There are certain conversations with people that stay with you for years after they occur. There is a conversation I remember having in July 2014 with an older ministry colleague that remains with me and serves as continued fuel for my “yes” to my call.
The conversation happened at a ministry meeting focused on how to reach and include young adults in our faith communities. The gathering discerning this question held people of all ages and for the first part of the meeting we began with naming the real of what we were noticing. As a young adult participant in this meeting, this topic was near and dear to my heart. In me was a passion to speak up and share not only the longings of my heart, but also to be an advocate for my peers.
At one point an older ministry colleague who I learned was not an advocate for seeking to reach younger people in any way spoke up and said, “Why does it even matter if we reach young adults or not? What do they have to offer to us? They aren’t in leadership anywhere anyway.” I have no doubt my face turned beet red as I tried to control the anger that welled up inside me. I could not get words to come out of my mouth because my insides were literally shaking as names and faces of my peers both in leadership in ministry and in their professions scrolled through my mind. The dozens of conversations with them about their desire to incorporate faith in their daily lives and their leadership flooded my thoughts. Thankfully, the meeting closed out for the day shortly after his comment and we went home for the evening before regathering again the next morning.
I drove home with holy fire in my chest, that hot holy fire that illuminates a core value or a deep knowing that has been rubbed against. I talked out loud to God the entire way home. “How can someone say this? How does he not see? How can I show him what I know to be true?” My conversation continued with God as I pulled into my driveway and walked into my house. I flung my purse on the table, and as I did, my keys fell out on top of the newspaper. My eyes caught a headline: Top 40 Under 40 Announced.
I quickly grabbed the paper and began scanning the list of business women and men under the age of forty who were recognized for the award this year. Tears began pouring down my face as I read the roles these young adults held…Senator, Superintendent of the School District, Doctor, Owner of a Business, Non-Profit Executive Director, Social Justice Advocate. Here in my hands was the concrete evidence of why it mattered to me that young adults are reached in our faith communities. These women and men were in decision making and leadership positions. They impacted and influenced thousands of lives. I wanted them to know Jesus. I wanted them to know the tools of discernment and prayer. I yearned for them to be contemplative leaders.
In the Apostolic preferences named by the Jesuits the first preference is named as: “To show people the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises, prayer and discernment.” The other three preferences are tied to walking with the excluded, journeying with youth, and care of our common home. In Father General Arturo Sosa SJ’s letter about the apostolic preferences, he mentioned that when the Holy Father confirmed the preferences said:
“the first preference is crucial because it presupposes as a basic condition the Jesuit’s relationship with the Lord in a personal and communal life of prayer and discernment.” And he added: “Without this prayerful attitude the other preferences will not bear fruit.”
Pope Francis’ words capture the fire that was in my heart that day at the ministry gathering. It matters that young adults know how to pray and discern. It matters that adults of all ages know how to pray and discern. It matters that our leaders know how to pray and discern. When we have found a pathway to God through prayer and discernment, our hearts are changed and transformed. Our hearts, minds, and eyes are expanded to see beyond the one towards the all. We are invited outside of ourselves. We are invited to see and name the real around us in the world. We are sent forth to be the hands of feet of Christ in the world today. We are called to be heralds of hope.
That conversation from years ago remains with me. It serves often as fuel for my passion to teach people to know God and to know the tools of prayer and discernment. As I look at the world today, I feel a strong urge to help form and call forth contemplative leaders in the many facets of our lives.
This next series will focus on several qualities of Contemplative Leaders based on an article I wrote for Ignatianspirituality.com last year. As we move together through this series, I invite each of us to prayerfully discern, how are we being invited to contemplative leadership today?
- Part of being a contemplative leader is action. Read more about faith in action on our resource page here.
- Read another article by Becky about being a Contemplative in Action here.
- Consider praying with The Beatitudes.
Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash