Worth Revisiting: Leading with Humility

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In our society today, these concepts of leadership and humility might seem to contradict one another, and yet they are essential to what it means to follow Christ.

“…and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Take a moment, and think of whom you might consider a good leader. Odds are they possess not only charisma and determination, but genuinely express care and concern for those whom they lead, placing these needs above their own. Going a step further, they might just realize that they are not the protagonists in the story at all. Conversely, think of the most humble people that you know of… do they not lead and inspire others by their sheer ability to authentically witness love?

So what does it mean to lead with humility?

First, it is to see ourselves as God sees us- blessed, broken and infinitely loved. It is to know that our weaknesses and failures are but reminders that we cannot, nor are we intended to, go it solely on our own.  It is to put God in the driver’s seat and to allow him to work through us in best utilizing the gifts he has given us for the task. Even, gifts we may not recognize that we even possess.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:14-16

St. Ignatius extends this discussion further to consider the different degrees of humility or ways we show our love for God and one another. The 1st degree is an adherence or commitment to the commandments or laws of God seeing these as both necessary for our salvation but also a governing spirit in our life. Having accepted this, and discovering that the love of God is calling forth “more” from us, we are surprisingly more content with what we have and less attached to the pursuit of riches, power or glory.  In this, the 2nd degree, we still are not completely free from its attraction but understand that it is less satisfying.  Finally we come to the 3rd degree of humility where the choice of suffering, experiencing poverty or being foolish for Christ is no longer a real struggle but a continual choice.

Quite honestly, it would be wonderful to feel that I have successfully attained my 3rd degree belt in humility..but alas I know that I am not yet there! Am I willing daily to endure persecution, face contempt or ridicule for Christ?  While sometimes a “yes”, and other times a “no” , I am learning gradually that God is asking me to bring my whole self to every situation.  Through my weakness, and vulnerability he is able to show the magnitude of what he can truly do. In seeking to persevere, there is also such immense gratitude for those glimpses given to this selfless authentic love in our lives.

Lord, help me to let go of every spiritually unhealthy desire for acceptance, financial comfort, or worldly success. If considered a fool, then let me be a fool in love with you Lord. Let the world come to know this as a testament to the daily transformation that you work in my life. May this convincingly inspire others to discover the meaning and joy found in striving to embrace the humility of love.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-34

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:Love Worth Waiting For

Those who know my husband and I closely, know that before we ever dated we were best friends. John was a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts and I a freshman at Mount Holyoke College in 1990. In looking back, every detail of our meeting and courtship was just as it was intended to be. Neither of us was initially looking for a long term relationship but honestly seeking someone that reflected the values that we held dear.

That first evening, John was in fact to be meeting someone else, who was the roommate of a friend of mine. Yet, with nothing in common and little desired conversation both had decided it was a bad idea. At dinner, he spotted me across the room and inquired from my friend who I was.  I had noticed him too, but was unsure if he was with one of the other girls. Called over to their table before leaving, I suggested that we meet in the common room for coffee.  As the conversation flowed, the more we discovered that there was indeed something very special in the other. I could not explain it, but I recognized what had been so missing in my life at the time.

Instantly, John will tell you, that he knew that I was the one- who held his heart, mind and attention from that day forward. Yet, I was not so ready to “jump”. Knowing that he was special and desperately needing a true male friend, I was fearful that a relationship would ruin this.  Reluctantly, he accepted that I was not ready to date but longed for his friendship. Through months of listening to one another tell of the faults of those we dated, and giving advice we grew closer. He was waiting for me and loving me all the while.

So it happened. Having invited him to a party that I was certain would be uneventful, I eagerly anticipated spending time with my best friend. I did not worry that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, or that we would face that awkwardness at the end. I knew that we would enjoy the time no matter how lame the event was. What I wasn’t aware of, however, was the surprise that God had in store for me..now that I was ready for it.

We kissed. (Oh, no..I’ve done it, I lost my friend), I thought. Yet, in those moments of recognition I prayed. Father, lead me, lead us. So, upon my suggestion we decided to go take a walk and sit beside one of my favorite reflective spots beside the waterfall. Though quite picturesque, I was feeling a bit chilled in the cool New England spring air. As he put his arms around me, and we sat in relative silence..I finally understood.

The following is a poem that I later wrote that summer. I waited to give this to him after we were engaged for Valentines Day 1992.

The Waterfall   (1991)                 by Elizabeth Reardon 

The waterfall cascaded down onto the lake below,
I marveled at its beauty and watched as moonbeams shone.
I hadn’t known the lake to look as lovely as that night,
For within his arms and loving heart I was now held tight.

In friendship had I known this loving heart before,
I never thought that ever I could ask for any more.
But suddenly I realized that this was but a start,
That every second of my life he would be a part.

