Striving for Holiness at Work – Part XXX

A look at examples of lived faith in entertainers, musicians, lawyers, and businessmen

Topics

Faith

How does it look when men and women strive for holiness at work? Let’s take examples from various occupations:

Entertainers/TV-Film Personalities

Among prominent Catholic entertainers is convert Alec Guinness (1914-2000). (See Guinness’s first of three autobiographies, Blessings in Disguise, from 1986.) See also his portrayal as G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown in the English movie by the same name (1954); in the U.S., its title was The Detective. Perry Como (1912-2001) and Danny Thomas (1912-1991), founder of St. Jude [Thaddeus] Children’s Research Hospital, like Guinness had long marriages and children.

Consider Dolores DeFina Hope (1909-2011), wife of Bob Hope, who had four adopted children, and Jane Wyatt (1910-2006), who portrayed the wife and mother in the 1950’s Father Knows Best. Her parents were converts. Her husband converted to the Faith during their 64-year marriage.

Convert John Farrow (1904-1963) wrote short stories, novels, biographies (including one of St. Damien of Molokai), 28 screenplays, and directed 46 films. For his work in Around the World in Eighty Days and Wake Island, he was nominated for Academy Awards. After his conversion, his first marriage was annulled. He and his second wife, Maureen O’Sullivan, had seven children.

Comedian Tim Conway (1933-2019) was a convert. He was interviewed by Raymond Arroyo on The World Over Live on January 9, 2013, if you want to look it up. Jerry Colbert (1942-2017), producer of “National Memorial Day Concert” and “A Capitol Fourth,” both held on the National Mall, was also interviewed by Arroyo on World Over Live, on May 23, 2019.

Mary Claire Kendall’s 2015 book Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends includes John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Alfred Hitchcock, Jane Wyman, Patricia Neal, and Ann Southern.

Musicians/Composers

In 1996, Patrick Kavanaugh explored the spiritual lives of 20 musicians, including 11 Catholics, in Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers. Among them are Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827), Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), Charles Gounod (1818-1893), and Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904). Do you think any of these and the Catholic Palestrina (c. 1525-1594) and Hadyn’s brother Johann Michael (1737-1806) were holy?

In case you were wondering about John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), he had a Catholic father, but his Protestant mother raised him Protestant. He was “a man of incredibly high moral standards,” according to Paul E. Bierley.

Lawyers

This is a tough one, eh? (That’s a lawyer joke.) Edward Bennett Williams (1920-1988), a D.C. trial attorney, was a daily communicant. Bishop Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington (Virginia) gave ecclesiastical approval to a litany I composed entitled “Litany for Lawyers and Government Officials,” which can provide inspiration for identifying holiness in lawyers. It was published online by the Spero Forum, March 26, 2016. I also recommend a book by the late and highly regarded professor of law and legal ethics at the University of Notre Dame, Thomas L. Shaffer, On Being a Christian and Lawyer (1981).

Public Servants

Robert Schuman (1886-1963) of France was declared a Servant of God in 2006. Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi (1881-1954) is also a Servant of God (for both, see Wieslaw Bar, “Sainthood vs. Nationhood: The Beatification Causes of Schuman and De Gasperi,” in Piotr H. Kosicki, ed., Christian Democracy Across the Iron Curtain, from 2017).

Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009) and her husband R. Sargent Shriver (1915-2011) were both daily communicants (see Eileen McNamara, Eunice, 2018). They married in 1953 and their marriage lasted 56 years until her death. They had five children. She showed great care for her sister Rosemary, who had intellectual disabilities, and she founded Special Olympics. Sargent Shriver served in the Navy during World War II, was Director of the Peace Corps, Director of the Office of Economy Opportunity, ambassador to France, Democratic candidate for Vice President, creator of the federal programs known as VISTA, Head Start, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents, and more.

Napoleon’s grand-nephew, Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851-1921) was Notre Dame’s 1903 Laetare Medalist. Starting legal practice in 1874, he provided pro bono services to African Americans. President Teddy Roosevelt appointed him to the Board of Indian Commissioners, and as Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Attorney General. As Attorney General, he argued 50 cases before the Supreme Court and founded the FBI. He was married but had no children. (See Edward R. Ricciuti, “The Bonaparte Who Chased Crooks and Crusaded for Civil Rights,” Notre Dame Magazine, Spring 2019.)

Catholic Ralph Delaney (1933-1990) was engaged in social service. His detailed biography can be found in The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

In Business

Philanthropists from the business world are considered in a separate section. But for business itself, I think we should consider the story of Lincoln Electric, even though the company’s policy was adopted by non-Catholic principals. By this long-held policy, employees are guaranteed employment. When sales plummet, instead of employees being let go, everyone’s compensation is reduced (see John Greenberg, “Battered Company Says ‘No’ To Job Cuts,” NPR Morning Edition, Nov. 5, 2009). I imagine some readers could add to this section using examples from their own families and acquaintances.

 

***Editor’s Note: For Part XXIX in this series, click here

 

James Thunder is a Washington, D.C., lawyer and author, with degrees from the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia, and Georgetown. He is former general counsel of Americans United for Life, and past grand knight in the Knights of Columbus.

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