Proverbs tells us to seek wisdom and insight through our relationships with God and others. If we want wisdom that helps us succeed in life and stewardship, we should surround ourselves with people who are wise, that we trust, and open ourselves to correction and even reproof should we make a misstep along the way. For example, Proverbs offers us the following advice: “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but they succeed when counselors are many” (15:22). “Listen to counsel and receive instruction,” King Solomon advised his son, “that you may eventually become wise” (19:20).
Where do we find such people? We can start with God. Saint Paul calls Jesus “the firstborn of all creation . . . . He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Indeed, the Son of God is also the Wisdom of God. We can also rely on friends and family members, or fellow parishioners we respect.
We shouldn’t stress about trying to find ways to become wiser. Indeed, our first reading tells us that wisdom is not beyond us or out of our reach (Deuteronomy 30:14). However, listening to advice and accepting it aren’t always easy, especially when our own ideas and choices seem reasonable to us. We might think our idea is the right one, or feel that we are somehow giving in to what someone else thinks, whether we asked for an outside opinion or not. But if we insist that our idea is better, or don’t even consult others on important decisions, we may miss out on receiving some very valuable advice.
Again, if we want to live wisely and make good decisions, we should seek advice, walk with the right people, and change our behavior when we make a wrong turn or poor choice. We know we can trust in God to help us find wise people to learn from, and guide our efforts to share our time, talent, and treasure with others.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Feeling stuck is one of the worst feelings in the world — when no matter what you do, no matter what new tactic you try or new message you share feels like it strikes the right tone. It’s especially hard for us in this day and age, where there’s an intense expectation for us to always be self-advancing and self-promoting. There’s a huge amount of guilt attached to the feeling of being stuck or not being successful, like somehow something we did or didn’t do could have changed the outcome, when sometimes there’s not a whole lot we can do.
We’ve talked before about how awesome the saints are, and cool it is that the Catholic church recognizes and venerates them in the way that we do. It’s like we have a special army of people loving on us, caring for us, and showing us all kinds of examples of how we might be able to shape our lives. No saint is identical to another, but each of their lives show holiness and commitment to Christ (two things I think we all might be aiming for!). And, the saints had their fair share of trials and tribulations, making them great people to turn to in stuckness.
St. Ignatius of Loyola might be one of the only saints with a notarized police record (for nighttime brawling), but his writings and teachings have become extremely well-known and offer great advice for the “stuckness.” He is the patron saint of soldiers, who often face extremely challenging conditions, and one of his prayers in particular is a good one to remember:
“O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things.”
This prayer’s message of comfort and reassurance feels right for “stuckness”: when we cannot comprehend the larger plan that might be in store for us, we can always take comfort in drawing into the closeness of Christ. Jesus, in his time on Earth, felt the human emotions of anger and confusion and losing one’s way — Ignatius reminds us of that, and that we can always draw into Christ when we feel the same.
St. Dymphna, the patron saint of anxiety and depression, can offer comfort when our minds seem bent on getting us down. Blessed Margaret of Castello can offer comfort when physical ailments take precedence in our lives. St. Jude Thaddeus can offer comfort in “lost causes” or desperate circumstances.
If we were soccer players, and our lives were the World Cup, think of the saints like the fans in the stands. Their energy and enthusiasm keeps us going when we’re down in the match or we’re going up for that game-deciding penalty kick. We can count on them to be our number one supporters, and to always be there for us to get us out of the “stuckness.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Proverbs 3:4-7 tells us to put our trust in the Lord and not depend on our own insight and understanding. When we do so, God promises to make straight our paths. Trusting in God means that we put our lives in his hands and don’t rely solely on our own abilities and talents, though he gave them to us in the first place.
How do we lean or depend on God? Reading and listening to the scriptures, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, and setting aside time to pray and reflect deepen our faith, and strengthen our trust in him. Saint Paul tells us, “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:15-16).
If we aren’t leaning on God, what are we leaning on? Our society values independence, self-sufficiency, and a “try everything” approach. It’s good for us to take charge of our lives, learn how to do things for ourselves, and not expect other people to do them for us. Self-sufficiency is important as we take on more responsibilities. However, at some point we may think we can do it all ourselves and don’t need an anchor to ground us, or even anyone else for that matter. Perhaps we’ll end up thinking that we are always right in our thoughts and choices. That can be true if our choices are rooted in faith and compassion, but our thoughts may not always be correct, or our actions the most appropriate. Trying everything may not always lead to healthy choices, and we could decide to rely on someone or something else that becomes a crutch.
We want God to make our paths straighter, which he will do for us. As stewards we should trust in him, and he will show us the way to share our time, talent, and treasure with others.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
This week, wisdom from the book of Proverbs talks about the different kinds of people we meet and interact with in our daily lives. It breaks people into one of five categories: the wise, the fool, the simple, the scoffer, and the evil. The way each of these people responds to criticism is one of the critical ways they are separated from each other — the wise person accepts feedback with grace; the simple person does not understand or respond to the feedback; the fool understands the feedback but does not accept it; the scoffer becomes angry at the invitation of feedback; and the wicked person will retaliate in response to feedback.
I feel like I can confidently assume that we’ve all met each of these people at some point in our lives. And, if I’m being honest, I can remember certain times and situations in my life where I have acted in each of the ways noted. While I’d like to say that I have always accepted feedback with grace and changed because of it, I am acutely aware of the times that I have played the part of the fool or the simple person. Hopefully, I’m not alone.
Good leaders are wise individuals who know how to work with people of all kinds, especially those that the Proverbs describe. Looking to history, we can find influential leaders in all sorts of capacities, and through their examples, we might find a story to tell or an action to emulate.
St. Joan of Arc is a great example — a teenage girl with a vision, she convinced the Dauphin to allow her to lead French troops into battle. Her energy and vision helped lift the siege of Orléans in just nine days of fighting; the city had been under attack for over seven months without respite before her arrival. Doing this required that she coordinate with the Duke of Orleans, who would actively exclude her from strategy meetings and attempted to stop her from riding into battle with the soldiers. The Book of Proverbs might call the Duke a wicked person, for his intentional acts of sabotage to her leadership despite the fact that they were fighting for the same cause. Nonetheless, she persisted — and succeeded.
You don’t have to be a saint to be an admirable leader, though. People like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela were catapulted into roles of incredible prominence by virtue of their refusal to remain silent in the face of oppressive regimes. A woman named Nellie Bly became an accidental journalist after writing a scathing letter to the editor of her local paper. She went on to write about labor laws, women’s rights, and political corruption in Mexico. She also had herself committed to a mental institution for 10 days in order to document the appalling conditions. Her report spurred a movement for radical change in the care of the mentally ill.
Being a wise leader means stepping up when necessary, stepping back to allow others onto the platform, and being open to working with difficult people. Prayers of patience, grace, and acceptance help bridge the gaps, and help make us wise, effective leaders and team members.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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