I had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa twice in my life. One of these times was in 1995, when I gave a talk at the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta. My host, who was Hindu, knew I was Catholic and arranged the meeting. Mother Teresa asked us questions about our lives and our work. She also talked about her work and, in particular, her desire to open a house in China. She was asked once, “Why China?” and she responded, “My great desire is to meet anybody who has nobody.” Oh if we could live this way just a bit.
Month: September 2019
When I sixteen years of age I was walking out of the house one Saturday evening, my father—who is from Ireland—said to me in his Irish brogue, “Michael, you be a good boy now.” “Sure dad,” I replied, quickly adding that word favored by teenagers everywhere, “whatever.” So he then went on to add a back-up plan: “But if you can’t be good, be careful.” With some hesitation, I thought, “I can do that.”
The importance of the Sabbath and my need for Sunday became clear to me in 1999. Ironically, it was the year I received my first sabbatical (a word with the same root as Sabbath, which means “to rest”) at the University of St. Thomas. My sabbatical was anything but an experience of rest: gutting the upstairs of our dilapidated house, running a major international conference in India, finishing a book. Although my routine changed that year, my habits of overworking were much the same. But this was soon to change.
So deeply ingrained in our current culture is the obsession with entertainment that we have begun to think that it is natural to human life. We have begun to think that things have always been this way, but the amount of time and energy that we spend on entertainment is in fact unique to modern societies. We love to be amused. Increasingly, we view our non-work time in terms of entertainment. The consequences of this mindset are evident among average salaries. Many of the highest paid people in our culture are entertainers. There are, of course, lots of starving actors, musicians, and athletes, but the American entertainment industry is a huge part of the economy and one of our largest exporters.
I grew up in the 1960s and 70s on the South Side of Chicago in a blue-collar neighborhood. One of the more dramatic moments of my teenage life occurred one Saturday night when four other teenagers from a local Catholic high school jumped me. The beating took place in front of the church our family attended.