The Leadership That Marks the World

Deep down, everyone has a deep desire to touch lives, inspire hearts and minds to do the best. We want to do great things. We want to win the great battle. We want to reach the mountaintop. We want to live our ordinary life extraordinarily. We not only want to be these things, we want to point others to them also. The purpose of this paper is to identify some characteristics of an excellent leader.

To be a leader is no walk in the park. We have the arduous task of inspiring ordinary people to attain the extraordinary, and to stir natural man to the supernatural. Leadership demands us to be selfless in the service of others, and to sacrifice our lives to save others; it demands us to act alone sometimes, even if we don’t know most of the consequences— “loneliness of command”. So, that’s why many fail.

Although in the modern world people are reticent to accept things based solely on authority, when someone bold, courageous, fearless, and authentic emerges, they follow him faithfully. Bold leaders who can lead people to greatness inspire people how to win the inner war are followed without question. Young and old, men and women are looking for a leader who can look at them in the eyes and tell them the truth about themselves, about reality and life. They want someone who lives what he teaches. That’s the leader that inspires.

cPeople want a leader who leads by example. Do you ever wonder how was Jesus able to have so many followers, and get 12 uneducated men to set the world on fire through the gospel message? He inspired them through the examples of his life. They remained committed to him because he was never afraid to tell them the truth in love, even when it hurts. Sometimes the truth is so bold and mind boggling, some left, but they returned. “Lord to whom shall we go you have the world of eternal life” (John 6:68).

He was the finest example of authentic leadership. His conviction, humility, oratory skills made him one of the greatest leaders we have ever had. Throughout history, kings, queens, emperors, and presidents send their subjects off to die for them; their servants serve them. Jesus is the only leader who came to serve not to be served, and the only one who died for his subjects. This style of leadership has never been seen before, and I am not sure if any great leader has been wise enough to imitate it. However, the fruit this style bears is more effective than any style we are familiar with. It yields followers who are not afraid to give their lives for him. He has faithful followers in every corner of the earth. Genius huh?

Why was he so successful we may ask? Inspiration is everything. Great ideas and eloquent phrases are indubitably beautiful, but none is more effective than someone capable of inspiring others. The most beautiful speeches that cause change of hearts are not the poetic, and flawlessly written ones; the most effective speeches are demonstrated, and lived. They are the ones that inspire. They are unforgettable.family-driven-faith-3

A true leader is courageous. Courage is a virtue, so it must be acquired. No one was born a leader according to Aristotle. It is a choice just like exercising is a choice. One becomes a strong, courageous, inspiring, and bold leader through practice, sacrifice, and discipline. Jesus was never afraid of the consequences of the truth, like when he was teaching on the Eucharist. The saints are courageous. Was St. Joseph not courageous? Good man, but ordinary man that he was, God asked him to accept Mary as his pregnant wife although he never did the deed; he accepts. Could you believe this? He accepts to take Mary as his wife although he had no idea at first how she became pregnant. That’s bold. That’s courageous. He fulfilled what St. Paul would say years later: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). That’s what kept the saints going among ridicule, doubts, fears, and during periods of the dark night of the souls. They kept their eyes on the goal. They remained grounded on their spiritual Reference Point— God through daily prayer. Consequently, they won the unfading crown prize.

lincolnCourage is the mother of every great moment and movement that has changed the course of history. It is what led Abraham Lincoln to do fight to preserve the union, abolish slavery, strengthen the federal government, and modernize the economy. It is what inspired Gandhi to stand up for freedom through the use of non-violence against the British. It is what led to the passage and ratification of the Constitutional amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote in 1919. It is how the civil rights movement won passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for black Americans. They succeeded because they were not spiritually malnourished. Courage cannot be maintained unless rooted in a prayer life; that is necessary if anything noteworthy is to be accomplished. Courage, perseverance, and the will to fight for what is right till the very end make them a great leader.

A leadership vacuum exists in our culture. The world is in need of leaders. Our church is in desperate need of leaders who can inspire people to boldly embrace the gospel. We need leaders who are not afraid to defend our divine right in the public square. When we speak, even our own people don’t listen. When we get attacked, we don’t have one voice that could present our case for us, although many little voices are trying. We continue to succumb to the pressure of the masses about what to teach in our schools. We accept the fact that the natural law is not a valid argument in the public square. We continue to honor pro-abortion politicians with honorary degrees in our colleges. Our universities, the media, and Hollywood have done a masterful job at ridiculing every Christian virtue and elevating every form of sin as a noble right, cloaked under the guise of rights of freedom of choice.

slide_346602_3652488_freeThis is a direct result of poor leadership. We are all guilty; if we radically live the gospel, people will listen; they would not trample our views underfoot; they would not dare asking us to cover our cross when they are passing by. It does not take too many to change this trend. Just as it did not take too many St. John Vianneys to change the city of Ars, just as it did not need too many Mother Teresas to transform Calcutta, just as it did not take too many John Paul IIs to change Poland, it will not take too many of us to change this trend. But it will take some of us. Don’t ask who will it be? Look in the mirror.

