success stories

Posted July 15, 20003

Book: Spiritual Exercises for Church Leaders
Author: Dolores R. Leckey & Paula Minaert
Paulist Press, New York, pp. 96

Excerpt from Jacket:

Spiritual Exercises for Church Leaders grows out of the Church Leadership Program of the Woodstock Theological Center where a systematic approach to the development of authentic leadership was designed and field tested in a number of settings.

The process begins with a focus on gratitude, the foundation of spiritual growth, and then moves through the steps needed for authentic leadership. Being attentive and intelligent, being discerning and responsible: These are the steps that lead to conversion, and ultimately to authenticity.

The process is based on the spiritual insights of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the theological method of Bernard Lonergan, S.J., and scripture. In particular, passages from the Acts of the Apostles show how leadership developed in the early Church, and how we can learn from that experience. Other disciplines — the arts, history, and sociology — together with reflective exercises are resources for understanding how change occurs, how culture impacts our religious understanding, and how creative solutions to contemporary problems are fostered.

Excerpt from Book:

The word “gratitude” comes from the Latin word gratus, which meant grateful or pleasing. Gratus is also akin to a Sanskrit word that translates as “he praises.” Our word “grace” — meaning unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their sanctification — also comes from gratus.

The etymology reflects a profound reality: gratitude is related to grace. It’s our gratitude and God’s grace. The one flows from the other, is a response to it. We are grateful for God’s grace. We praise God for it.

Gratitude forms the bookends of this short course. You will notice in the Examen that Ignatius begins with the simple instruction to give thanks. Be grateful, he says. Why? This doesn’t seem to make sense. After all, we are undertaking this seminar, these spiritual exercises, because we feel a lack. Things are not as they should be. We are not as we should be. We are trying to correct flaws and solve problems, to change things, with God’s help. This is serious business. But nothing has happened yet, so why give thanks?

This attitude misses a profound understanding that Ignatius had, an understanding that lies at the very heart of this process: God’s love comes first. It has always existed. It was before the beginning of time and before the formation of the world. It was before the creation of human beings and before the onset of human sin. The love is, as St. Paul says, the very ground of our being, the most fundamental reality.

God acted first. God took the initiative and created us, out of love. God did not simply respond in love to our sin. This means that we were created for a reason, that we have a purpose for our life, and this purpose is given to us by God. Our very existence is a gift from God. This is why we are grateful; we are starting with God’s love, and responding to it, rather than looking at our own failings.

Health professionals know that attitude plays a large role in the success of any exercise program. If we start exercising because we feel we have no choice, we resent doing it, and we are convinced we won’t enjoy it, we are more likely to give up. But if we start with the attitude that we are thankful that we have bodies and that we are able to exercise at all, that these are blessings, then there is greater chance we will stick with it.

Spiritual exercises work the same way. We start by being thankful that we exist and that our bodies, minds, and wills that we can use. These are not just givens that we can take for granted; they are blessings. Recognizing this is much more effective than focusing on our needs and our faults. We know that we have made mistakes in the past and that we will continue to make mistakes. We are imperfect. But nothing can take these gifts away from us. So it is appropriate to be grateful to the Giver: God.

Table of Contents:

Session One: Gratitude
Session Two: Being Attentive
Session Three: Exploring (Being Intelligent)
Session Four: Discerning
Session Five: Being Responsible
Session Six: Community