Walking on Broken Glass

“Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were, for others.”

Pope Francis

Today marks CLI Founder, Tim Flanagan’s, 80th birthday. It just so happened that not only did our vacations overlap the same week and at the same destination (the Outer Banks), but our families ended up staying mere houses apart. Tim had introduced us to the North Carolina beaches two decades ago. When we realized a few days before we left that we would both be down and yards apart (I promise we communicate better when it comes to work), Tim and I agreed we wouldn’t talk shop. He did however introduce my kids to one of his favorite hobbies - looking for sea glass.

As my kids and Tim found piece after piece amidst the piles of broken shells and rocks that line the beach, I became increasingly frustrated that I came up empty each day. My wife and I snuck down one morning while the kids were in their jammies to see if we could find some treasure. We soon met up with Tim who was out to do the same. As I lamented about my lack of luck, Tim, head down and focused, simply said, “Patience Daniel, patience. It’ll happen.”

As I watched Tim continue to walk ahead and thought about his upcoming birthday milestone, I couldn’t help but see the comparisons between his hobby and his legacy of leadership. For now nearly a Moses tenure, Tim has been patiently walking his journey with Catholic Leadership Institute. There have been more than a few long stretches that seemed to only contain broken shells and insignificant pebbles. More than a few individuals who have felt a call have understandably given up their quest during these stretches. Not Tim. But why?

It struck me that Tim’s fruitfulness in life and mission is related to his success with sea glass. For one, Tim enjoys the process, the search, the quest - not knowing what he might find, who he might meet, what he might learn. Second, where others see broken and jagged glass, Tim sees potential - whether it be in a situation or in the life of a person. “It’s only a failure if we didn’t learn something,” I can remember Tim counseling me in my first years at CLI. Lastly, as I watched Tim offer a piece of sea glass to my daughter, I realized probably the biggest secret to his success: Tim doesn’t search for himself. No ego, proud but never prideful, it’s never about Tim. His sea glass collection gets turned into things he can give as gifts or share. In life, he searches for others and most importantly he relentlessly searches for the Lord.

As I was about to give up on my quest for sea glass, I looked down to see a small green shimmering shard. I wouldn’t have noticed it unless someone older and wiser in my life hadn’t taught me what it could become. I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks for the gift of Tim’s 80 years and following his example of searching for the beauty of God’s creation even in the midst of what seems like brokenness. Happy birthday Tim!

by Daniel Cellucci

Jul 18, 2022

Weekly CEO Leadership Insights