Charles Feeney is a highly successful business man, in fact, Forbes magazine listed him in the top 400 richest Americans, with a net worth of approximately $400 million. Even so, he was a shabby dresser, wore a $5 watch, flew coach everywhere he went, and didn’t own a house or a car. That doesn’t sound like your normal multi-millionaire, but as it turns out, he was worth far, far less that that. Why? Because over the course of his career he had been giving it away, but doing so anonymously.
Over the years, hospitals, schools, service groups, and others would receive random checks supporting their efforts. For years, no one knew where it came from, but due to circumstances the truth eventually came out. It was Charles Feeney. Until he was discovered, Charles Feeney had given away over $4 billion dollars – anonymously! By 2012, after his secret had come out, he had given away $6 billion. There is a biography of his life: The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing. His actual net wealth is only 1% of the $400 million that Forbes had projected.
Jesus said, “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Charles F. Feeney says that Maimonides, the 12th-century Jewish rabbinic leader, taught that ”the highest form of giving was anonymous and selfless.’’ Both of these teachings seem to be lessons that Chuck Feeney sincerely practiced.
And Fr. John, I thought we were celebrating Saints Simon and Jude? Yes, we are, yet these two saints are about anonymous as Charles Feeney’s giving was for all those years. Simon is listed in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and Jude is named in the list of apostles in Luke’s Gospel and in the Book of Acts, but there is no agreement that he is the author of the epistle of Jude in the New Testament.
Legend has them preaching in the area of Persia and eventually coming together in Mesopotamia where they were martyred for the faith by pagan priests. Other than that, there is nothing.
However, the connection I see with Simon and Jude and someone like Charles Feeney is the fact that Simon and Jude lived so anonymously and gave so much for the furthering of the Gospel, but with the exception of being named in the occasional list, there is silence. They gave it all away, even their very lives. Not for notoriety, but for the glory of God.
St. Josemaría Escrivá writes, “When you have finished your work, do your brother’s, helping him, for Christ’s sake, so tactfully and so naturally that no one — not even he — will realize that you are doing more than what in justice you ought. This, indeed, is virtue befitting a son of God!”
We are called to do the work of God, like Simon and Jude, not for the praise of men, but for the glory of God.