Blog
News & Stories
Blog Home > Author > Mark
Mark
Mark is the Retreat and Conference Center Director.
Leadership is like Fire
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Earlier this year I facilitated a presentation (via Zoom of course) entitled, “Leadership Like Fire: Stop Drop & Roll.” In that presentation I expounded upon by observations of what leadership is. In sum, leadership is about others, it’s about service, and it’s about discernment.

To make my case, I cited three leaders, three figures of the Church (I figured it would be less controversial to cite church leaders rather than cultural or political leaders) and they were: Vincent de Paul, Catherine McAuley, and Therese Couderc. I used their lives, their actions, as examples of good leadership, of servant leadership. The framework I used to adjudicate what good or servant leadership looks like was the model I became familiar with in graduate school: the Markkula Center Model.

A good leader is a servant leader, one who wants to serve, one who is concerned with the growth of those they lead, and whose decisions ensure the least privileged are helped or at least not harmed. Again: service, others, and discernment.

But, leadership is far more art than science, and so tidy categories and succinct definitions as well as charts and brief biographies of past leaders don’t quite get us to the heart of leadership. Prose is necessary to explain the heart of leadership but poetry is necessary to understand what makes the heart of leadership beat. As such my presentation, like my personal opinions on leadership, employed some poetry, some beautiful themes and words from Joseph Grant of JustFaith and his book, Still in the Storm.

Grant spoke of making space, making time, and dropping down to learn, to grow, to be where we ought to be – to lead. And so to me, good, ethical, moral and yes servant leadership is best encapsulated on Holy Thursday. The example Christ provided by stooping down, and washing the feet of others, to be of service to the least and the last, that’s leadership.

Comments 0 Rating: Be the first person to rate this post.
Faith Goals
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Integrity. My faith goal or rather the goal of my faith is to achieve and maintain integrity of the Word and my deeds. The objectives to achieve this goal of integrity; doing, saying, and acting with consistency and in accord with the mandates of Christ, as I see it, are as follows:

Be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer (James 2:20 & James 1:19-27)
Be neighborly (Luke 10:29-37)
Do Mercy (Matthew 25:31-46)
Minimize myself and maximize others (John 3:30 & John 12:20-36)
Be attentive (Luke 10:38-42)
Be sacramental (Luke 4:16-21 & John 13:1-20)

In light of faith, I must remember that the only hill I should be willing to die on, is not a social media argument, political entanglement, or some passing triviality, but rather the hill that Jesus taught the Beatitudes from that’s where I stake my claim. That Sermon on the Mount articulates who Christ is, what the Church is, and the mission we all have in this faith. May I have integrity to accept, believe, practice, and do this mission – live this faith.  And when I fail, may I examine my conscience, seek forgiveness, and do better. Amen!

Comments 0 Rating: Rated 5 star by 1 people.
Cenacle Spirituality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

To surrender to God is not to give up; to trust in Jesus is not an abdication of responsibility; to be vulnerable is not to be confused with self-pity or certitude of pain; to go on retreat is not an escape from reality but is rather an entering into the real presence of the Good God.

The spiritual gift of Mother Therese Couderc lives on within the Cenacle family: Sisters, Auxiliaries and Affiliates, staff and co-ministers, retreatants and friends. Her earthly life ended in 1885, but her influence and insights live-on. She gave retreats, gardened, taught religion, dealt with demotion and illness. Most importantly, I think, she provided welcome – hospitality – because in prayer and simple service she saw that goodness was written all around and in every person. She did not give up or give in to set backs, accusations, or illness. She surrendered to God.

I’m not sure which is more difficult today: seeing Goodness around us or surrendering to God? Which is more difficult is a moot point. Thanks to Mother Therese and her example in post-Revolution France, no matter what is most difficult we know that the yolk of Jesus is light and hospitality and simple service suffice.

 

“Not my will be done, but [God’s]. That is my favorite prayer which I mean to pray every day as long as there is breath left in me, because it is the one which gives me and leaves me with the greatest peace of soul.” – Letter to Mother Marie Aimee Lautier, October 16, 1881

 

“Surrender myself, that is all I did during this retreat – the good God did all the rest.” – Letter to Mother de Larochenegly, February 13, 1864

 

“I abandon myself sincerely to God’s will and good pleasure, and when I have sincerely made this act of abandonment, I am calm and I experience a great peace.” – Letter to Mother de Larochenegly, November 25, 1875

Comments 0 Rating: Rated 4.5 star by 1 people.
The Room Where It Happens
AUTHOR
Mark  »

In the play Hamilton, Aaron Burr pleads, “I wanna be in the room where it happens, the room where it happens.”  This private space is the place of power and deal making where insiders conspire.  The ambitious aspire to be one of the brokers there.

For the past century, the Cenacle has offered a different kind of space.  At the heart of the Sisters’ ministry has always been the inspiration of the Upper Room (the Cenacle).  The Cenacle is the room where Jesus joined with his friends in the Last Supper, where he gave them an example of selfless service by washing their feet.  It is also where the disciples awaited in prayer the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Cenacle is a place of quiet expectation, of communion and of transformation.

