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Whole Life

  • Whole Life: Christian Leadership

    Nov 07, 2014

    By:Sr. Jeanne Hagelskamp, S.P.
    Associate Professor, Academy for Teaching and Learning Leadership

    “When through one person, a little more love and goodness, a little more light and truth come into the world, then that one’s life has had meaning.” This quote, which we used on our parents’ memorial cards, embodies the essence of Christian leadership. This may sound soupy or mushy, but my siblings and I did, indeed, consider our parents quiet, ordinary Christian leaders. No, they were not famous, they never attended college, they struggled their entire lives to put food on the table and clothes on our backs, and to give us the very best education we could want for ourselves. They were faithful to prayer, they gave of themselves unconditionally to us and to those in need, and they taught us to stand up for what is right and just. They lived the words of Micah 6:8: “What does God require of you? Nothing more than this: To act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with Your God.”

    Another way of thinking about Christian leadership is to consider the words of our very own Indiana Saint Mother Theodore Guerin: What must we do to become saints? Nothing extraordinary, only that which we do every day—only do it for his love. This challenge seems easy enough—in fact, if we aren't careful, we might tend to “let ourselves off the hook” if we ignore the last phrase. Now I'm not one who often puts words into Mother Theodore’s mouth, but I confess that I have taken a particular liking to changing one solitary word—so that it reads “What must we do to become saints? Nothing extraordinary, only that which we do every day—only do it with his love.” To say we do it “for his love” is challenge enough, making God’s love our sole motivation. However, to do it “with his love” sets forth a challenge or imperative to aspire to love as God loves and to allow our lives to be driven by that same call to love. In a very powerful way, it is the call to leadership that is expressed by the prophet Micah. We are called to live our everyday lives, always aspiring to do it with God’s steadfast love—God’s Providence—empowering us.

    What would it mean to walk through our day, doing all that we do with God’s love? It seems to me that that is precisely the mission that Jesus undertook when he walked this earth. As he went about his work (and play!), in many ways he lived an ordinary life—but he lived it “to the max,” always seeking to understand what God was calling him to do in any situation. He lived each day, always seeking to share with others God’s passionate/compassionate love. Time after time, as he went about his business, he went out of his way to be with the most vulnerable. He didn't just “help them.” It wasn't a one-sided thing. Rather, he invited them into relationship with him -- he rubbed elbows with them, invited them to the table to share a meal, and let his compassion and love overflow when they were hurting. This “loving tenderly” wasn't just about “doing for,” but rather about “walking with”—and staying in relationship with—the most vulnerable. And that, for me, is a part of Christian leadership.

    But Jesus didn’t stop there. And honestly, this is the part that I believe that I personally (and many of us) struggle with as I try to be a Christian leader. Jesus was not afraid to “throw the zingers” that would challenge the status quo or “call out” injustice. He was, indeed, an unrelenting voice for the voiceless—and not just when it was convenient… not just when the price was right. He was a champion for those oppressed by unjust systems—and he clearly knew the cost of speaking up and challenging wrong. Yet he did it, time and time again, and never did he stop to measure his words because of fear of the price it might cost him. Over time, he knew that others had had enough of his “revolution” and were seeking for a way to kill him. Nonetheless, he continued to reach out to those shunned by others and to stand up for the rights of those most oppressed by the system.

    I think all of us would probably agree that Jesus was an extraordinary Christian leader. He is the model for us of doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way with God’s love as his driving force. No doubt, none of us will ever be able to love so unconditionally, inspire so passionately, and challenge so intensely…but we ought to aspire to it. In the meantime, if each of us could choose our very ordinary path of Christian leadership, doing nothing extraordinary, but rather acting justly, loving tenderly, and walking humbly with God’s love each day, then, indeed, a little more love and goodness, and little more light and truth will come into the world… and our lives will certainly have meaning.

  • Whole Life: Circles are better than Rows

    Oct 29, 2014

    By: Cassie Mackell, Circles are better than Rows

    “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

    No matter what God has called us to do, everything that we do should ultimately lead others closer to Him. That is something that my parents emphasized to me growing up. Now that I am in the “real world,” it rings truer each and every day.

