Program #0145 for Wednesday, September 28, 2011: The Pope & the CEO, Lessons in Leadership

September 28, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Andreas Widmer, CEO of the Seven Fund and author of “The Pope and the CEO”

Today’s topics: The new book “The Pope & The CEO: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard”

Summary of today’s show: Andreas Widmer returns to talk with Scot and Fr. Matt about his new book, “The Pope & The CEO: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard,” and its goal of helping people find their three levels of vocation in life and live them with success in a truly integrated way. The book offers practical exercises for discernment as well as anecdotes from John Paul’s life that act as a guide to living a life balanced among work, play, prayer, exercise, and all that is good.

1st segment: Scot said Fr. Matt has been participating in a pre-cana workshop and class, including leading the couples in a teaching Mass. Fr. Matt said the program is called Transformed in Love and was created by Kari Colella of the Marriage Office. Last night, there were about 25 couples and they broke open to the Mass to help them appreciate what goes on. The Mass has so many signs and symbols that many people don’t know exactly what is going on. He gave the why behind the what. Everything we do in the Mass comes from Scripture and from the Tradition of the Church. So, what’s the significance of incense and stained glass and other parts of the Mass.

He gave an analogy of going to the Patriots game. People show 3 hours early and they get filled with the “spirits” in preparation. If you go to Mass 15 minutes early, you’re guaranteed to get a parking spot and you prepare by getting filed with the Spirit. At the football game, you smell hot dogs and other food. At the Mass, you smell incense. In the stadium, you have retired jerseys of great players of the past. In the Mass, you see pictures and statues of the saints. At Gillette Stadium you see the Lombardi trophies. At Mass, you see the ultimate trophy of the Cross of Jesus Christ. The 50-yard line is the central focus of the stadium and the altar is the central focus of the Church. In football, the fans are the 12th player and actively participating without playing the game. In the Mass, the congregation joins in united with the priest in active participation of the prayer of the Mass. And so on.

Scot said the difference is that no one says going to the football game is boring because they understand what’s happening, while people say Mass is boring partly because they don’t know why we do what we do.

2nd segment: Scot welcomed Andreas back to the show. He said Andreas is a two-time CEO, first for a consulting company and now as CEO of the Seven Fund, which seeks to find entrepreneurial solutions to poverty. Andreas said he credits his return to seriously practicing his faith to Pope John Paul II when he was a 20-year-old Swiss Guard. It came about through meeting him as an individual. Andreas said John Paul was the most fully human person he’d ever met in his life. Often people think that Popes or saints are something unachievable. In fact, he was a real down-to-earth human person. He could be joyful, angry, laughing, pensive and he could pray. John Paul had a very manly handshake.

Scot said Andreas didn’t realize all the lessons of John Paul when he was 20, but only came to realize them as he reflected on them through his life. Andreas said he found his faith as a Swiss Guard, but faith is something that never is, but is always becoming. It’s a dynamic process of two steps forward and one step back. As a Swiss Guard he had a lot of time to pray, and then when he went into business and got married, his faith waned a bit and became a sort of Sunday Catholic. His business ethics were separate from his Catholic beliefs. Andreas said if you go through life without being integrated, without being the same person in every situation, it becomes very complicated and it’s a downward spiral.

Andreas said he’s lived a blessed life with a lot of privilege. He grew up in a wonderful family in Switzerland and then became a Swiss Guard, came to the United States, went to school here, and was part of so many great companies. When John Paul died, he was on a business trip to London. He changed his flight and flew to Rome. The next day, he saw John Paul’s body in the papal palace with special access to the hall as a former Swiss Guard. As he stood there and prayed for him, Andreas asked the Lord “who am I that I have such privilege.” He sensed the Lord telling him, “Yes, you have this privilege. Now what are you going to do with it?” The Lord gives a gift and then asks what we’re going to do with it. So he decided to witness to it.

Scot said before writing the book, Andreas has given many speeches on the topic. Andreas said many of the talks were among friends and friendly audiences and people always asked him if he had the talk in writing. He’d always pushed writing away, but after John Paul died he resolved to proclaim it to a wide audience.

Fr. Matt asked what contributes to the compartmentalization of faith? Andreas said it’s easy to say, “It’s just business.” And the lessons of Scripture can be hard for most people to apply them today. This is why Pope John Paul canonized and beatified so many people, to give us examples. Can you be a Christian and run a profitable company? Most of the world says No. But living according to God’s law and truth naturally results in fruitfulness and profit in some form.

Scot said he spent some time after graduating from Harvard writing case studies and one of them was about Harvard Business School itself. In an interview with Ken Case, he asked him how he could balance being Dean of the Business School with being a father and husband. He said it’s much easier if you say you have lines that you draw, that you make particularly important aspects of life top priority. If you’re clear on that, people respect you as a person with principles and values in life.

Andreas said in our culture there is a latent dualism, which comes from the distinction between physical and spiritual. There shouldn’t be a distinction because we are enfleshed spirits. We are as much a body as a spirit. Likewise, there is a dualism about business and charity or that everything is a zero-sum game in which you have to lose in order for me to win. But business can be a win-win situation.