At the retreat center in Chicago and at similar others throughout the world, the Cenacle Sisters offer a spiritual and physical place, a “room where it happens.”  What happens, though, is quite different from what Burr was after.  What happens is the opportunity for deep encounter, personal discovery, awakening to one’s true self, meeting God in prayer.  A respite from the headlong pace and screen-filled diversion of our lives, the Cenacle offers an invaluable gift – time and space for quiet reflection, a room where nothing and everything happens.

Comments 0 Rating: Rated 5 star by 1 people.
AUTHOR
Mark  »

My daughter, Rachel Day, turns six in September. Most evenings I am the one who puts her to bed, which means after picking out books and pajamas, brushing teeth and putting on those pajamas, after reading those books and turning out the light, it’s time for evening prayers. Usually my wife attends to our son, George DeSales, during this night time ritual.

Evening prayers with my daughter are pretty rote at this stage. I’m trying to inculcate and cultivate the value and purpose of prayer, the value and purpose predicated on an examination of conscience, thinking of others, being grateful, and not being afraid to ask for help. And so, here’s the “formula” we mostly stick to each night. The Spirit disguised as a meandering mind or spontaneous thinking of a child may veer us elsewhere from time-to-time.

Me: Did you have a good day
Rachel: Yes / No / kind-a
Me: What do we say [regardless of a good, bad, or kind-a-good days]?
Rachel: Thank You God.

Me: Are you sorry for the times you did not listen today?
Rachel Yes (sometimes… silence)
Me: And so we say
Rachel: Sorry God

Me: Are you grateful for all of God’s graces you experienced today; in laughter and learning, curiosity and discovery; playtime and running and jumping; food and family; and all things bright and beautiful?
Rachel: Yes

Me: And what do you want to ask Jesus tonight?
Rachel: Dear Jesus, please keep us safe
Me: And please keep all the kids around the world safe, especially those who are…
Rachel: Sad, lonely, or in danger

Me: And, do you want to do good and be good?
Rachel: Yes
Me: And help people and be of service?
Rachel: Yes
Me: And listen to God, Mommy and Daddy?
Rachel: Yes

Me: Is there anyone you want to pray for tonight?
Rachel: [Usually the dog, a grandparent, or “the family”]

Me: Do you have any questions for God?
Rachel: [usually, no]

Me: And so…
Rachel: We want the Holy Spirit to guide
Me: Pope Francis
Rachel: And convert the heart of the
Me: President

Together: Our Father…

Together: Hail Mary…

Together: Glory Be…

Me: [Litany of Saints] St. Margaret of Scotland & St. Barnabas (where our children were baptized)
Rachel: Pray for us
Me: Dorothy Day & Catherine McAuley
Rachel: Pray for us
Me: Saints George & Francis de Sales
Rachel: Pray for us
Me: Mary Queen of Peace & St. Cecilia
Rachel: pray for us
Me: St. Mark & St. Thomas
Rachel: pray for us
Me: St. Ann & St. John the Evangelist
Rachel: pray for us
Me: St. Dymphna & St. Kateri
Rachel: Pray for us

Me: Anything else you want to offer to God?
Rachel: No (with rare exceptions)

 End note: She complained a few months back that my evening prayers with her were too long. She suggested, once, that we pray the rosary instead. She did not believe me that it would take longer to pray the rosary than this formula. And so, that evening I acquiesced. Since that night she has not requested the rosary at bedtime.

Comments 0 Rating: Be the first person to rate this post.
The Meek Mentality
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Strength. Two passages of Scripture populate when I hear the word strength.

Scripture passage number one, “I can do all things, through Christ, who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13); Scripture passage number two, from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the meek…” (Matthew 5:5).

Strength is a fickle word to define. A good leader, especially in politics, like a good lineman in football is thought to be “strong,” but certainly the strength of the lineman and the strength of the politician are not the same, or are they? I think strength is born of will or desire, determination or practice. I think also strength should not be thought of as entirely synonymous with the word “might” or relegated only for the concept of physical strength. A better synonym for strength, on a football field or in a hall of power might be the word resolve. Strength as resolve is the reason, I think of those two Scripture passages. And I think those two passages are very much interrelated.

Blessed are the meek, I do not think means blessed the weak. Rather, the meek are those who are gentle, those who have the power, the strength to overwhelm, strike-down, to hurt or annihilate, but have also the strength to not react in that manner. The meek keep their swords sheathed, they do not react or over-react with their might. And, I think, that that is hard. I think it’s Christ who strengthens our resolve not to respond with might but rather with meekness. Many times, a show of force or lashing out is easier, perhaps automatic, compared to walking away, being meek. Because meekness is hard, perhaps unattainable on our own, we need Christ to strengthen us in meekness, to choose peace, or quiet, or gentleness, or compassion, or empathy, over “I’ll show you,” or “what about me!” actions and mentalities.  We do not have to up the ante, we do not have to view life as a zero-some game, but it takes strength, or rather meekness to choose a better way.

