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Steve Jobs and the New Evangelization Print E-mail
By Fr. C. J. McCloskey   
Sunday, 29 April 2012

As a priest, part of my job description is to be an agent of the New Evangelization that was proclaimed by Blessed John Paul the Great. Only a few years after leading the Church into the third millennium during the Jubilee year of 2000, his mantle fell to Pope Benedict XVI, who also proclaims very seriously the Church’s evangelical mission. I assume that the great majority of my readers are serious Catholics who in these challenging times are as eager as I am to see the vision of Bl. John Paul realized and continued by Pope Benedict XVI: to see the Church recover and flourish in growth and fidelity, in particular in what was once known as the West.

      Which brings me to the case of Steve Jobs. Let me be clear, I am not postulating Steve Job’s cause for canonization. His biography will convince the reader that he suffered from emotional wounds from his early childhood as an adopted son and, to put it mildly, that sensitivity, generosity, and compassion did not stand out in him as particular virtues. To his credit, he was not particularly avaricious and lived modestly. He entered into a late marriage that produced several offspring. Have mercy on him; after all, he was a product of California in the 1960s, not exactly a breeding ground for saints.

Nonetheless, we evangelizers or modern-day apostles, if you will, can learn from him. The following quotations are from Steve Jobs. The words following each quotation are my comments.

  • “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who did so.” Isn’t that our goal? To change the world for Christ?

  • “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Isn’t it true that if we are good at what we do professionally or within our family, people will pay more attention when we speak to them about Christ and his Church?

  • “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.” Do we work at our spiritual life and try to deepen our knowledge of the Faith and put it in action?

  • “Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” Are we ambitious to go after the best people to bring them to Christ without any fear of failing?

  • “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Given that God is on our side, why should we allow ourselves to get discouraged?

  • “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” Whether in our spiritual or apostolic life, we are always, as St. Josemaria put it, “Beginning and beginning again.”

  • “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Steve Jobs’ famous question to John Sculley, former Apple CEO. Like Steve we should welcome challenges and long for greatness. After all we have the only product – our Faith – that everybody truly needs.

  • “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me . . . . going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful . . . that’s what matters to me.”

  • “Almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” We should look forward to death and meditate on it frequently, as Christians who look forward to our reward, but still know that we are accountable for the gift of faith that we have received and are now to share with others, in word and deed.

Jobs, who once memorably described death as “very likely the single best invention of life,” departed this world with a lingering look at his family and the simple, if mysterious, observation: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” Who knows what he saw?  After all, he died at 3 p.m. (the hour of hope) on the Feast of  St. Faustina.

May God have mercy on his soul, while we use some of his insights and practices in our great commission to carry out the New Evangelization, which will change the world in a way never dreamed of by Steve Jobs when he said, “I want to put a ding in the universe.”

 
Fr. C. John McCloskey III is a Church historian and research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, DC.
 
 
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Comments (22)Add Comment
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written by Frank, April 29, 2012
Father McCloskey, you've given us an outstanding essay and I offer my thanks for such insights.
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written by 4Subsidiarity, April 29, 2012
I'm beginning to seriously wonder about whether Steve Jobs changed the world for good. I agree that what he and the digital revolution has accomplished is on par or more with the Gutenberg Press. Put simply, I used to be able to have our teenager all to ourselves in those short drives here and there. Steve Jobs took that away as well.
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written by pedsurg, April 29, 2012
Also, Steve Jobs clearly owed his life to the culture of life of the Church. That he was not aborted as per the wishes of his mother was due to the anti-abortion Catholic culture of his mother's father and their community.

I believe that if the Church must write large checks to "pay" for the serious sins of its clergy it should be entitled to compensation it's good works of salvation; perhaps 1% of Apple stock for starters.
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written by will manley, April 29, 2012
Father, I'm hoping you wrote this essay to generate debate and not really to hold up Jobs as a role model. Jobs was notorious for his mistreatment of workers in the manufacture of a product for the elite. I could go on but you really need to read Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs. He was not a very nice man. I think you have been conned. Con artistry was one area where Jobs excelled.
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written by Louise, April 29, 2012
" Steve Jobs took that away as well."

