Life before the Jesuits?

Friar Tom and I attended this week’s Meritus Breakfast Meeting with Archbishop Collins. Meritus is an Archdiocesan association of business people. One of the organizers has been doing some consulting work for us for our project to support St. Clare Inn: housing and care for homeless women with mental health issues. Anyways… the Archbishop has been holding these breakfast meetings for them that start at 7:15 with Eucharist followed by a simple breakfast and a guest speaker.

Friday’s gathering took place at the beautifully restored St. Paul’s Basilica on Queen Street. Msgr Brad Massman [what a name for a priest, eh!], the Rector of the Basilica has done a great job with the parish and made it a focus of pride in a tough neighborhood in Toronto. It is after-all the “mother church” of the city, although not the Cathedral.

The speaker this week was Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit and who worked for 17 years at JP Morgan in New York.  He spoke on leadership. Poor Mr.Lowney has had his sense of history distorted by the Jesuits. [Jesuits are amazing educators. My degree in counselling is from Loyola in Baltimore. But, sometimes Jesuits forget about history prior to St.Ignatius.]  Mr. Lowney was talking about when the Jesuits came on board they wanted to move away from the monastic model to one that would allow them to retain a sense of prayer  while being among the people and engaged in ministry. Humm??? Have you heard of the Mendicant Orders? You know… Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites, Trinitarians… all much older than the Jesuits. The mendicants are neither Contemplative (a life of prayer) nor Apostolic (a life of ministry) but rather Evangelical (living the Gospel in community and through ministry)… a blend of the two.

Mr. Lowney has written a book on heroic leadership, based I guess on some of the insights of the Jesuits that calls us to all be leaders. Leadership is not so much a question of “position” but seeing ourselves as powerful in our abilit to effect change around us. This comes only if we are free from undue attachments. Attachements to power, status,sex, drugs, money, possessions are what sometimes keep us from doing what we need to do.

He told an interesting story about the recent debacle on Wall Street, especially with the fall of a couple of important institutions. He contrasted what happened at Lehman Brothers and at Merril Lynch. Lehman Brothers had, according to Lowney, several offers over the last year to be bought out. But, they resisted thinking they could do it on their own. Was it true? Did they really believe that or where they caught up in their own hype and sense of self-importance?  The couldn’t possible sell after having survived the Depression and the Great Wars? On the other hand Merrill Lynch saw the writing on the wall. The boss realized this on a Saturday and by Monday had arranged to sell the company.  At the press conference when this was announced he was asked what his role would be at the new company. His answer was that he did not know, they had not talked about it.  Does this mean he put the well-being of the company, it’s people and clients ahead of his own position and ego? Perhaps. According to Lowney this can only be done by someone who is grounded in a real sense of leadership and free from attachments.

I bought his book, Heroic Leadership. It sounds pretty good.

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