Written by Sherry
Wednesday, 14 November 2007 06:40
One of the things that has long fascinated me is the astonishing creativity released in people's lives when 1) they open themselves to God's grace and 2) they begin to recognize and exercise the charisms they have been given for the sake of others.
The saints have always manifested a remarkable level of creativity. For instance, St. Vincent de Paul started what is now known as the International Association of Charity (AIC). Begun in 1617, AIC is the oldest lay association of women volunteers in the world.
St. Vincent encouraged the spread of the "Charities" not only in France, but gradually, also in Italy and Poland thus creating an international association. In a desire for unity in this new foundation, St. Vincent drafted common rules, to find the best possible ways to help the destitute, based on the imitation of Jesus Christ, on evangelical love that goes beyond borders, and on organization and creativity.
As Dorothy Sayers (quoting A.D. Lindsey)observed "The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfill the plain duties that ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all . . .'Gracious' conduct is somehow like the work of an artist. It need imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new."
We might even call them "apostolic entrepreneurs".
What is an entrepreneur? The classic business entrepreneur is someone who creates value by offering a product or service in order to obtain certain profit.
A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms of the impact they have on society.
For instance, Mary Cunningham Agee is the founder of the wonderful Nurturing Network, through which 48,000 volunteers have assisted 19,000 women in crisis pregnancies to find alternatives to abortion. Cunningham describes herself as a social entrepreneur.
What about the possibility of "apostolic entrepreneurs"? Men and women called by Christ to take risks and create new alternatives for the sake of the Kingdom of God: in the inner life of the Church, in relationships, in the arts, in institution-building, in the family, in the academic world, the sciences, social services, business, or government.
As lay apostles called to apply the Gospel to the challenges and needs of our time, creativity and entrepreneurial vision and skills are especially critical. I'm hoping to blog some more on this topic as time permits this week.