Only if you let him, Mr. 4S. You are still the father.
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written by Dave, April 29, 2012
Oddly enough I was thinking about Steve Jobs' "Oh wow, oh wow" comment last night in a cab. Saw "We bought a zoo!" on the in-flight and found myself asking myself, "what is the zoo I need to buy?" As both Jobs and St. Josemaria tell us with "begin again," it is never too late to make the difference for Christ and His Church that we were created to make. Thank you Fr. C. John for an inspiring piece.
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written by Lauren, April 29, 2012
Actually, Fr. McCloskey, could you please write an article responding to the previous post from parent "4subsidiarity"? I think many parents/adults would like to read something about how Steve Jobs or current technology should be used by adults and teens. In fact, if we, the ones who know better, do not use this technology the way God intended it, then nobody else will. For example, I've been able to learn more about God, theology, the Mass, etc., etc. than any other simple housewife ever has in history, thanks to the Ipod. Examples abound. Of course temperance, order and all other virtues have to be taught and respected.
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written by RichardC, April 29, 2012
Two doubles may far exceed a single home run, depending on the number of runners on base.

I don't blame Steve Jobs for the annoying photographs of him that I was continually coming across after he died.

The ipod is a well-designed product. It doesn't seem right that someone can be excellent at some secular activity and still be a scoundrel, but, apparently, that is possible. I guess motivation is a factor. These comments are not intended to pass judgement on Steve Jobs, one way or another.
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written by Deacon Bill Gallerizzo, April 29, 2012
Steve Jobs was notorious in the business world for pirating the ideas of others and hastily copyrighting or patenting so as to prevent the originators from capitalizing. In his last interview, he had the gall to lament over that which he felt had been taken from him. If anything, he emerges as the modern "god of materialism".
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written by Manfred, April 29, 2012
"...I am not postulating Steve Job's cause for canonization." In February, 2010, in a White House dinner for American CEOs,Pres. Obama asked Jobs when he was returning all the jobs he had sent to China back to the U.S.
Jobs answered they were not coming back. You see, the Jobs products we use in this Country were assembled by what in this Country would be described as "slave labor" (long hours, living in barracks, the worker must sign a pledge not to commit suicide) at the expense of the American workers with OSHA protection, health benefits, pensions, etc. Why would the fact that Jobs had no religious affiliation (Buddhist?)preclude him from being considered for sainthood?
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written by Miriam, April 29, 2012
God is our judge.

May he rest in peace.
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written by kc, April 29, 2012
“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” Are we ambitious to go after the best people to bring them to Christ without any fear of failing?"

In response to this quote, the "best" does not equal the smartest and/or the richest. The best people are the poor people, the generous, the humble and the holy, the ones who do not have or care about wordly riches or wordly success. They are the best in God's eyes.
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written by Carol O., April 29, 2012
I liked him, too, Fr. McCloskey. A brilliant example (yours) of engaging the modern (secular) world in dialogue.
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written by Judy Joyce - Editor ProseandPaleAle.com, April 29, 2012
The comment about death as the best invention of life brings to mind that we must never stray from the faith God has granted us and the quote from G.K. Chesteron that sums it up:

"There are two ways to get home. One is to never leave."
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written by Mack Hall, April 30, 2012
No.

"You comment is too short."

