For Catholic business leaders, people are more important than products, archbishop says

During 27th annual Mass for Commerce, archbishop contrasts hard work with trust in God, saying the two aren’t incompatible

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DETROIT — In Aesop’s Fables, the story of the ants and the grasshopper has a clearly defined motif.

The ants labor all summer long under the hot summer sun to collect grain and prepare for the coming winter. The lazy grasshopper, meanwhile, plays his fiddle, ridiculing the ants for their hard work.

When the winter comes, of course, the ants have enough food to eat, while the grasshopper is reduced to begging for his sustenance.

“There’s no grasshopper here, I’m quite confident of that,” Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron told those gathered Oct. 21 for the 27th annual Mass for Commerce at the Basilica of Ste. Anne in Detroit. “You’re all ants.”

Speaking to the local Catholic business community, which gathers once a year to break bread during the annual Mass, the archbishop contrasted the story of the grasshopper and the ants with the seemingly contradictory message of the day’s Scripture.

“Something like the admonition to be an ant appears in the book of Genesis, when the author points out that God took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “We are, by the text in Genesis, invited to be industrious, to be cooperators with God and continue this work of transforming the world into something productive and beautiful.”

Yet, in the Gospels, the archbishop noted, Jesus says something that seems to contradict that message of hard work.

“Our savior himself says in the Gospels, ‘Don’t worry about what you’re to eat or drink. These things will be provided for you. Don’t worry about tomorrow,’” the archbishop noted. “That’s not gonna work for you women and men. You plan. You execute that plan. You do worry about tomorrow. So, then, how do we as disciples of Christ who believe the word of God respond to these seemingly contradictory admonitions about the way to live our life in the world?”

One answer can be summed up in a common modern phrase, Archbishop Vigneron said: “Work as if everything depended on you. Pray as if everything depended on God.”

“We live constantly in two spheres of action, which are distinct but always work together: the sphere of nature and the sphere of grace,” the archbishop said. “Commerce, the work you’re engaged in, requires a certain effort, a certain planning, a certain worrying about tomorrow. And yet, we trust in grace. We trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who moves you to accomplish more than you would ever ask or imagine.”

While business leaders and professional dedicate themselves to their craft, it’s critical to place work in its proper context, the archbishop added.

“The goals we seek to attain belong in a certain kind of priority. And the goals you have in commerce for your enterprises are subordinated to God’s goal, to God’s plan,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “And so in that light, even what fails, even what doesn’t work out according to your best plan, you and I recognize as a way for God to accomplish His plan.”

That’s not always easy to accept, he acknowledged, especially for those to whom failure means economic or financial difficulty.

But at the end of the day, the most important outcome isn’t the product or service a businessperson produces, Archbishop Vigneron said.

“The most important result is not the service, not the product, but you,” he said. “This is what God is most working on, and what He needs your cooperation on. You are His raw resource to be transformed into something beautiful and good. And so, your efforts to serve, to produce, are subordinated to you becoming saints — men and women of Christian virtue configured in Jesus, God’s son, so that you become God’s adopted sons and daughters in full.”

After the Mass, participants at Ste. Anne and those watching via livestream were invited to take part in a virtual panel discussion featuring Emily Buckles, Deacon John Manera, W. Emery Matthews and Benedetta Morley, four people involved in local business ventures, to talk about faith in the workplace.

Next year’s Mass for Commerce will take place Oct. 27, 2021. 

Mass for Commerce

The 2020 Mass for Commerce was sponsored by more than 35 local businesses and organizations. To learn more about the Mass for Commerce, visit