Fr. Max Oliva offers short retreats for working people. He noticed there was a need and a hunger among the business people for retreats. CNS photo/Remko De Waal, EPA

Prayer can help 
the businessperson make virtuous decisions

By  AGNIESZKA KRAWCZYNSKI, Canadian Catholic News
  • April 3, 2016

A Jesuit from Las Vegas knows it can be hard to be virtuous in the marketplace, so he has created retreats for working people. 

“To do anything in life, for me, you have to have a core connection to God,” said Fr. Max Oliva during a talk in Vancouver. 

“The core of who you are, the ethics flows from it. It’s not something that you just pick out of the air. It’s coming from your heart, your will and your desire,” he told 40 people at the Vancouver Club. 

His idea of offering short retreats for business people came to fruition while he was serving in Calgary in 2002. He had been there for two years and was learning to survive Albertan winters afer 16 years in San Diego. 

“I had met a lot of business people because I had been giving a lot of talks in parishes,” Oliva said. 

When he mentioned his idea of starting retreats for business people, many said, “It’s a moral desert out there!” 

Oliva, in his kind, down-to-earth manner, sought to reach people working in oil and gas, real estate, architecture and other fields in Calgary’s corporate community. “There was a hunger there among the business people.” 

He designed “commuter retreats” for them. Participants would meet him for one hour a day for six consecutive days. Sitting one-on-one in his parlour, they would talk about faith, ethics, and prayer, and end the retreat with 10 minutes of silence. 

Executives “would leave me and go to work, after 10 minutes of total silence. They would have to make decisions, and they were in a totally different space.” 

Michael Meneer, an actor and the vice president of development, communications and marketing for Pacific Salmon Foundation, also spoke at the event. People in the working world often face ethical dilemmas, he said. 

“One of the things, the core, of what I try to do to live a good life is to surround myself with virtuous people.” The challenge in the workplace is “often not what you do, it’s what you choose not to do.” 

Photographer and writer Tina Francis has faced ethical grey areas in her line of work. 

She was taking photos in South India for a non-profit organization that would use the images in fundraising material. Snapping photos left and right, Francis stepped into one home where a woman was lying on her bed, with two children beside her, in a state of intense grief. 

“Her husband had just passed away. Her daughter and son had just lost their father less than 24 hours ago. There was that moment: ‘This is powerful,’ ” Francis recounted. 

“There was something in my gut, my intuition, that told me: this is sacred. You can’t keep clicking through this.” 

Listening to that nudge in her conscience, Francis put the camera down. 

“Sometimes being virtuous requires taking the less than obvious path. It requires getting off cruise control. It requires avoiding the temptation to take the sensational picture.” 

For Francis, prayer and a connection to the Holy Spirit are also key. “You have to be walking a Spirit-filled life to allow yourself to stretch, bend and pause and say ‘absolutely not’ in certain circumstances.” 

(B.C. Catholic) 

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