St. Homobonus: Patron Saint of Business People, Tailors, and Not the Poor (Which May Be Instructive)
Below is a link and then the full text of a piece I wrote for our Sioux Falls local paper, the Argus Leader. It was published this last Saturday.
For the same reason that I savor the change of winter to spring to summer to fall to winter again, and the rhythm of the morphing seasons in the church, I enjoy delving into the lives of the saints. The habit anchors me in traditions far wider and deeper than my immediate world and is a reminder that it’s not just about me, or even just about me and Jesus.
I’m thinking about saints these days, with All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and the post-dated celebration Nov. 6 in worship.
So given an opportunity to write this week, naturally, I flip to the calendar of the saints.
Here’s one new to me: St. Homobonus. His name means “Good Man,” in Latin.
He lived from 1111-1197, dying on Nov. 13, the day of his commemoration.
Son of a wealthy businessman, he inherited significant monies and a significant desire to do business well and honorably. He gained a reputation not only for his commercial success, but most notably for his donation of the better part of his profits to the poor.
He has since become the patron saint of business people and tailors … though curiously, not the poor.
(Interestingly, if you google “Homobonus,” you’ll find his plastic statue in packaging that promises that with it, you’ll “make a fortune!” Another site marketing the piece says, “It’s a tough economy. We’ll take whatever edge we can get.” Perhaps they’re missing the point.)
The more I look into him, the more I realize that Homobonus caught my attention because of All Saints’ Day, but also because of recent headlines on the economy and the Occupy movement.
Homobonus did not see money as evil.
He also didn’t see it as an end-unto-itself or as something that was his because he earned it; nor did he see that he needed to sacrifice his principles to gain more of it.
He saw money as a gift to be given to others because it was itself a result of gifts that were given to him by God.
As we think on money, the economy and political decisions regarding it, we would do well to remember St. Homobonus. His life reminds me, at least, that “my” money isn’t just about me, nor is it mine, and that it does have something to do with me and Jesus, and in fact something wider and deeper than my immediate world.