Reformation and Transformation

Grace and Peace and Joy on the Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, your brother and mine. This brother (Robert Wotypka) is beginning the last full day of the twice-yearly Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility members meeting ( The day that Francis ended his earthly journey calls to mind first things, specifically, the beginning of Francis’ apostolic life. And there’s a term from commerce (also widely used in fundraising circles) that leaps to mind when contemplating first things Franciscan: “the ask.”

When introducing a proposal, or a campaign, or seeking collaborators and partners, we discern, “What is ‘the ask’?” What are we proposing, what is the need that has been identified, what are we asking people to respond to, and how? In the Church the ask is often a call to respond with time, talent, or treasure, and it typically comes from pastoral leaders. In our Franciscan heritage the ask made to Francis came from God, in the voice emanating from the San Damiano cross: “Francis, rebuild my church which, as you can see, is falling into ruin.” The whole movement springs from this ask and from the creative, radical, life-giving way Francis responded, and the fact that his unique response inspired others to join him and begin the work of reformation and transformation.

The faith-based shareholder activist movement aligns well with the revelation Francis received: that things are not as they should be, and that God is calling someone (everyone) to transform their times and work against structures and values that are holding back the Reign of God. The asks of the faith-based shareholder activism movement call companies to make resolutions including (but not limited to): setting science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are driving catastrophic climate change; auditing their operations and their suppliers to insure that no company enterprises directly or indirectly accepts products sourced by or from people trapped in slavery; transparency in disclosing what candidates and causes companies support through donations and lobbying; insuring that the products companies produce are safe and sustainably sourced. It is a ministry marked by immense challenges and life-giving successes. And it is a joy for my heart to play a role in it.

Is our world today “falling into ruin”? In ways that are beyond the ability of any single person to change, my discernment tells me that it is. And this is affirmed by people learned and wise. Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Sí, “… a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly.” Francis wrote when near death that “the Lord gave me brothers,” that is, he did not try to do his transformative work alone, and he did not have to. We can engage this work singly, sure, but we can engage this work as family, as community, as parish, as citizen, and as stakeholder. In Luke’s Gospel today Jesus says, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” (Lk 10: 2), and this is so. The blessings that come from living and sharing the Gospel are abundant, immense, transformative. And the more people are called into Gospel living, the happier they will be, and the more beautiful the world will become. Come, Holy Spirit.