Spiritual Leadership, Part II: The First Sphere of Influence

Christian leadership, then, is often best served by the application of discipline to our daily matters. We should begin with physical care, being circumspect about our diet, not as a matter of fasting but as a matter of respecting our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit, battling temptations to overeat, to junk food, to excessive alcohol, and to sweets. We must maintain our hygiene, including dental care, so that this is never a stumbling block to others. Regular exercise. And, barring an exceptional calling such as that of St. John Maximovitch, getting enough sleep to avoid illness and an irritable disposition.

We should bring our finances into good order. Again, recall St. Paul’s exhortation that we be held in high regard by those around us. We should seek to live within a budget, knowing how much we spend and where.

Then there’s the matter that hits rather close to home for me: personal organization. If you’ve failed to contact someone because you lost their phone number (as I have), or forgotten something important because the random slip of paper wasn’t recorded on your calendar, this is something to take up. Missing an important appointment for reasons like this is more than a trivial mistake, but is rather a failure of leadership.

Likewise, time management is key. We must maintain the balance in our lives: allocating time for family, for wife, for sermon preparation, for shut-in visits, for services and confession. Too often, we run around doing things at the last minute, and, yet the responsibility for this lies with only one person, whom we can see in a mirror. Each of these represents stewardship of what God has entrusted to us. This life discipline is a fundamental aspect of spiritual leadership.

I would be remiss, though, if I never touched on spiritual discipline as a matter of personal spiritual leadership. We must lead in this way, too. We must first be diligent to avoid falling into the universal vision of piety trap I discussed at length just a bit ago. Doing that is guaranteed to make us feel inauthentic and hypocritical, because the result of it is that we are inauthentic when we try to present some kind of image of piety that we do not possess. Worse, it leads to despair and spiritual suffering for the leader who becomes mired in that narrow image.

Our spiritual discipline is to be a discipline rooted in the liturgical cycle of the Church. There is an opportunity to pray according to the designated times for communal prayer, even if abbreviated and done in private. The specific nature of how we do this will vary depending on our specific circumstances.

This is also an area where technology can help. We can make use of phones and calendars to give us those periodic reminders to pray throughout the day, for ourselves, and for specific people. I’ve made use of this to remember to pray for individuals and their physicians as they go into surgery, for example. One can buy recorded prayers (or record them yourself using your smartphone or computer) to use at various times during the day, especially when commuting.

Finally, at the level of the self, I want to emphasize the importance of accountability. Confession is a big part of this. Its role is easily summarized: Give confession and receive absolution regularly. But our need goes beyond a sacrament we often receive less than we really need. Rather, we require more frequent “check ins” with those who can ask us about our lives, both in those matters of life discipline as well as with regard to prayer. I have two or three people in my life who have a magnificent spiritual gift. That gift is the ability to deliver a carefully considered, and well-placed kick to the side of my head. In other words, they have the ability to hold be accountable to the standard of this holy office and to that of the mature Christian. I daresay we all need such people, and, as painful as it is sometimes, to rejoice when they carry out their gift for our benefit.

Next time: The family

Page 2 of 2 | Previous page