Saturday, October 8, 2011

On the Money?

 It is rare that I do not watch Fr. Robert Barron without profit, i.e. without learning, without unleashing some kind of a thought process and always for the good. His two recent videos, reflecting on lessons to be learned from the movie "Moneyball" and his thoughts especially on leadership within the Church are no exception. See: "Moneyball" Commentary  and Additional Commentary

I put comments on both, but the line of the commentary on the first was centered on some touchy North vs. South business and "wordonfire2" doesn't seem to rake in the comments... Anyway! No problem for the question of personal sanctity. I see great merit in using the notion "What do you want?" as a rudder for steering my personal ship through all sorts of straits in life. Father's suggestion that a bishop can use the same double-edged sword in exercising leadership in his diocese (come what may) is for me less helpful, if not problematic. 

The Office of Readings, 2nd Reading for this Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, as drawn from an approved author in the person of Pope St. Gregory the Great, offers me solace not in answering or contradicting Fr. Barron but maybe in attempting to save his "Moneyball" paradigm for something beyond my own quest to live at one with the Lord of my life and thereby hasten His coming not only into my life but into a world for which I am called to be light and salt. And I quote:

"Look about you and see how full the world is of priests, yet in God's harvest a laborer is rarely to be found; for although we have accepted the priestly office, we do not fulfill its demands... Pray for us so that we may have the strength to work on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, and that after we have accepted the office of preaching, our silence may not condemn us before the just judge. For frequently the preacher's tongue is bound fast on account of his own wickedness; while on the other hand it sometimes happens that because of the people's sins, the word of preaching is withdrawn from those who preside over the assembly... There is something else about the life of the shepherds, dearest brothers, which discourages me greatly... I speak of our absorption in external affairs; we accept the duties of office, but by our actions we show that we are attentive to other things. We abandon the ministry of preaching and, in my opinion, are called bishops to our detriment, for we retain the honorable office but fail to practice the virtues proper to it. Those who have been entrusted to us abandon God, and we are silent. They fall into sin, and we do not extend a hand of rebuke... We are set to guard the vineyards but do not guard our own, for we get involved in irrelevant pursuits and neglect the performance of our ministry."

In a sense, my replique to Fr. Barron would be that I can only or first only ask what I want of myself as did St. Jean Marie Vianney did in embracing his parish of Ars. All that followed in terms of his spiritual fruitfulness did indeed flow from his embrace, night and day, of the Cross of the Lord Whom he sought above all else and Whom he gifted to anyone he could reach. He didn't fire anyone and he certainly did not withhold the word of preaching. That "one thing" which Jesus said no one should take from Martha's sister Mary was that "one thing" which consumed Vianney in his parish ministry, overflowing as it did to the countryside and farther afield in France.

Putting together a team is something which St. Ignatius of Loyola did and consciously, but his effort was less talent scouting and more wrestling with God. Fr. Barron, whether in the first place or not, dangles the prospect of victory out there in a manner which puzzles. Jesus gives me no other option than but to start at home confident that there is still a "beam" to be withdrawn from my own eye. My own Calvary or my personal share in Christ's is seminal. What leadership is within the Church has much to do with witness, clarity of witness, and less to do with clean edged management skills.

This reflection is a work in progress... proceed with caution!


  1. Work in progress: 1st installment.
    Pope St. Gregory speaks about the negligence of priests for their primary duty of preaching or of the inefficacy of their preaching because of personal sin. "What do you want?" ... can a bishop cleanse the temple, so to speak, to make room for worthy ministers of Word and Sacrament? I wonder if Fr. Barron was thinking about the bishops' responsibility also for the abuse scandal of our day and time?
    It's not hard to see why Pope St. Gregory started at home and with himself when it came to criticizing.

  2. "What leadership is within the Church has much to do with witness, clarity of witness, and less to do with clean edged management skills."

    I recently experienced this sentiment in my academic formation from an adviser who encouraged me to not enroll in a human resource management course and to focus my efforts in responding to the call to holiness.

  3. I think I understand you and agree wholeheartedly with your adviser. The inexorable logic of choices first and foremost in the field of managerial skills begs the question of the role for both priesthood and the witness of the consecrated life. Jesus' teaching about salt and light is indeed a witness discourse. Thank you!


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