What makes a good leader? Today’s passage from 1 Peter addresses church leaders, but I think it can be easily applied to today because it talks about the qualities of a good leader: being responsible of the people you overlook, but not asserting your authority too much.
Being in charge gives some people the idea that they can just tell everyone working for them what to do, no questions asked. “You say ‘Jump,’ I say ‘How high?’” kind of thing. Other examples of bad leadership can be seen in corrupt politicians and corporate executives. Even women in charge can succumb to the corruption of power, such as Queen Jezebel and Lady Macbeth.
But good leaders exist. In both men and women. Just look at Judith, from the previous Bible study, who was able to lead an army to victory. Or Queen Esther who saved her people from genocide. There are also leaders found within the saints such as Joan of Arc, who lead an army, and Queen Elizabeth of Hungary. (See, there is such a thing as a good queen!)
But one example of a great female leader from the 20th century who eventually became a saint was St. Katherine Drexel. She was born in Philadelphia to a wealthy, devoutly Catholic family. You’d think that she would become some kind of spoiled debutante, especially when she lost her parents and became heiress to a large fortune. However, she was actually intimidated by all the money she had.
She confessed to her spiritual director that she felt like a little girl who ripped the face of a porcelain doll only to discover that it was straw. She eventually gained an audience with Pope Leo XIII and told him about her desire to help out the Catholic Indian Mission. She said
“Holy Father, what you must do is find an order of priests or sisters who will catechize, teach, and care for these people.” Pope Leo XIII told her “You should be that missionary.”
Eventually, Katherine Drexel did create that order she so desired: The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Katherine’s legacy can be found today in Xavier University in New Orleans, the first historically black college as well as the schools, hospitals, and institutions she founded all across the country.
All of these things were funded by Katherine’s inheritance. If that’s not a great example of leadership, I don’t know what is! Another modern day example of great leadership can be found in Dorothy Day. Dorothy Day was a young social activist and spiritual seeker who converted to Catholicism during the Great Depression. She worked together with her friend Peter Maurin to create a newspaper called the Catholic Worker, which emphasizes the importance of social justice.
She also set up the first Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The Catholic Worker is still around today, sold for the same price it did in the 30s: a penny. Not to mention there are houses of hospitality all over the country and around the world.
We may not be rich heiresses or social activists, but God is calling us to be leaders in some shape or form. Start by volunteering to be in charge of something small, like a fundraiser, or start teaching Catechism. You never know where these things will lead you. Just remember to let God lead you as you lead others.
Today’s featured song is one of my favorites: Francesca Battistelli’s “He Knows My Name.” This song reminds us that we are not called to be leaders for the sake of being famous or for honor, but because we’re leading in God’s name. Even if nobody around us sees the hard work that we do, God always does.
I pray that you will all be great leaders, dearest sisters in Christ!