The Servant Leader

Jan. 23, 2012

Weekly Winner

Saint Mary's Press winner for the week of January 23, 2012!

Congratulations to Judith McCaffrey!

Judith will receive a copy of The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Second Edition, a $19.95 value.

The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Second Edition is an understandable and down-to-earth guide to all things Catholic. This book is an eye-opener and a page-turner, whether you are brushing up on specific Catholic terms and concepts or learning them for the first time.

The Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has found this catechetical text, copyright 2008, to be in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Now Available! Online correlation to the U.S. Bishops' High School curriculum framework Click here!

The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Second Edition
ISBN: 978-0-88489-987-7, paper, 480 pages

Focus on Faith

Remembering an Amazing Lasallian

On January 8th Catholic schools and the Lasallian community lost an amazing man, advocate, and role model in the passing of Br. Michael Collins. At the time of his passing, Brother Michael was serving as the president of De La Salle High School in Minneapolis, but his life had an impact on schools across the country. In this week’s issue of the Servant Leader, I have asked Bev DeGeorge to share a little about Brother Michael. Bev is the vice president for mission at Saint Mary’s Press. As a part of her role at Saint Mary’s Press, she manages mission-based projects that serve our customers, our employees, and the poor. Please join us in not only offering our prayers and condolences at the passing of Brother Michael, but also celebrating his life and learning from the example he set for us as servant leaders committed to young people. I pray that God will continue to bless you and your ministry.

Steven McGlaun

Br. Michael Collins – A Lasallian Remembered
By Bev DeGeorge

I met Br. Michael Collins, president of De La Salle High School, Minneapolis, at NCEA a few years ago. At a pre-dinner gathering, a colleague offered to introduce me to him. I almost hesitated, because Brother Michael seemed always to be surrounded by people. What I did not know at the time was that Brother Michael always made time for conversation. He made time for people, and respectful human relationships were very important to him.

This month we lost Brother Michael, 74,—an extraordinary and inspirational Lasallian—a leader who emulated the Lasallian charism in his heart and in his words, and whose actions were animated by a spirit of faith and zeal. There are special qualities Lasallians strive to demonstrate, and Br. Michael Collins truly possessed every quality that “being Lasallian” means.

Brother Michael grew up in Minneapolis, one of the first African American graduates of De La Salle High School. Earning degrees in music and education, as well as a doctorate in education, his first teaching role was at De La Salle. He subsequently served in Catholic schools in three states before returning to De La Salle in 1991 as president, and he served in that role until the present. Although Brother Michael was sought by colleges to teach, he believed he belonged at De La Salle. Saint John Baptist de La Salle, who left his family to serve the poor in seventeenth-century France, left a legacy that Brother Michael followed, choosing not to take the highest social position available, but to become a servant leader. People who knew Brother Michael were aware he was a champion of diversity, and at De La Salle he created a culture of excellence—for all.

Students readily admit that while he demonstrated a serious and powerful demeanor, Brother Michael loved his students. As freshmen, students were in awe of Brother Michael, but by the time they were seniors, the relationship resembled more that of a friendship. Brother Michael dedicated his entire life to educating young people. He built a strong academic presence at De La Salle High, evidenced by achieving admirable, competitive post–high school academic placements. Brother Michael raised millions of dollars in scholarships to help educate the economically challenged at De La Salle. He believed that every life is precious, every person is important, every young person has the right to dream and make dreams come true—and he challenged students to believe in themselves as much as he believed in them! Brother Michael’s leadership fostered growth and dreams for every student who attended De La Salle—and he became familiar with every student’s story.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle instilled hope in the hearts of the poor of his time. He believed in teaching the practical. He taught social graces, respect for self and others, and everyday manners. He wanted the poor he served to be able to provide for themselves. Brother Michael demonstrated an emphasis on the practical as well. The social awareness he brought to students at De La Salle prompted students to credit him with preparing them for future successful careers. Though he emphasized the practical, what he gave students was hope—hope and confidence in themselves and their ability to lead positive lives.

In the tributes students and colleagues wrote upon Brother Michael’s death, words used to describe him included “he had a zest for life,” “a remarkable man,” “a great leader,” “a positive and powerful role model.” Every Lasallian aspires to carry out the legacy of Saint John Baptist de La Salle in the work we do, the lives we touch, the good that happens for the sake of kids. Brother Michael was an extremely talented man whose greatest gift was as an advocate for the students he served. Brother Michael leaves a truly honorable legacy. He was a Lasallian.


