Interesting Scribbles

Executive Speaker Series: Sal Caruso

February 3, 2018

Notes from a talk by Sal Caruso on January 9, 2018 at Young Catholic Professionals.

It’s very humbling as an architect to remember that we can never outdo God. Great artists like Leonardo da Vinci hit their highs when they capture the natural form, coming close to what God has done.

How do we live our faith? God gives a few hints. Love one another as I have loved you. Through your love, you will be recognized as one of my disciples. Not through your words but through your actions. This is so important to Christ that we have the parable of the sheep and the goats — whatever you have done for the least of these little ones, you have done for me. At the end, the summation of our life will depend in a big way on what Jesus said there.

Quotation often attributed to Mother Theresa:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

Care less about what people think about you, as long as you’re doing God’s work. Your conduct as a Christian will shine. If we’re afraid to be Christ-like, we’re fearing the greatest good.

Second way to express love — where two become one. “How the family goes, so does all society.” Love is patient, kind, forgiving… Faith hope and love remain; and the greatest of these is love. Wouldn’t it be terrible if Mother Theresa were grouchy when helping those people? That’s the vision: seeing God in each one of our fellow humans on this earth. That each of them is created in the image of God. Don’t water down who you are and what you believe just because you’re around someone from outside the faith. We must be transparent; when people see us, they need to see Christ in us. To make that work, we have to have total trust in God. Evil loves to disrupt what is beautiful. We see in society today that marriage is under attack. We have to protect that which is beautiful. The truth and beauty about love is that it doesn’t have to be logical; it can trust in God.

I worked on a project with the Poor Clares. It was an eighteen month project. They only had enough money to pay for the foundations when we started working. Month after month, they got just enough money in donations to continue the work, sometimes down to a margin of about 25 cents. Then, at the end of the project, the city wouldn’t give them the occupancy permit until they finished improvements to a horse trail around the perimeter of the property, because that was part of code. So I called a contact I know… No problem, he said, he would do it. He showed up with a crew of about 50 people and a quarter-mile long line of heavy machinery stretching down the road. He just did all the work that was left, giving it as a donation.

That’s the other thing — what you have received freely, give freely. Mother Theresa said “I never think about money. The Lord sends it to us. We do this work and he sends us what we need. If He doesn’t send us the money, that just means he doesn’t want us to do that work.”

Never limit yourself to your own imagination. Take the leap of faith that God is with us. He is always there waiting for us. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Seek and you shall find.

Marriage is forever. The family, the love of children, the openness to having children, and not being afraid. After I had a son and a daughter, people asked if we were going to stop. As if they were a pair of bookends, and I had a matched set! By the fourth, they kind of started leaving us alone. We’re only the guardian of our children — God is the father; Mary is the mother. Family is the greatest blessing. As Saint Pope John Paul II says, the home is the Church in miniature. It serves the good of all the road of life. It’s the cell of society. The future of the world and the Church passes through the family. (Familiaris Consortio)

Life can become heavy. It happens. But 99% of the time I’m home for dinner. Learn to separate the work instead of taking it home with you to your family life. “Love one another” means starting at home — love and charity begin in the home.

Prayer precedes everything. In our family, nightly prayer is our tradition. When our kids were little, it could be a challenge to keep everything together — and to keep them apart — but it has been an anchor of the blessings of our family.

The Rosary and the Eucharist. The closer we are to the Eucharist, the closer we are to God.


Differences between doing work on a religious building and a sacred one? They’re very different. You can create effects and beauty that reflect what you believe. That’s still the most fun projects I have — designing a chapel.

Tips for being able to bring work to a close at the end of the day, and not bring it home? I choose not to take on more than a certain amount of projects at work, which does mean making less money, but also means being able to live a life with my family. That balance is important. It’s easier for me, since I own my own business, but I think that compass will be there in other settings — that there’s life outside of work.

Tips for seeing a good employer? The interview process goes both ways — you can ask possible employers that kind of question. I’ve been doing a lot of interviewing recently, so I have some of that in my head now. People will generally respond honestly when you ask that kind of question.

Did you have to cultivate your faith, or is it something you feel like you were born with? I was raised Catholic, but there were challenges in my family that we stopped going to Mass for many years. I had to work my way back from that. When I moved to Italy, I started walking to the church on Sunday and different days, and I had to work my way back into the Church. And again, when I moved back to the US, I had to move back into a church.

The beauty of baptism is that the light within us grows. It can’t be underestimated. I work in the architecture of the state penitentiary, working on the chapel. I wanted to make it beautiful to the eyes so it would draw in people who, in the past, had been tempted by what they saw. And in that setting, you see the power of baptism. “I was in prison, and you visited me.” Love only gets one response: love. Even if they push back initially, out of fear.

We are eternal souls; what are we going to do with our time? Our work can’t be our treasure. God needs to be our treasure.

What do you say to young people who talk about delaying marriage until they have hit work goals or that kind of thing? It’s a hard question because we don’t know what they’re going through. If we show ourselves to them, they will find their faith. We have to live Christ-like lives to be an example.