No, it isn't.
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written by Chris in Maryland, April 30, 2012
Several commenters simply aren't addressing the main point Fr. M is making. Fr. M is asking Catholic readers to contemplate/emulate the virtues that Mr. Jobs clearly did have (e.g., perseverance, an appreciation/urgency for the gift of life, etc). For example, in the initiation into The Knights of Columbus, candidates are asked to contemplate the latter.
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written by A Mitchell, April 30, 2012
I did read the Isaacson biography. I don't think we need to sanctify a person before we can appreciate that they sometimes understood some portion of the truth.
I like to think Job's looked to perfection as something that existed, something he was only able to come near to through beauty and simplicity. We have more knowledge but the new evangelization can be reaching out to those with 'some truth' and leading them on to the fullness of that truth, Jesus.
OT. china has better technicians at the level that our computer industry needs. Maybe if our education system was less interested in keeping their own salaries at high levels they could help keep some of those factories here. Oh. I forgot the EPA. They are against all factories.
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written by Edward, April 30, 2012
Hmm. Ugh. What?
I don't know what to say here, Jobs really is a mixed bag, some good, some bad (just like his tech). It's hard to totally pigeonhole him into either or. He is also very disputed, what he did and did not create, just being one example. But I generally don't see him worth being presented as any kind of role model, in life, he was kind of a jerk (his bio only proves it). Not to mention the accusations that he stole other people ideas. That is not to say he had no virtues whatsoever, nor that he did no good in this life.
Though it's nice to see the good Father engaging with the world on these things! Though I will say that his comments on Job's sayings were in fact quite better than anything Job's ever said.
Regarding the tech revolution Jobs helped usher in, there is (like any new technology, etc) both good and bad about it. Life made easier, yet distraction becoming the new past time of the age. Magnified the free flowing of and access to information, yet people seem dumber and less thoughtful then ever before. See what I mean?
Also, regarding Job's religion, he was a Buddhist, a convert to be exact. And what does that mean? Well consider...
-His adopted parents were Christian, he left the faith during the crazy era that was the 60s/70s/sex revolution/counterculture thing. He is one of those guys who sees Jesus as distinct FROM Christianity.
-Though not totally without any religious feeling, he converted to Buddhism
-Again, it's western Buddhism, which is a total kiss your own butt kind of thing. Western Zen Buddhism is much less, er, um, Buddhist than the eastern variety (hint, why do you think so many chic types pick it up? Real Buddhism is ascetic and often requires sacrifice of personal indulgences, hence sex revolution and Buddhism don't go together, thus discouting a large majority of white Buddhists. Western Zen is really all about getting to itch your spiritual funny bone, without having to be 'religous' thus remaing chic).
-That said...a main tenent or prescription of Buddhism is distraction. Hello! Steve Jobs is the master of mass distraction! Alot of his inventions seem to envelope the very idea! Is this coincidence? I don't think so.
-So was Jobs Secular, or religious? Well, perhaps God only knows.
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written by Joann , May 01, 2012
In the history of the Church, it has always looked at the contemporary world in which it lives, and tries to find some example, some truth to expound on and use that as a springboard to relate the Gospel - a 'teaching moment' lesson: ie: Jesus: The Parable of the Good Samaritan. St. Paul: in the plaza of the gods, looking at the unknown god statue/altar to relate about Jesus ... to springboard to the Gospel of Jesus. The point of the article isn't Steve Jobs and all his foibles, it's- we take the good and leave the rest... (something we hope others can do with our lives- be they perfect or imperfect, as the case may be ...).
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written by Kevin Killion, May 02, 2012
"Steve Jobs was notorious in the business world for pirating the ideas of others and hastily copyrighting or patenting so as to prevent the originators from capitalizing. In his last interview, he had the gall to lament over that which he felt had been taken from him.".

Whoa! That's a complete inversion of the Apple story!
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written by Fr. C. J McCloskey , May 04, 2012
Dear friends Thanks for all your comments. As i said Steve was not even close to an Saint but neither was Aristotle but the Church Uses his ideas also

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written by Colleen, May 09, 2012
Point of article well taken. One can learn good lessons from bad examples. I had an aunt that was less than kind in many ways, certainly not warm and loving, certainly lacking faith but I still learned many important lessons from her. One was how NOT to behave!

We are responsible for how we spend our time - just like commenting on articles on a computer I never had access to as a kid - when I could be doing something that might be more important for me or my family. It's not the fault of Jobs that I'm using a computer made by Apple or that I'm on this website.

While I'm grateful for technology, I do miss simpler times but I wouldn't want to go back! Job's quotes are useful and, as Fr. McCloskey points out so eloquently, can inspire us to doing God's will with similar tenacity - just remember to give God the glory!

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