“The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself.”
I think probably around the same time I was potty trained, I realized I had a "gift" for sharing my opinions on how leaders could lead better. Properly channeled and communicated, it is a gift that can be helpful when one serves at the Catholic Leadership Institute. However, I could introduce you to several people in my immediate circle who would tell you that my gift can get real old, real fast. I was particularly adept at sharing this talent with my longtime predecessor and mentor, Matt. His patience far exceeds mine and he was good about modeling proactive listening to my regular monologues on things I thought he needed to be aware of or attend to differently. I’ll never forget after giving one such speech, he calmly and gently encouraged me to imagine the subject as if I were sitting on his side of the desk. Beginning my seventh year now as "the leader" and after almost two decades of listening to other leaders share their challenges, there’s no doubt that one of the most pressing for all of us is loneliness. "It’s lonely at the top," may be well past the point of cliché, but it feels no less true. The evil one always likes to play the role of the "great accuser," whispering in our ear the things about which we are most insecure or anxious. As leaders, often the whispers sound louder in the absence of any supportive voices around you. As I marked the end of what felt like a lonely week in leadership with Mass on Sunday, I was struck by the story of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit. While full of divine wisdom, the risen Lord didn’t depart from his apostles providing specific instructions or direction. He gave them "peace." He told them of an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would be with them, who would "teach them everything and remind them of all He told them." With peace, with an Advocate, the apostles went out and transformed the world in the name of Christ.
It has always struck me that during the celebration of the Eucharist, the priest asks the Lord to "protect us from all anxiety." Of all the dangers we can imagine, do we see anxiety as the greatest? Ultimately, the greater our anxiety, the greater we believe we need to be self-sufficient or, worse yet, the more we believe we are actually alone. The greater our anxiety, the greater we forget the presence of the Advocate, we forget the "the peace the world cannot give." I couldn’t help but wonder as I left Mass and reflected on my loneliness, do I embrace the presence of the Advocate in my life and leadership? Do I see myself at "the top" or do I recognize with gratitude that as a disciple, I am nowhere near the top? In my relationship with others, do I amplify the voice of the great accuser or do I seek to "sit on the same side of the desk" as those with whom I serve in order to be an instrument of that great peace? We certainly aren’t "The Advocate," but we all have an opportunity to remind others this week and all of our weeks that behind salvation, one of our greatest blessings as disciples, is the knowledge that we are never alone.