I’ve just returned from the Miracles in Management Conference http://ow.ly/m3eiX sponsored by the International Association of Management, Spirituality and Religion. On one level it was very successful as our paper, ” Spiritual Leadership in Islamic Context : A Miracle in the Making,” linking of our spiritual leadership model to comparable passages in the Quran and then offering spiritual leadership as a model for Islamic leadership was well received.
On another level this trip was quite disturbing. Several of the presentations centered on the marketing and commercialization of spirituality and religion. Examples include:
The Human Rosary Bead: Heresy or Heralding? A Discussion into the Show Business of Religion at Lourdes
Pilgrimage and economic miracle: when business competes with God. A case study of La Meca city, spiritual center of the Muslim world
Plus here we were in Lourdes, France at one of the holiest Catholic sites in Europe. This town of 17,000 hosts 5.5 million visitors per year and, next to Paris, has the most hotel rooms in France. The site itself is indeed a revered place of worship with a huge Cathedral near the grotto where Bernadette Soubirous had visions of the Virgin Mary. It is also a place of over 7000 documented healing which draws thousands of invalids hoping for miraculous healing. There are also scores of volunteers who are there to serve and assist these invalids. We were also there on Pentecost Sunday and observed what must have been 30,000 candle-carrying worshipers who attended an outdoor mass in a cold pouring rain.
This is not my foremost memory though. What will always stick in my mind were the hundreds of small shops all around this Holy Site that were unabashedly promoting and selling what seemed like hundreds of thousands Virgin Mary figures, Rosaries, and numerous other sacred paraphernalia. In effect, a living laboratory for the papers I saw presented earlier that day. What I took away from this is that the sacred and profane can obviously co-exist anywhere. as it always has. All the more reason that the essence of spiritual leadership (i.e., hope/faith in a vision of service of others through altruistic love) be present so that the sacred does not become profane.