Burden of Administration as Love

Yesterday (well-behind this year’s observance of the Octave Day of Easter, aka Second Sunday of Easter, aka Divine Mercy Sunday, aka Thomas Sunday) marked the feast of a rather obscure saint, Bishop Richard of Chichester.

I’d never heard of him before reading Ann Garrido’s Redeeming Administration. There she makes the rather interesting observation:

Richard is one of the few saints on the Church’s calendar to be honored solely for the holiness he practiced in ministry of administration. He was not martyred. He was not known to work miracles during his lifetime. He did not write any famous books or leave any remarkable sermon texts. He did not found a new religious congregation. He was simply the bishop of a small diocese in the south of England during a chaotic time int he history of that diocese. (64)

Reflecting on his life and ministry, Garrido makes the critical connection between management, leadership, administration and agape love.

That’s right. Love.

She writes:

Christian love is not a feeling; it is a consistent choice. And this love has value all its own…not because it makes us feel better or results in anything good, but because the act of loving is itself good. (57)

Despite starting our his service as bishop by being locked out of his residence and having the diocese’s funds stolen by Henry III, St. Richard brought the diocese to a new level of organization, service, justice, sacramental practice, and spirituality during a trying time (62).

Agape, Jesus-shaped, Holy Spirit inspired love is the only lasting motivation and power that enables us to lead with this integrity, courage, and selfless service.

Leadership, management, and administration in ministry requires, indeed demands this deep love. The love that “might not leave us feeling peaceful or happy” (57). Ministerial leaders must often make the difficult choices to love those who will likely not be around or able to say thanks or show the most gratitude. Ministry leaders must sometimes address problems or issues that even bring anger or sadness to those around them. Yet through it all, leaders must love in a selfless way, since promoting growth and/or the common good often requires pruning, or the integrity to speak with bluntness or urgency. (Just think of how the prophet Nathan was called to this…)

Ministerial leadership and administration, “offers the opportunity to grow in the capacity for agape…[it] encourages the practices of giving oneself freely and abundantly without always knowing what good one has done or who has been touched. It urges one to love without expecting emotional gratification in return” (58).

Happy feast day, St. Richard! Pray for each and every one of us stepping out, in Jesus’ love, to lead.

wall painting of Richard, via Wikipedia

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