Make It Happen

Meditation 12: The Person of the Teacher
From Praying with John Baptist de La Salle

Theme: If the Good News is to be heard and believed, it must be proclaimed by persons who have put on Jesus Christ themselves. Although De La Salle wrote specifically for his Brothers, his words apply to all Christians since all are called to spread God’s word.

Opening prayer: Brother Jesus, help me to grow more and more like you, in heart, mind, and action, so that I can be an effective teacher of your word.

About De La Salle
De La Salle’s correspondence often reflected his attitudes about the conduct of the teacher that is best suited to bring students to God. Indeed, De La Salle wanted his Brothers to put on Jesus Christ, but he also knew that they were sorely tested and only human.

Letter to Brother Denis, July 8, 1708
Conclude conversations briefly with persons who come to the school door in order not to let the pupils waste time.

Be careful to correct the children, the ignorant even more than the others.

It is disgraceful to call them hurtful names. Be careful not to let human respect prevent you from doing good. It is really disgraceful to call your pupils by insulting names, and it also gives them bad example. . . .

Keep an eye on that Brother who slaps the students and see to it that he stops doing it. This is most important. (Letters, pp. 25–27)

Letter to Brother Hubert (at age 23, director of a school), June 1, 1706
When you feel yourself giving way to impatience in class, remain still and silent for a short time until the feeling has passed. (Letters, p. 36)

Letter to Brother Robert, December 7, 1708
Take care not to let yourself give way to impatience and to outbursts of anger. . . .

It is better to omit some part of the spiritual exercises than to take time from class to carry out what is necessary, for you must not lose a minute from class. . . .

Make sure you don’t reduce the numbers of the students by your rebuffs, but teach them well so that they will not leave.

You must not take them on to a new lesson before they are ready. Be careful about this, otherwise they will learn nothing. (Letters, p. 142)

Letter to the same Brother Robert, April 26, 1709
Make sure that you keep an even disposition in class, and don’t give way to impatience. It is not good to throw the ferule at the students in class, but it is disgraceful to slap them, especially in church.

It is good to know that you have a large number of students. Be sure to see that they make good progress. (Letters, p. 147)

Pause: Can you identify with the problems that these teachers had?

De La Salle’s Words
Since you are ambassadors and ministers of Jesus Christ in the work that you do, you must act as representing Jesus Christ himself. He wants your disciples to see him in you and receive your teaching as if he were teaching them. They must be convinced that the truth of Jesus Christ comes from your mouth, that it is only in his name that you teach, that he has given you authority over them.

They are a letter which Christ dictates to you, which you write each day in their hearts, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God. For the Spirit acts in you and by you through the power of Jesus Christ. (P. 54)

. . . Your zeal for the children under your guidance would be very imperfect, if you expressed it only in teaching them; it will only become perfect if you practice yourself what you are teaching them. Example makes a much greater impression on the mind and heart than words. This is especially true of children, since they do not yet have sufficient capacity for reflection, and ordinarily model themselves on the example of their teachers. They are led more readily to do what they see done for them than to carry out what they hear told to them, particularly when the words they hear are not in harmony with the actions they see. (Meditations for the Time of Retreat, p. 80)

Great, Christ-filled teachers, mentors, or parent figures are special kinds of people. If we think of our best teachers, we remember them not only for what they knew, not just for what techniques they used, not solely for their dedication or kindness, but for who they were as persons.

De La Salle formed the ragged band of schoolmasters into a religious community of Brothers because he realized that unless these men became more Christ-filled themselves, they could hardly be expected to pass on to children the Good News of Jesus. Every study done about the learning of values and religion indicates the same conclusion De La Salle came to.

All adult Christians, but especially parents and teachers, are called to become other-Christs to children. For this reason, De La Salle constantly reminded his Brothers to be patient, to treat the children with respect, or to avoid the sort of personal attack that would turn the children’s heart away from learning and from God.

- Read the “About De La Salle” section of this meditation again. Select the comment by De La Salle that most applies to you and reflect on it. Then converse with Jesus about ways you can be more like him in this regard.

- If you need to remind yourself of your role in spreading God’s word, pray repeatedly and meditatively these words: “I am an ambassador and minister of Jesus Christ.”

- Ponder your relationships with your children, or your students, or any young people with whom you interact. How would you characterize the ways you deal with them? In what ways could you be more like Jesus in your relationships with them? Ask God for the graces you need to be a more Christlike example to them.

