Many are feeling the pressures of COVID-19 in their wallets. These holy men and women can help.
In this time of financial uncertainty, many small business owners are worried that the economic fallout of COVID-19 will mean the closure of their businesses. Fortunately, there are quite a few Saints who know the difficulties of running a small business, every one of who would be glad to intercede.
St. Abraham of Harran (350-422) was a monk who became a businessman for the salvation of souls. Having heard of a village in need of conversion, he opened a fruit stand there so that he could meet the people. But the villagers appreciated his prices more than his preaching, preaching which made them so angry that Abraham began to fear for his life—until he paid their taxes and saved them from debtors’ prison. With that the people were finally convinced that he wanted what was best for them. Soon, they had all converted and convinced Abraham to stay with them as their priest. This he did for three years until called on to become bishop of a nearby town.
St. Homobonus (1111-1197) is the patron of businessmen, a married cloth merchant who saw his business as a way of serving God through just business practices and generosity to the poor. Though a successful businessman, his extravagant almsgiving left his wife worried that they would end up in the poorhouse. But Homobonus trusted God to provide, both through his philanthropy and through the direction he received in his robust prayer life. Neither bishop nor mystic, the holiness of his ordinary life was so evident that Homobonus was canonized only two years after his death.
St. Marguerite d’Youville (1701-1771) was raised in poverty, which only got worse after she married a drunken bootlegger with bad morals and a worse business sense. She endured him for eight years of marriage, during which she bore six children and buried four. When her husband died, Marguerite was left with nothing but debt, so she opened a store in an attempt to fight her way out of poverty. She was successful enough as a business owner to be able to give more to the poor than she kept for herself; after seven years, Marguerite left the store behind to serve the poor full time with a group of companions, who later became the Grey Nuns of Montreal.
St. Peter Wu Guosheng (1768-1814) was a loud and boisterous hotel-owner. After he overheard his guests speaking about Jesus, Wu was eager to share the Gospel with everyone. He began pulling people in off the street, making them sit down in his hotel to hear the Gospel. After learning how to channel his effusiveness (both to be more effective and to avoid arrest), Wu established his hotel as the center of the Christian community in his region and brought 600 people to Jesus. He was arrested and killed, the first Chinese martyr.
Sts. Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Zélie Martin (1831-1877) are most famous for being the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, but they are Saints in their own right. Louis was a watchmaker whose poor Latin kept him from studying to be a priest, Zélie a lacemaker whose poor health kept her out of the convent. They married and soon found Zélie’s lacemaking business was so successful that Louis decided to sell his watchmaking and jewelry business and focus on helping his wife. Zélie ran the operation out of an office in their home, while Louis helped in sales as well as artistic design. They treated their employees like family and earned enough money that when Zélie died, Louis was able to retire to Lisieux to raise his daughters near her family.
Blessed Salvador Huerta Gutierrez (1880-1927) was a married father of 12 who ran a mechanic’s shop in Mexico. Though initially poor, he became known as the best mechanic in Guadalajara (the “magician of cars”) and eventually employed eight men. He saw it as his job to form his employees as men and Christians as well as to direct the business, and modeled Christian life by visiting the Blessed Sacrament every morning on his way to work. During the Cristero Wars he was killed for his faith, along with his brother Blessed Ezequiel Huerta Gutierrez, a father of 10 and famed singer.
Venerable Jan Tyranowski (1901-1947) had hoped to work as an accountant, but chronic illness made an office job impossible. Instead, he joined his father as a tailor and ran the family business after his father’s death. He was a working-class bachelor who lived with his mother and, to all appearances, was nobody worth noticing. But he was also a mystic whose work as a youth leader changed the life of one Karol Woytyla and (through him) the world. Pope St. John Paul II kept a picture of Tyranowski on his desk throughout his papacy: the man to whom he owed his vocation.