Experts challenge leaders to see big picture, pursue the good for God’s creation

| Bridget Ryder for The Catholic Spirit | November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Is it better to be good or to be cautious?

Michael Naughton, director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, addressed the question in his talk at the Faith, Food and the Environment Symposium Nov. 5 at the university.

The symposium, which focused on the vocation of the agricultural leader, was put on by the National Catholic Rural Life Network and sponsored by a half a dozen organizations. Naughton’s talk set the framework for the symposium’s theme — how farmers and others in the agricultural sector can lead humanity in the challenge of feeding the world while confronting climate change and economic injustice in a global economy.

“If you can’t be good, at least be careful,” Naughton said his father warned him as a teenager heading out the door of their south Chicago home one evening.

When his father had to pick him up from the police station later that night, Naughton received different advice, “Michael, I think you better just be good.”

“We live in a culture that prefers being cautious to being good,” Naughton explained.

He pointed to designated drivers, safe sex, and a loss of the love for learning as examples of caution overshadowing the good.

“But if we are only careful and cautious, it can distract us from the question of the good,” he said.

Pursuing the good within their particular field is the vocation of both the business leader and the agricultural leader. Naughton said business and agricultural leaders must discover the good they can do by creating services and products for consumers, offering a work environment that develops the gifts of their employees, and building sustainable, justly distributed wealth. He called these “good goods, good work and good wealth.”

He challenged leaders to “see things whole, not just in parts,” to think of things “in relation to one another,” and to see people not just as “neighbors” but as the image of God.

Following Naughton’s talk, Christopher Thompson, dean of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, gave the keynote “The Person in the Human Ecology,” addressing the challenges of developing a human ecology in a society with a “cultural blindness” to nature.

In light of the importance of agriculture and its relation to everything from food security to immigration to natural resources, “the nature deficit contributes to a moral and human deficit that we cannot allow to continue,” he said.

Thompson pointed out that for the last century, the Church has been involved in agriculture and the environment through organizations such as the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, but these areas are neglected in Catholic education.

Solving the problems of agriculture and ecology requires an approach that involves the practical, technological and spiritual. In addition to respecting the order of creation in using technology, fasting and tithing “are ancient spiritual practices that would allow us to place our concerns for the earth against the horizon of heaven,” he said.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Local News