Comments 0 Rating: Rated 5 star by 1 people.
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Purchasing Disney+ as a Christmas present for our five-year-old daughter, and two-year-old son provided to be a wise decision. With sheltering-in-place (what week are we on?) there has been an uptick in screen time for my kids. To be fair, there’s been an uptick in screen time for my wife and me too. 

 My kids have similar tastes in movies. When they argue amongst each other it’s not too frequently about what to watch but rather who gets to sit in the “best” corner of the couch. Recently, they have been watching the Toy Story series -- the adventures of two toys, Woody (a cowboy) and Buzz Lightyear (a space ranger). First released in 1995, twenty-four years later, Toy Story Four was released just last year. I am roughly the same age as Andy, the boy to whom the toys belong and I’ve very much grown up with this series, enjoy it, and thus am most pleased my children request to watch these films.

Circumstances change; newness arrives and oldness commences; adversity cycles through. The values of loyalty and commitment conspire with self-identity to sculpt the edifice of love. The name of this type of love is friendship. Through thick-and-thin, joys and sorrows, strenuous disagreements and the like, these movies are about creating and maintaining friendship. How prescient for my kids to select films, animated allegories, about friendship in the time of adversity. Friendship is a wonderful, beautiful thing. And thanks to Toy Story, that ear-worm of Randy Newman’s, “You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” is on repeat in my house. That’s a good thing. If my kids can cultivate friendships they will do well and go far. So far, they could repeat the words of Buzz Lightyear with gusto and shout, “to infinity, and beyond!” 

 

Comments 0 Rating: Rated 5 star by 1 people.
AUTHOR
Mark  »

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
-- Robert Frost


April showers bring May flowers. And as we are in May the poem above seems both apt and timely; for flowers and for each of us. We have bent low or laid lodged, but we have also two reasons for hope.

First, knowing that every storm we’ve experienced eventually ends and because this rain has fallen so hard and for so long, we have reason to believe that we are progressing, in time, towards a break in the storm or even this rain’s end.

Second, we have the capacity, like flower stems, for flexibility, for bending without breaking. We also have trust that with God’s grace our roots that can keep us in place even as the previously solid ground around us morphs into messy mud.

Now knowing how the flowers felt, we need not feel stuck in sorrow, but planted in empathy and solidarity. We know we can pray just as hard as the wind can push or the rain pelt.

Comments 0 Rating: Be the first person to rate this post.
The Blooming
AUTHOR
Mark  »

It snowed. Before it snowed the stems of the daffodils had already broken the ground, growing, rising upwards. The next day, the snow melted. The stems of the daffodils are growing and rising even more. In the midst of that hallmark of Winter – snow – Spring had not stopped; in fact, she appears to have used that snow to quench the voracious thirst of the growing new life.

 Like Winter to Spring or any other seasonal transition, life had changed, not ended. This is not to say that all is normal, fine, or going well. Some seasons are impacted by flood or draught. The earth can be fickle. I too can be fickle, so I won’t belabor that point.

It may seem like snow has covered us all, that there is struggle in surviving the unexpected cold. I do not prophesy, but I do hope and though at times difficult I do trust too. A snow has fallen. I hope that the warming, elongated Light of Spring will melt that snow, turn it to good use, and I trust that with God’s help we will continue to grow and rise upwards. I look forward to the blooming daffodils, and in due time, for the blossoming of human life in a Spring-time garden. Let us hope and trust. Let us tend our gardens as we find them, as we are able.

Comments 0 Rating: Rated 4 star by 1 people.
The True Cost
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Be careful what you sacrifice. Be mindful of how your sacrifice affects both you and those around you. Do discernment.

 

Two be’s and one action help buttress how we engage in sacrifice, because by itself, I believe sacrifice is neither good nor bad, it simply is. I believe this because some sacrifice is brought on due to external factors, such as a change in health, income, or relationships. These changes prompt us to perhaps make sacrifices to our routines to ensure health, make sacrifices to ensure ends-meet, and make sacrifices to improve relationships. Some sacrifices are brought about by internal means: spiritual discipline, psychological well-being, a new goal that requires you sacrifice the amount of time you’d spend elsewhere.


If we “have” to sacrifice, or if we “choose” to sacrifice, we must employ discernment to know the true cost of the sacrifice and to take into consideration how our sacrifice might affect others. Discernment is key. If I choose to give up caffeine, to sacrifice caffeine either for the sake of a spiritual discipline (like Lent) or simply to assist in better health, I need to ensure that my going into caffeine withdrawal should not make those around me miserable.  If I sacrifice my time to help the team at work, I need to be mindful that the time I’m giving up outside of work is perhaps time I might spend unwinding, not time I’d spend with my kids, if at all possible. We are interconnected, what we choose to sacrifice can very well affect us and those around us and so it’s very important to be careful, be observant of our sacrifice, and discern if the sacrifice is achieving the positive end and/or how the sacrifice is affecting other aspects of life.

Comments 0 Rating: Rated 5 star by 1 people.
Page 1 of 2
First Previous
1
2
Next Last
Pages :