There is a Time for Everything…and It’s Courage Right Now!

If you’ve been following our blogs for these last months, you know that we’re passionate about leadership.  Here’s why.  Over and over again in these last weeks, we’ve seen leaders exercise solid leadership and we’ve seen epic failures.  I’ll let you call examples to mind.  This is true in the civic realm as well as within our churches.  The reality is this: there is a time for everything and in this time of the coronavirus together with a fresh display of how little black lives matter, it is a time for courageous leadership.

Courage is the ability to speak truth with heart, from the heart.  Right now our nation is reeling from the effects of Covid19 and from the effects of our history of racism.  Together, they’ve created the perfect storm where we are being collectively tossed about physically, emotionally, spiritually and practically.  Wave after wave crash over us, with every swipe, tweet or flip of the channel.  Everywhere there’s some part of this storm, and few (dare I say none) are escaping.  What are we looking for?  Courageous leaders who can navigate the storm with us… showing us the way.

To speak truth with heart, that’s courage.  Where does that ability come from?  This kind of courage springs from two sources: knowing what you are really supposed to be doing (being clear on your mission) and knowing yourself (being aware of your natural tendencies, your strengths and weaknesses.)  Let me briefly illustrate each of these ideas.

First, ecclesial leaders have to get a sharp focus on what the Church’s real mission is and then what your parish’s parts are in carrying out that mission.  It seems obvious, but it’s not really.  If the Amish people had realized they were in the business of moving people and not in the horse and buggy business, things would have gone differently.  If people in the record industry had realized they were in the business of making music widely available, they would have embraced new technologies to make that happen.  The point is this.  Courageous leaders know what their mission truly is and so are able to separate that from the ways in which the mission is carried out.  Get clear on it.  Then, preserve the mission.  Innovate the methods.  That takes courage that comes from the deep conviction that the mission is too important to hide behind methods that are no longer available or effective, or both.  That takes the courage that flows from hearts aflame with a crystal clear, compelling mission. 

Next, ecclesial leaders wishing to speak truth with heart, wishing to be courageous, know themselves.  Courageous ecclesial leaders know their calling comes from God, know their gifts and know their blind spots.  They are comfortable enough in their own skin to admit mistakes, to collaborate widely, to be constant learners and to always have a sharp eye on when they are hiding from others.  This kind of self-awareness permits ecclesial leaders to weep when their people are weeping, to laugh alongside them, to admit their own fears and uncertainty and at the same time to reveal how their deep faith in Jesus is guiding them along this way.  That’s speaking the truth with your heart.  It’s authentic.  It’s vulnerable.  It’s courageous.  It’s time is now.

Courage is also speaking truth from the heart.  We know of these words from Scripture: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:21)  So where is your heart?  What treasures have you stored?  Are they treasures of this age: pride, power, possessions or position?  Are they treasures based in Tradition/tradition?  Are they treasures found through prayer, study, reflection, dialogue?  In stormy times, and these are surely stormy times, the People of God deserve leadership that flows from the hearts of their leaders…leadership flowing from  hearts rich in compassion, empathy, mercy, justice and sacrifice; leadership that flows from hearts afire with love for the Lord Jesus, afire with the necessity for justice, ablaze with righteous indignation, soft with grief, weeping in sorrow.

I leave you with this plea:  now more than ever we need leadership infused with courage, defined as the ability to speak truth with heart and from the heart.  Pray before an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and allow His courage to become yours.  There is a time for everything and this my friends is the time for courage.


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As I write this, it’s just under a month until the first phase of the Church’s Synod on the process of synodality is to begin.