To hold me, love me, and share the vast wonders of the day-
To walk along a mile with me down steep and narrow ways.
And when we are no longer young to our grandchildren I will tell,
Of the sparkling waterfall, and the painted lake-
when their grandfather kissed his southern belle!

This Valentine’s Day as we stop to express our love for those that continually bless our lives let’s remember how God never ceases to surprise us!

Love,

Signature

Leading With the Humility of Love

 :

In our society today, these concepts of leadership and humility might seem to contradict one another, and yet they are essential to what it means to follow Christ.

“…and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Take a moment, and think of whom you might consider a good leader. Odds are they possess not only charisma and determination, but genuinely express care and concern for those whom they lead, placing these needs above their own. Going a step further, they might just realize that they are not the protagonists in the story at all. Conversely, think of the most humble people that you know of… do they not lead and inspire others by their sheer ability to authentically witness love?

So what does it mean to lead with humility?

First, it is to see ourselves as God sees us- blessed, broken and infinitely loved. It is to know that our weaknesses and failures are but reminders that we cannot, nor are we intended to, go it solely on our own.  It is to put God in the driver’s seat and to allow him to work through us in best utilizing the gifts he has given us for the task. Even, gifts we may not recognize that we even possess.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:14-16

St. Ignatius extends this discussion further to consider the different degrees of humility or ways we show our love for God and one another. The 1st degree is an adherence or commitment to the commandments or laws of God seeing these as both necessary for our salvation but also a governing spirit in our life. Having accepted this, and discovering that the love of God is calling forth “more” from us, we are surprisingly more content with what we have and less attached to the pursuit of riches, power or glory.  In this, the 2nd degree, we still are not completely free from its attraction but understand that it is less satisfying.  Finally we come to the 3rd degree of humility where the choice of suffering, experiencing poverty or being foolish for Christ is no longer a real struggle but a continual choice.

Quite honestly, it would be wonderful to feel that I have successfully attained my 3rd degree belt in humility..but alas I know that I am not yet there! Am I willing daily to endure persecution, face contempt or ridicule for Christ?  While sometimes a “yes”, and other times a “no” , I am learning gradually that God is asking me to bring my whole self to every situation.  Through my weakness, and vulnerability he is able to show the magnitude of what he can truly do. In seeking to persevere, there is also such immense gratitude for those glimpses given to this selfless authentic love in our lives.

Lord, help me to let go of every spiritually unhealthy desire for acceptance, financial comfort, or worldly success. If considered a fool, then let me be a fool in love with you Lord. Let the world come to know this as a testament to the daily transformation that you work in my life. May this convincingly inspire others to discover the meaning and joy found in striving to embrace the humility of love.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-34

Peace,

Signature

Grace and Circumstance

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We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.

— from Pope Francis and our Call to Joy

It’s a balmy 40 degrees outside today, yet even this isn’t meant to stay for very long. Temps will be dropping along with continual rain for the next few days. With a supply of hand and feet warmers and aluminum blanket in hand I prayed “Dear Lord help me to find who these warm essentials are meant for. Help them to know that they are thought of and loved.”

Walking up I recognize one woman who I know to be apprehensive of human connection, keeping to herself even among her fellow homeless. This is as close as she gets and thus I nod her way but continue walking towards the group huddled in the bus terminal hub. “John” smiles as I approach and his eyes widen as he notices I come bearing gifts. His full but weathered face reveals the harshness of the life he has led but his kind demeanor bursts forth immediately. While he is one who is able to stay in the local winter shelter for the nights, he joyfully accepts these to pass on to a friend who sleeps outside. As I have yet to meet “Bose”, having only seen his blankets and limited belongings resting under the awning of our parish center, I am thankful to finally find a way to help. Placing these on the bench beside him, John chooses to then generously share with me that he has found a job, the first one in awhile. What a blessing it is to know that not only will it give him a source of income, but will keep him out of the elements during the days.

In finishing up our conversation, we are joined by two other regulars “Chris” and “Nicole”. Despite her substantially layered frame, you can tell Nicole’s thin body is not able to tolerate the cold as many of the others. She is visibly cold, and her lips even are somewhat frozen as she struggles to say hello and reach for the hand warmers. Looking in her eyes I see what it is to suffer. Aware of a bit of her journey, Nicole is a victim of abuse leading to a life of alcoholism and subsequent life on the streets.  Her addiction has, on several occasions, even brought her inside the sacristy in her desire to numb her pain. Today, I am here to simply reach out to that part of her that she can offer.

