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When I started a ministry to business people in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in 2002, I did so by interviewing 15 men and women in the corporate community. Some of these were CEO’s. I asked each two personal questions; the first has three parts.

What are your basic faith values? How are you able to live them in your work situation? What are the challenges to living them?

What are the primary ethical issues you face in your occupation? In your industry?

The people I interviewed were very open to these questions and shared freely with me. You will find some of their stories in my book, “Beatitudes for the Workplace.”

That was 15 years ago.

The world we live in now is quite different than it was then, on both sides of the U.S.- Canada border, but especially in the United States with our new president.

Where once there was healthy dialogue between persons of differing views, political and otherwise, there is now a warlike approach to public debate. Where once fairness and compassion for the most vulnerable in society – immigrants, refugees, people of color, the economically poor – were taken for granted, now fear of the other has taken their place. Where reason ruled, most of the time, now ideology reigns.

And this leads me to ask new questions:

What kind of a person am I?
What are my core values?
Where is the “line in the sand” over which I will not cross, that would betray who I am?
What kind of person do I want to be?
And, how do I wish to be remembered?

We live in a time when we need to pay close attention to these kinds of questions and not, as a friend of mine shared with me – just go along with the crowd or refuse to get involved out of fear or apathy.

Presidential decisions that do promote the dignity of the human person and the common good need to be recognized and affirmed. Those that do not, need to be challenged.

I remember when, many years ago, those in power would label men and women who worked for justice, “communists,” in order to side-track them from following the path of truth. Now, one is accused of spreading “fake news” or “not being loyal” to sow doubt and confusion. We must guard against being misled.

Jesus encouraged his followers (including us) not to be intimidated by the negative tactics of those who oppose Gospel values, but to be single-hearted in living them and courageous in speaking out in defense of them.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…
your light must shine before men and women so that they may see
goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father.”
(Matthew 5:14 & 16)

In light of recent events and presidential executive orders in Washington, the following prayer from the great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, seems most appropriate:

“This is my prayer to thee, my Lord –
strike, strike, at the root of penury
in my heart.
Give me the strength lightly to bear my
joys and sorrows.
Give me the strength to make my love
fruitful in service.
Give me the strength never to disown
the poor or bend my knees before insolent
Give me the strength to raise my mind
high above daily trifles.
And give me the strength to surrender
my strength to thy will with love.”
(“Gitanjali” – XXXVI)

Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.

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