Is Your Blueprint Babel or Pentecost?

Archbishop Lori greeting 2017 MAC participantsArchbishop Lori, during his homily on Friday at the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Congress, posed the question, “Is your blueprint Babel or Pentecost?”

Will pastoral leaders simply parrot Pope Francis as they explore new ways to build up the church, or truly “deny” themselves and follow the example of Christ, regardless of the consequences?

That was the challenge described by Archbishop William E. Lori Feb. 17, during a late-afternoon Mass at the Baltimore Hilton on day two of the sixth annual Mid-Atlantic Congress.

He began his homily with a comparison of his parents, typical do-it-yourself members of the Greatest Generation, and the builders of the Tower of Babel.

Whereas the former built and remodeled a house in southern Indiana that was founded “on faith, on discipleship and self-giving love,” the ancient builders “sought to build independently of God and even in defiance of God.”

How does that contrast relate to the reorganizations beingĀ  undertaken by archdioceses and dioceses around the nation, such as the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s pastorate planning process?

Read the complete article in Baltimore’s Catholic Review

Who Will Reap the Harvest?

harvestChange, change, change, change, change.

It’s a key driver in this year’s elections. And the one challenge put before most of us as leaders at some point in time.

As much as we want to be the one out front, leading the way from what was to what will be, the reality is, in most cases, we only sow seeds.

Great leaders know this. They know that most of what they try to accomplish will only be evident years after they leave their position. Politicians take advantage of this sometimes, highlighting the changes that happen during their years in office when, in fact, their predecessor’s decisions were often the ones that forged the current path.

The truth is, the harvest is for others to reap.

Ministry with teens is one of the best examples of this. As I look back at my years of teaching in an all-girls’ Catholic high school and subsequently as a volunteer in my parish’s youth ministry program, we adults knew that we had four years–and in some cases, fewer–to sow the seeds of faith, hope, and love (ah, yes, the theological virtues!) in the hopes that there would be a harvest.

As each graduating class of seniors departed, there was an internal tug-of-war–what more can we do to keep them connected versus just letting them go free in the hope that the seeds would take root and they would find a “home” in their faith and the Church.

Social media has been the greatest friend to this “sower.” With it, I have been able to follow the lives of our “kids” (many of whom now have their own kids). And I’ve been able to share in their joys and sorrows, and watch how the seeds we planted have fared.

Some fell on rocky ground. Some fell among weeds. But some fell on good soil, took root, and have grown and flourished.

So, in a society that seems to grow more impatient and a culture that demands immediate gratification, what are we to do? Remember and practice the theological virtues so that we may teach them in both our words and deeds.

As Jesus shows us, faith is not something that we go from not having to having. It develops over time through prayer and action. While we are conditioned in our culture to connect hope with wanting things, hope is an attitude that looks to the future, but walks with others in the present (think the familiar poem, “Footsteps.”) And love comes through the care we take in the sowing and feeding so that there may be a harvest.

Being a sower is what we are called to. When you have the opportunity to harvest, thank God for those who came before you and tended the fertile ground and planted that seed. And ask God for support to those who will come after you to tend what you have planted.

 

 

By Your Love

We’ve all been lost at some point in time. Lost in love. Lost at sea. Lost in a crowd. Lost in faith.

Like a sheep or a coin.

Sometimes we get lost without knowing it. Who of us doesn’t know a story of someone who as a child got separated from Mom or Dad in a big store, and couldn’t for (hopefully) the briefest moment find the way back.

Sometimes we choose a path, headed in a direction that we think will lead someplace we want to go. It happens in relationships–the ones we stay in too long. It happens at work–the jobs that we chose for the now not-so-right reasons.

Like the prodigal son.

The promise of faith is that we will always be found, searched for desperately and welcomed with generous and loving arms. By your love, we are found.

 

Love Decides Everything

Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. –Rev. Pedro Arrupe, SJ

If you’re like me, you didn’t know what you wanted to be when you grew up. You didn’t know what you wanted to major in in college. And you didn’t have a three- or a five- or a ten-year plan.

And if I am honest, I’m not entirely sure how I got to where I am professionally. The one thing I do know is that I have always tried to be true to the person that God created me, and love myself enough to make choices accordingly.

When I first started out, I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be. I just wanted a job in the hopes that I would figure that out along the way. So, I took a few jobs to pay the bills, left a couple of jobs that ate away at my soul, and found a job where the people and the work fit. I even fell in love there–with a man and with a direction for my life.

I came down with a bad case of the flu one winter. Spent hours on the couch. During the very brief half hours when I was awake, I decided to update my resume. It took a couple of days, and at the end of one particularly enjoyable nap, I reread what I had constructed, and it hit me. I loved teaching! A huge–unexpected–revelation.

Against the better advice of my co-workers, I got a job teaching high school, and had the four most successful, difficult, fulfilling, frustrating, amazing years of my young career. I had let myself “fall in love” over the course of those four years, and it did decide everything.

When I had the chance to leave my home of 13 years, move to a new city and new job, it was the loving support of my friends and the love that I had found in working with young people that enabled me to say “yes.”

In the professional decisions that followed, the question that has been at the center has always been, “Who am I called to love and how?”

I was privileged to meet Fr. Arrupe once, and was struck by his warmth and humility. His journey as leader of the Jesuits was filled with highs and lows, but it always seemed to come back to the question, “Who am I called to love and how?” It’s probably taken a while, but I think I am finally beginning to understand how to answer the question, “What do I want to be when I grow-up?”