I don’t think I could think of a more ubiquitous buzzword in this day and age than “leadership.” Leadership coaching, books, and seminars abound — from TED talks to television, to LinkedIn and school lesson plans, leadership is a theme we just can’t seem to get away from. In this “Common Sense” message series, where we reflect on why it just makes good, old-fashioned sense to believe in Jesus, we talk today about Jesus’s efficacy as a leader. Like Father Roger wrote, Jesus’s charisma, servitude, and deep commitment to the encouragement and bettering of others made him one of the most effective leaders out there.
But if our society is encouraging us all to be leaders, who is there to lead? And, more importantly, how can we adequately be followers of Christ. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with emphasizing the necessity and benefit of strong leadership, there is so much value to be gained from stepping into a follower role, where you allow the wisdom and strength of others to guide you forward. This provides not only a necessary, compassionate break for ourselves and the intense pressure of all the leadership, all the time, but also gives us a better perspective for when we step back into that leadership role.
While some saints are remembered for their great works — their founding of religious orders, their fearless defense of the Catholic faith, their strength in the face of Herculean odds, there are some saints who simply chose to love Jesus simply, through word and deed, and whose gentle holiness elevated them to sainthood.
One of the most popular saints to fit this description of simplicity and humility is St. Therese of Liseux. Her “Little Way,” in which she strove to glorify God through prayer and simple acts of generosity and kindness in her quiet, cloistered life, shows us that being a committed follower means just as much spiritually as does being a committed leader. God does not choose who enters heaven based on the charisma of their leadership or the number of people they evangelize — God admits to heaven those who follow with great love.
Because, in the act of following, we often become inadvertent leaders. St. Therese of Lisieux probably never imagined that she would inspire the work of Mother Teresa, one of the greatest humanitarians of our time. She probably never imagined that her life would be reflected in the lives of Blessed Cecilia Eusepi or St. Teresa of the Andes, both young nuns who committed their lives to Christ at an early age.
Pope John Paul II even conferred on her the title of Doctor of the Church, in recognition of her exceptional wisdom. Prior to her death, St. Therese of Lisieux is said to have written that she committed herself to “let fall a shower of roses” wherever she walked, these roses being little deeds inoculated with great love. She never aspired to greatness, writing “Humility consists not only in thinking and saying that you are full of faults, but rejoicing that others think and say the same about you,” — this humility is exactly why she is great.
—Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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