By Genevieve Pollock
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, SEPT. 8, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In a 40-year attack on family, John Paul II has had a unique role in arming the Church with the power of truth, especially through his theology of the body.
Brian Gail spoke with ZENIT about the importance of the Pope’s teaching for people today struggling to be holy despite the negative influences around them. He addressed in particular the conflict that people feel in reconciling “the American dream” with the universal call to holiness.
In fact, Gail’s first novel, “Fatherless,” which recently hit the Catholic bestseller list, deals with these everyday battles men are confronted with such as holiness in the workplace.
In his trilogy, Gail incorporates his experience as a husband, father and grandfather, a former semi-pro athlete, and a retired CEO and entrepreneur. Currently, he writes, educates, and gives talks worldwide.
The second book of his trilogy, “Motherless,” is due to be released in a few weeks (by Human Life International). The third book, “Childless,” is currently being written.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Tuesday.
ZENIT: You’re coming from the world of business, and from what I understand, you’ve been a successful businessman. How does the theology of the body, as you’ve understood it, relate to the business world?
Gail: It is about subject and object. John Paul II’s paradigm works for power, profit, and pleasure.
He said that it is no less ruinous to the man himself to objectify another man or woman for profit, or power, than it is to for him to objectify his own wife for pleasure.
The God who made each of us in his own image and likeness as a subject does not wish another of his creatures to regard the other as an object.
In the wife’s case, the woman’s case, she is a co-heir, she is co-equal. She is not an object.
What the theology of the body does is become a catalyst in the soul of a man to have to address that fundamental truth.
Do I love completely, authentically, unreservedly, unconditionally, my wife, in her totality, in her authenticity?
And as a businessman called to live the same Gospel, do I treat my employees, labor (if I represent capital and they represent labor) do I treat them as objects or as subjects? Are they just mere mechanisms for my profit? Interchangeable? Faceless? Anonymous, without rights? Or do I have an accountability to recognize each and every one of them as a subject too?
Before I got my first position as a CEO, I went to my confessor and spiritual adviser and I said, “Father, how do I be a good CEO?”
He said, “Get to know your people.”
I said, “Father, I will get to know my people.” We had hundreds of employees, but I said: “I will get to know my people, believe me, I will do that. But how do I get to be a good Catholic CEO?”
He said, “Brian, get to know your people.” He would not say anything more than that. He would not add anything more because he wanted to full import of this statement to find its life in me.
And I’ll never forget the reaction I got when I decided to leave and take another job as a CEO — the outpouring of affection — and it came back to me: “You demonstrated that you knew us and we were important to you.”
I remembered what he said. He was not talking about the theology of the body. He was not talking about object and subject. And yet he was.
He was saying, get to know them, they’re subjects too — not subjects as in the right of kings — but rather, they are each a “you.” And I knew that they were, because I used to be where they were.
I realized that I had an accountability to them and their families in doing my job and exercising my fiduciary responsibilities. That’s a way a businessman is able to live the heart and soul and spirit of the theology of the body.
ZENIT: Do you see any sort of a conflict in the way a man might be drawn to give himself to his career, his work, and the way he is drawn to give himself to his family?
Gail: Sure. The great drama in our time, in my generation — I am in the first class boomer generation, ’46 — has been the reconciliation between the American dream and the universal call to holiness, which is self-mastery.
There have been many times that I erred on the side of pursuit of the American dream, many times when I pursued with a single-minded fury, determination and passion my success in the business world, perhaps to the neglect of my wife and family.
It is really, in our time, preternaturally difficult to reconcile the two, and even more so because the Clarion trumpet call of the Church’s raison d’être, which is the call to universal holiness, has grown fainter and fainter.
Thus all the businessman and husband who is out in the workplace hears is the drumbeat of the market. It is not offset by what he hears for seven to eleven minutes on Sunday.
ZENIT: Is there anything particular about the theology of the body that inspired you in writing your books, or that you brought into the novels?
Gail: I think the theology of the body is the quintessential solution for man’s most fundamental problem.
My read of it, and the rest of what John Paul II said — how the theology of the body works into his overall outlook — is that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God; every human person is therefore “sovereign” and has the right to pursue truth in any way he chooses.
Therefore, no man, no government — local, national, international — may impede that person’s progress, because he is created in the image and likeness of God. He has the right to pursue truth, goodness and beauty in any way that he chooses.
If he persists and does not stop along the way, he will ultimately seek and find the One whom he searches for, a Person, and he will cross in the process the threshold of hope, realize his ultimate goal and fulfill it.
He will encounter truth, but in the form of love, and recognize that truth is a primordial gift, from Love himself.
At that moment, like the rich young man in the parable, he has an accountability. He must either choose to conform his life to that truth, even to the shedding of blood, or to walk away sad because he had many possessions.
If he chooses to conform his life to it, he must then begin the lifelong work of self-mastery, because it is only the person who has mastered self who has something to donate.
And in understanding the acting person and the gift of self to others, this human person comes to the greatest of his needs, which is this authentic sense of self, of identity: the who, what and why, the metaphysics of his existence, so to speak.
In that he finds his peace, and in him finding his peace he is able to share that peace with others. That is how there is peace on earth and the kingdom of God is ushered in.
The fundamental issue today is that the human person has forgotten, or he no longer understands, his core identity. We’re in the midst of an identity crisis.
And the core issue of the core issues is that we’ve lost a sense of who God is.
Without understanding who God is, and who we are as a consequence of that — and I mean consequence — we are trapped in this sense of self, the mind of self, and we cannot get out. We are in a bubble and we don’t know how to solve the problems we are creating for ourselves. That is why we are teetering out of control and heading toward a bottomless black abyss.
ZENIT: What in your opinion is going to be the thing that brings us back?
Gail: I would say there will have to be — I’m going to use this word in the broadest possible terms — an intervention of some sort.
It could be something that we do to ourselves. On Sept. 12-13, 2001, [the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks], you could not get into a Church. I was downtown Philadelphia working in business, and the best I could do
with my schedule was arrive right on time for the 12:05 midday Mass. It was so crowded that I could not get on the steps, let alone get inside.
But eight days later, I could get to the front of the Church. So maybe it is something that we do to ourselves.
Maybe it is something that is done to us, meaning the strike of some celestial body, a comet or meteor, whatever those things are that people are always worried about and Hollywood fictionalizes — some event that gets our attention and makes us realize that we are all one brotherhood.
Or maybe in this age of Divine Mercy, we will receive the penultimate mercy, and collectively, somehow mystically, we will get a full sense of who we are before God and how we would appear at the moment of our judgment.
Nothing less than that, in my opinion, will turn this around.
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