their purpose and the unique enterprise they can bring to the Church. I want to help heal the wounds that hold back our families from stepping out into the deep or upward to ascend the heights. The foundations of the priesthood and religious life, diocesan and parish life, need us lay people (married, single and children) to rise up and begin building the new paradigms by which the Church will once again thrive and transform and elevate the secular environment we are in. It’s time to break the industrial-age mold and inspire the era of the Catholicpreneur.
Copyright 2017 Chantal Howard