    What am I doing to bring others closer to God? As a coach, am I checking my own desires at the door and allowing the Holy Spirit to work? As a fellow sister in Christ, let me share some things my husband and I try to do to make sure we are being obedient. Are we perfect? Absolutely not. But hopefully this will encourage you with what you are personally going through right now.


    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6

    This is something we are trying to make a habit of doing. We pray before practices and matches with our teams. Yes, of course we pray that we play well, but for us it is important to recognize that God gives us the talents we have and that we ultimately use them for His glory. At night my husband and I pray that God uses us in our coaching to bring others closer to Him. We pray that he gives us the wisdom to guide our teams in the way that He sees fit. We pray that while we are super competitive, that He continually shows us the bigger picture in life. Not our will, but His be done.

    “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

    Everyone has their struggles, their insecurities. As a coach and colleague, what can I do to encourage those around me? It is so easy to get caught up in the negative things around us. Sometimes it is easier to be negative than positive. Maybe a note of encouragement to a friend is something that needs to be a part of my routine. Have I asked Him to place someone on my heart that might need encouragement this week? More importantly, am I acting on the Holy Spirit’s prompting?

    “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

    Circles are better than rows. That is something my church has been pushing this past year. We are not made to do life alone. Yes, going to church on Sundays is all well and good, but we need something more. We need to be connected to other fellow believers. That is how we grow in our faith and relationship with God. As a coach, it is easy to get caught up in everything coaching. Whether it would be practices, game day or recruiting, there is always something to do. My husband has really taken the charge of this portion of our lives. He makes the extra effort to get connected. We need to be feeding ourselves spiritually. If you are not connected, you need to get in a group with other believers. Whether it would be FCA or a group Bible Study, we need to be connecting with other Christians. It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, but I challenge you to make the time to connect. Circles are better than rows.

  • Whole Life: Service and Social Justice

    Oct 09, 2014

    By: Jeanne Grammens Hidalgo, Campus Minister

    I had time this summer to actually read a whole book— it was a gift that was sent to me by a friend who knows me well, is an avid reader, whom I respect greatly and who often puts the right book into my hands at the right time! Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle, was written by a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries. Homeboy Industries is a gang intervention program located in Boyles Heights, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. Father Boyle’s honest, reflective and probing vignettes of his experience with gang members was helpful to me in addressing the tension I feel between promoting service work and working for social change. One is popular, one not so much. As Archbishop Don Helder Camero is quoted as saying, “When I fed the poor, they called me a saint; when I asked why they were poor, they called me a communist.”

    This reality is something I wrestle with in my ministry at Marian University. It is easy to invite students into service. It makes us feel good to serve others. It is rooted in our faith tradition, our gospel values. You don’t even have to be “religious,” to believe in the value of helping others! Social Justice, while I believe can come out of service experience, seems to be a different entity. Social Justice demands a shift in something, which almost always makes people, including myself, uncomfortable.

    One of the things I worry about in offering students opportunities to serve, whether it be through STARR , Alternative Spring Breaks or our new Indy Urban Plunge, is that we who are privileged to have or be earning an education, who probably know where we are going to sleep tonight and are confident that we will have food to eat this evening, well, that we approach those who don’t naturally have those “privileges” with a sense of “we are here to help you.” The real truth, as expressed in scripture, is that those with seemingly less, often are the ones who help us—who help us to grow in gratitude, who impact us with their humility, their joy and faith. They often offer us the opportunity for transformation.

    Fr. Boyle hit a chord with me through his insights gleaned from many trauma filled years walking amongst gang members in extreme poverty and violence.

    “Often we strike the high moral distance that separates “us” from “them,” and yet it is God’s dream come true when we recognize that there exists no daylight between us. Serving others is good. It’s a start. But it’s just the hallway that leads to the Great Ballroom.

    Kinship—not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not a ’man for others’; he was one of them. There is a world of difference in that.”

    I believe that is the beginning of addressing the tension of serving versus working for social change. If we take the time to walk with “the other,” to develop relationships, we soon realize that there is no “other,” and we begin to be invested in their lives and become natural “companions” who want to share our resources to work for change together!