May the Good Lord give rise to courageous leaders capable of leading us out of this mess. Amen.

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The Friendship That Lasts

There’s nothing more beautiful in this life than a beautiful friendship. For Ben Sirach the sage, “a true friend is a sturdy shelter; he who has found one finds a treasure”. A true friend is beyond price; no amount can balance his worth. A loyal friend is like a medicine that keeps you in good health. Only those who fear the Lord can find such a friend (Sir. 6:114-7). Thomas Aquinas agrees. He says “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship” (Summa Theologica, Supplement Question 73, Article 1). Aristotle noted in the Nicomachean Ethics book VIII that a friendship based on virtue is the most glorious thing we can achieve on earth. Some go through life without ever finding one; these are grumpy and frustrated. Others do find one, but fail to recognize his value; these have experienced some good days. Still others find one, but only recognize his value after he loses that friendship. These kinds are in search of that true friendship. And the luckiest of them all do find a true friend and ipso facto recognize that gift and cherish it like the greatest pearl. That one is blessed indeed.

friendWho is a true friend? It is someone who is there, physically or in spirit, in moments of anguish, trials, adversity, joy and festive. It is someone who is not afraid to challenge you to become the most virtuous, disciplined, and the best you can be in life. A true friend is always honest and trustworthy. A true friend knows his friends. A true friend lets himself be known.If you want a true friend, become one yourself.

So it is really difficult to find a true friend, and it takes time to come to maturity. According to Cicero, “nothing in the world is harder to find than an excellent friend” (on friendship #21). Only the test of time allows us to know whether or not we have found one. Plutarch, the first century Roman philosopher, argues that a true friend stays true to the truth; a true friend is not a yes-man; he approves only what is good in his friend, and would even go so far as to hurt him for the good. Plutarch suggests that we test friendship by pretending to change back and forth to see whether he will follow indiscriminately. Not a bad idea!

For Cicero, goodness is what makes friendship work. Friendship can only exist between good people. By good, he means those whose actions and lives are unquestionable; those who are free from greed, lust, and violence; those who have the courage of their convictions (Essay on friendship #5). In this view, friendship is defined as a complete accord on all subjects human and divine, joined with mutual goodwill and affection. The latter is crucial for friendship. Without it, there may be a relationship, but not friendship. The former is what binds the friendship together. They help each other discover what is most important in life and they encourage each other to live it out. Aristotle views friendship as a necessity, but something rare to find. That view finds echo in Aristotle’s Nicomacheans ethics, he asserts that a friendship grounded on goodness has a lasting quality to it.

fraThe saints are the best of friends. Whereas you and I can be unbearable at times, the saints are always pleasant company. They don’t show off; they don’t blame; they show no petty humor; they don’t lecture us even when they should. They challenge, inspire, and encourage us by simply living their own lives to the fullest. By the examples of their lives, we are inspired to live the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives extraordinarily. Think of Pier Giorgio Frassati. He bore witness to his faith among his friends in the most exemplary ways. He did not force them into his way, but his beautiful life inspires them to adopt his way. His dedication to the poor made him outstanding among us all. How many of his friends did he influence to live a more humble, joyful, helpful, and meaningful life by his dedication? Goodness is contagious. Even a blind man knows when he is in the presence of a bright light.

Virtue precedes friendship. It is the standard by which we measure friendship. How can life be worth living without friends? There is nothing more delightful than to have a trusted friend to whom you can say everything with the same absolute confidence as to yourself. Without a friend to share one’s joy, prosperity is devalued by half. Misfortunes would be unbearable without a friend to feel them on one’s side (on friendship #6). The attitude of job’s three friends corroborates this view. When they heard of his troubles, they went and empathize with him and comfort him. They could hardly recognize him; they weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights without saying a word (Job 2:11-13). Friends such as these, everyone needs one. So true friendship enhances even the most unbearable misfortunes of life.job

Cicero, the greatest of the Roman orators, asserts that friendship embraces innumerable advantages. It is more expedient and universal than wealth, power, office, and honor. Where true friendship exists, it enhances prosperity, and relieves adversity of its burden by half (on friendship #6). A true friend is the image of a second self. Where one’s friend is one is; if his friend is rich, he is not poor; though he is weak, his friend’s strength is his; and in his friend’s life he enjoys a second life even after his own is finished. The Romans went so far as to say that whatever in nature and the universe was unchangeable was so in virtue of the binding force of friendship (friendship #7). There’s a lot to chew on here.

Choose your friends wisely. As the proverb goes, “you end up resembling whoever you spend most of your time with”. If you had a choice between St. Clare, St Joseph, and St. Francis and Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, and Bruno Mars, who would you choose? Is it not better to spend time with dead people who bring us to life and with live people who bring us to death? If you could choose between virtues and vices, spiritual growth and material growth, what would you choose? You have that choice. Choose wisely.

Befriend the saints and you will be the best of friend to your friends. Nothing is more precious than a spiritual friend because it does not seek its own advantage but the well-being of the other. That’s the selfless and unconditional love that’s born out of true friendship.