What sets any one of us apart from anyone else? What is our common thread despite our condition in life? Grace and circumstance. Our choices do factor into the situations we find ourselves in, and the shape our lives take. Yet, I cannot help but recognize how easily an unexpected tragedy, circumstance or mental illness could make its demands on each one of us as well. This is love. This is what it is to walk briefly beside those who so often are our greatest teachers of mercy.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:Sowing Seeds

With the New Year, many of us have considered making a few changes in our lives…yet, what about spiritually?  Do you find yourself often depleted, or unable to move past the obstacles in your path these days? Easily slip back into old habits?  It becomes apparent then, that more thought needs to be given to the necessary condition of our spiritual lives in order for those more physical resolutions to bear greater fruit too.

Sowing seeds: Is your soil prepared?

Gospel Reading: MT 13:1-9
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:

“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Today as I prepared for leading Children’s Liturgy, I wanted the children to consider some of the ways that we too nourish the soil in our hearts to allow God’s Word to grow in our lives. It isn’t simply that God’s Word is spoken, and we can choose to accept it or not. There is much that we can do to prepare our hearts to hear the Word each week, and continually to nourish it. Just like a tender young plant, it needs our awareness (found in prayer), attentive removing of weeds and rocks (through confession and reconciliation), our participation (experienced in community at mass), and above all- love.

 While so simple, do we arrive at mass, and leave without noticing any change at all in our lives? Do we even remember the Gospel reading or the homily?

To this, I will on occasion challenge my family to share what they heard or felt at mass. At times it is a joke from the homily, perhaps a song, a particular prayer, and quite beautifully the Word itself. It’s is so interesting to hear how each one of us is touched differently, and yet carries the potential to bear fruit not only in our lives but in the world around us. This is the second important take away that this parable contains. We are not only the soil but when we live fruitful lives, we then can be sowers of God’s love in the lives of others. Carrying God’s Word within, we become sharers and sowers in the darkest places of hate, division, and despair.

That evening was the wake for the father of one of our youngest faithful. Together, we lifted her and her family up in prayer together in community. Lord, may this seed of love bear much fruit in the hearts of your faithful, and may you grant this family peace as they remember this loving father, husband and friend to many.

Peace,

 Signature

Love is Worth Waiting For

Those who know my husband and I closely, know that before we ever dated we were best friends. John was a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts and I a freshman at Mount Holyoke College in 1990. In looking back, every detail of our meeting and courtship was just as it was intended to be. Neither of us was initially looking for a long term relationship but honestly seeking someone that reflected the values that we held dear.

That first evening, John was in fact to be meeting someone else, who was the roommate of a friend of mine. Yet, with nothing in common and little desired conversation both had decided it was a bad idea. At dinner, he spotted me across the room and inquired from my friend who I was.  I had noticed him too, but was unsure if he was with one of the other girls. Called over to their table before leaving, I suggested that we meet in the common room for coffee.  As the conversation flowed, the more we discovered that there was indeed something very special in the other. I could not explain it, but I recognized what had been so missing in my life at the time.

Instantly, John will tell you, that he knew that I was the one- who held his heart, mind and attention from that day forward. Yet, I was not so ready to “jump”. Knowing that he was special and desperately needing a true male friend, I was fearful that a relationship would ruin this.  Reluctantly, he accepted that I was not ready to date but longed for his friendship. Through months of listening to one another tell of the faults of those we dated, and giving advice we grew closer. He was waiting for me and loving me all the while.

So it happened. Having invited him to a party that I was certain would be uneventful, I eagerly anticipated spending time with my best friend. I did not worry that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, or that we would face that awkwardness at the end. I knew that we would enjoy the time no matter how lame the event was. What I wasn’t aware of, however, was the surprise that God had in store for me..now that I was ready for it.

We kissed. (Oh, no..I’ve done it, I lost my friend), I thought. Yet, in those moments of recognition I prayed. Father, lead me, lead us. So, upon my suggestion we decided to go take a walk and sit beside one of my favorite reflective spots beside the waterfall. Though quite picturesque, I was feeling a bit chilled in the cool New England spring air. As he put his arms around me, and we sat in relative silence..I finally understood.

The following is a poem that I later wrote that summer. I waited to give this to him after we were engaged for Valentines Day 1992.

The Waterfall   (1991)                 by Elizabeth Reardon 

The waterfall cascaded down onto the lake below,
I marveled at its beauty and watched as moonbeams shone.
I hadn’t known the lake to look as lovely as that night,
For within his arms and loving heart I was now held tight.

In friendship had I known this loving heart before,
I never thought that ever I could ask for any more.
But suddenly I realized that this was but a start,
That every second of my life he would be a part.

To hold me, love me, and share the vast wonders of the day-
To walk along a mile with me down steep and narrow ways.
And when we are no longer young to our grandchildren I will tell,
Of the sparkling waterfall, and the painted lake-
when their grandfather kissed his southern belle!

This Valentine’s Day as we stop to express our love for those that continually bless our lives let’s remember how God never ceases to surprise us!

Love,

Signature