    Recently, I came into contact with a local woman who exemplifies this magnificently. LaShawnda Crowe Storm is a community builder in Indianapolis, currently working in Marian’s own neighborhood, the Northwest Area, on a Quality of Life Plan. For more information, visit, www.nwqol.org.

    In the words of another who walks with the poor, “When asked how doI work with the poor,” Sr. Elaine Roulette, founder of My Mother’s house in New York responds, “You don’t. You share your life with the poor. It’s as basic as crying together. It is about ‘casting your lot’ before it ever becomes about ‘changing their lot.’

    May we grow in awareness that we are all one; that in sharing our time and eventually our lives with those who seem to have less access the basic “goods” of life—food, shelter, clothing, health care, education, that we are responding to Jesus gospel call to “love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mt. 22:39) and our own lives will be transformed alongside those we are seeking to serve.

  • Whole Life: Centering Prayer

    Sep 24, 2014

    By: Karen Spear, Director of the Center for Organizational Ethics

    When I was in graduate school, my priest asked me how my coursework in theological ethics was affecting my faith. My response? "I feel as dry and desiccated as a bone." He invited me to join a small group of parishioners to whom he was teaching a prayer form called Centering Prayer. His invitation changed my life. I consider centering prayer one of the great gifts of my life.

    Centering Prayer a method of doing contemplative prayer. Many of us have probably experienced contemplative prayer in the context of deep personal prayer, saying the rosary, or kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. It is that deep peace and rest that comes upon us when we are focused on and content to abide in the presence of God.

    The method of centering prayer was formulated by Frs. Thomas Keating, William Meninger, and Basil Pennington in the 1970s. In response to an invitation from Vatican II leaders, they developed centering prayer to revive the contemplative teachings of the early church and to make them accessible to modern believers. As such, centering prayer is thoroughly Christian and Catholic and is in no way derived from Eastern religion or Eastern mysticism.

    The practice of centering prayer is simple. We sit in silence for 20 minutes, focusing our minds on a "sacred word" that represents our intention to be present to God. The sacred word can be any word or very short phrase that signals our intent. It can be as simply as “Jesus” or “God” or “rest.” As we sit in silence with the sacred word, we will notice that our minds have wandered and we are thinking. When we become aware that we are thinking, we gently turn back to our sacred word. We continue to sit in this manner – focusing on the sacred word, finding we are thinking of something else, and gently returning to our word – for 20 minutes. As our bodies and our minds begin to slow down and become still, we experience a deep and restful peace and sense of well being. Our thoughts – while not ceasing – have slipped into the background of our mind as we rest in the presence of God.

    So why would anyone want to waste 20 minutes of their day sitting around doing nothing? The priest who taught me to center called his centering prayer practice "wasting time with God!" The immediate answer is that 20 minutes spent in the presence of God is good in and of itself. God has created us so that we get pleasure from being in God's presence - and it is deeply pleasant to rest in the presence of God during centering prayer.

    For me personally, centering prayer was like coming home. In centering I begin to let go of the judgments and expectations I put upon myself and others. I find that a daily practice of centering prayer helps to keep me a little closer to my "true self" and smooths out the rough edges of my personality (AKA, my "false self"). In short, through centering prayer I became aware that God loves me just as I am.

    It's important to note, however, that practicing centering prayer can be a difficult struggle, too. In deep prayer we become aware of our shortcomings. Furthermore, such deep prayer can also bring to light psychological issues. Indeed, Fr. Keating calls centering prayer to be "divine therapy." That is, it can be God's way of gently letting us know that we have work to do on ourselves. If you find the prayer bringing up troubling issues, it is best to seek professional psychological counseling or spiritual direction to help you deal with those issues.

    If you are interested in exploring centering prayer, a good place to learn and start to practice is in a centering prayer group. There are a number of centering prayer groups in Indianapolis and they are always happy to welcome new members.

    In an age in which the speed, stress, and human disconnection of daily living can leave us feeling "dry and desiccated," centering prayer can offer 20 minutes of silence and rest that reminds us that God is present to us always and we are accepted exactly as we are.

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