3rd segment: Scot said Andreas’ book has been endorsed by Cardinal Peter Turkson and Cardinal Raymond Burke and the foreword has been written by George Weigel. He asked Andreas how a Catholic businessman should understand their three levels of vocation.

Andreas said the three levels include the universal vocation of every person to glorify God, do his will, and go to heaven; to become saints. The primary vocation is the rough framework in which you pursue this, such as priesthood, marriage, religious life, the single life, and so on. The there’s the secondary vocation, which is what the first half of the book is about, to help you find your secondary vocation. In order to be happy, you must pursue all of these vocations. A hammer can be a doorstop, but it’s never going to be what it was made to be.

God has created each person to be unique among all other people ever created with opportunities, challenges, skills and talents. Then God asks that person what he will do for God in response. Andreas said the book offers exercises in the book and on his website that will help you both find or fine-tune your vocation. Once you find that out on those three levels, it gives you priorities in your life. One of the difficulties of life is that we are bombarded with other people’s priorities, which distracts you from living out your vocation and doing what you were meant to do.

Andreas said we are made for holiness, but we are called to do this in our own unique fashion. This comes to you through prayer and by reviewing your life. He guides you through how God is talking to you, sometimes through reading Scripture. In the book there is a whole section on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius that helps fine tune.

He clarifies that God is not an authoritarian dictator. He’s like the coach who chose you for the team because he knows you have all the talents and skills to perform. But he then trains you through difficult practices.

Fr. Matt said he borrowed from Andreas’ book in his homily last night in telling the couples that they are each a unique unrepeatable gift and their fiancés are the most profound way that God was telling them that He loves them.He encouraged them to see in their vocation to marriage that they have a unique unrepeatable project in that other person in their marriage to journey together. We are meant to make a gift of ourselves to our spouse. Our primary vocation is our path to sainthood. If we want to be as happy as we have been designed to be it will be through your spouse.

Andreas in the book proposes some provocative questions, and sometimes the pace of life is such that we don’t reflect on those important questions. Andreas said one of the sections encourages writing down an articulated plan for life. Pope John Paul, at every one of his birthdays, he went through his last will and testament by meditating on it. It was a spiritual testament about himself, how he wanted to affect the world, and what he wanted to leave behind. Andreas often says to start by exploring your strengths. For many people it’s easier to love their neighbor than themselves and the exercises of the book help you to discover yourself through Truth. Truth doesn’t lie to you. A lie is whatever doesn’t lead you to heaven. By writing all these things down, he hopes the book will be a small contribution to finding that Truth that leads to heaven.

Scot said when people examine themselves, they think the list of flaws would outnumber their strengths. But for everyone listening to the show, the gifts and blessings section would be so much longer than the list of flaws. Fr. Matt said Aristotle said the unexamined life is not worth living.

Andreas said people are sometimes wary of finding that truth. Many people’s first experience of authority is through flawed parents. But we need to get rid of the shackles of such memory in order to discover the love of God. We have to tease out which of our images of God comes from the examples of our earthly leaders. We sometimes think of God like we remember our parents making us do things we didn’t want to do. But God made us for bliss and happiness by living in his truth.

4th segment: It’s time to announce the winner of the weekly WQOM Benefactor Raffle.

Our prize this week is the “Let’s Talk” series of books for teens by Ken Ogorek and “Once Upon a Time – Rosary Activity Set” for children by Holy Cross Family Ministries.

This week’s winner is Kelly McCormack. Congratulations, Kelly!

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

5th segment: Scot said Andreas modeled all these lessons on the life and leadership of John Paul II. The second half of the book could be titled, being a servant-leader, especially in business. Andreas said he covers servant-leadership because when you find your vocation, you become a leader. You lead other people to God and living their lives to the fullest. When you know your goals, you become a leader by fully living who you’re meant to be.

Being a servant-leader has a lot to do with living a balanced life. You can’t give if you haven’t received. You can’t work if you haven’t relaxed. A key aspect is moderation in all things. Andreas said John Paul lived a balance life, like when he would sneak out to go skiing in the mountains in order to relax from work. John Paul would plan his entire day to include work, prayer, exercise, sleep, and pleasure.

For example, John Paul loved the circus and heard that a Russian circus was in Rome. He asked them to come to a Wednesday general audience, which was politically problematic because relations with the USSR were poor. He embraced the performers and enjoyed it so much and relations with the USSR were never the same after that. It was his joy and desire for a balanced life that led to this outcome.

One day, he received an invitation as a friendly gesture from his primary school class to a class reunion. They received a letter back from him personally, saying he was sorry he couldn’t come, so he invited them to have their reunion in his dining room. Some would say it’s not important, but it’s important to plan your personal life and entertainment with as much earnestness and diligence with goals as with your public life and prayer life.

Andreas challenged people to take the time to reach out to God, even if you’re angry with God. Make contact with him. That’s the first step. Then examine your vocation and within your vocation, your priorities, goals, and achievements. John Paul famously said when you work, you shouldn’t just make more, you should become more. How does your work help you become more?

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