Saints and Sinners — Are We Who People Say We Are?

“I owe much. I possess nothing. I leave the rest to the poor.” — Rabelais

The best things in life come in sevens like Snow White’s dwarfs or the colors of the rainbow. Unfortunately, so do the worst like rolling a seven the first toss in craps or the biblical concept of sin. You can count them: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth. My old editor at Forbes, Jim Michaels, whom Warren Buffett said was the best of any magazine, told me what people enjoy most is reading about are the seven deadly sins. Dante drove the point home.

Mother Teresa accompanied by children at her mission in Calcutta, India 05/12/1980 (Getty)

“I’m not a social worker. I do it for the church.”

— Saint Teresa

Even Mother Teresa sinned, although it took a helpful journalist to point this out. Douglas Robertson of the Independent wrote: “Mother Teresa wasn’t saintly — she was a shrewd operator with unpalatable views….”

Al Capone’s Chicago soup kitchen provided three meals a day during the Great Depression. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

“Some call it bootlegging. Some call it racketeering. I call it a business.

— Al Capone

We know, for example, that Capone ran soup kitchens during the Great Depression to help the unemployed, while history makes it clear Teresa cared for the poor. And like Saint Teresa, Capone was a devout Catholic and an organizational genius who shaped a vast ecosystem. Yes, they both had a vision, but it was based on the view from their perch. Their similarities seem absurd but there you are.

Al Capone at the Chicago Detective bureau as Public Enemy №1, 2–26–31. (Wikipedia)

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Jeff Cunningham

Writing about extraordinary lives. Came for the stories; stayed for the people.