- Make a list of five people who have been powerfully good influences in your life—your most important teachers, mentors, or parent figures. Think of the qualities they possessed that made them Christlike. Then select the one person who has had the most profoundly good influence on you. Bring to mind some incidents, like conversations or visits, that you shared with this person. Let your imagination recall these times in vivid detail.

Have you acted toward any other people as this person acted toward you? Reflect on ways in which you have ministered to other people as this special person ministered to you.

- Thank God for each of your teachers, mentors, or parent figures. Lift up their names and your fond memories of them to God.

God’s Word
Ask yourself, can a blind person guide another blind person? They will both stumble into trouble. Students are not above their teachers, even though someday, with proper training, they may be peers. So why do you always seem to point out the sliver in someone else’s eye, but never notice that you have a ten-foot beam in your own? You cannot be much help to the person with the sliver, if you cannot even see the beam blinding you. Do not be such a hypocrite. Rid your eye of the beam. Then, with clear vision, you can remove the sliver from your neighbor’s eye.

Rotten fruit does not grow on healthy trees. Healthy fruit does not grow on rotten trees. You know the quality of the tree by the fruit it bears. A good life is nourished by the reservoir of goodness in the heart of the good person. Evil people exist on the evil in their heart. Our words flow out of what is in our heart. (Adapted from Luke 6:39–45)

Closing prayer: “You, my God, are my strength, my patience, my light, and my counsel; it is you who opens the minds and hearts of the children confided to my care. Abandon me not to myself for one moment. For my own conduct and for that of my pupils, grant me the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety, the spirit of holy fear of you, and an ardent zeal, to procure your glory. Amen.” (Adapted from De La Salle, “Prayer of the Master Before School,” Manual of Piety, p. 72)


Break Open the Word

The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 29, 2012
Mark 1:21-28

Opening Prayer
Jesus, wonder worker, teacher, healer, you made your true identity known through the authority and power of your deeds. Continue to bless us with eyes that see your saving miracles in our lives and world. Amen.

Context Connection
Jesus and his first disciples make their way to the synagogue in Capernaum to observe the Sabbath, which Jews refer to as Shabbat. Once inside the synagogue Jesus begins to teach those assembled; they are more than surprised by the truth of his every word, which they seem to feel. "They were astounded at [Jesus's] teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (1:22). In Jesus's case this authority was rooted in his own self, not in titles or credentials, such as those possessed by the religious authorities of his day. This reality is expressed in the phrase, "not as the scribes."

To further demonstrate his anointed status, Jesus, when confronted by a man with an unclean spirit, commands the unclean spirit to leave the man. "But Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be silent, and come out of him!'" (1:25). Jesus possesses not only superhuman authority but power too! This is Jesus's first miracle in the Gospel of Mark; it can accurately be described as an exorcism that occurs in the context of his teaching. First, Jesus commands the unclean spirit to be silent because he does not want it to further reveal his identity, something the spirit threatens to do, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God" (1:24), that is, the Messiah. The unclean spirit, or demon, tries to thwart Jesus's mission of goodness. Throughout Mark's Gospel we see this pattern repeated--a demon begins to disclose Jesus's identity but is silenced. Second, Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man, and thus Jesus heals the man. "And convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, [the demon] came out of him" (1:26). The crowd was more than impressed; Mark tells us they were amazed. They begin to ask questions to understand the authority and power with which Jesus teaches and heals. "What is this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him" (1:27). Those gathered around the Master watched with amazement, which is another way of saying they did not understand what was happening. Jesus's power was expressed not through dominance over others, but through service to others. He rendered service to people by healing them, and his ministry of healing continues.

Tradition Connection
In his public life Jesus made known the truth that the Kingdom of God had arrived through the many powerful works and signs he performed. Because the Kingdom was present in him, many came to understand that he was the Messiah. "Jesus accompanies his words with many 'mighty works and wonders and signs,' which manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah"1 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 547).

The teaching and miracles of Jesus Christ witnessed to the reality that he was sent by God the Father. Through these and other messianic signs, Jesus was able to free some individuals from the earthly afflictions of illness, death, being treated unfairly by others, and so on. Jesus's main reason for becoming human, however, was not to teach or heal. Jesus Christ was sent by God the Father to take on a human form to free all people from the slavery of sin.

By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness, and death,2 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,3 but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage.4 (Catechism, paragraph 549)
The Kingdom of God that Jesus established on earth defeated Satan once and for all. This happened at the costly price of Jesus dying on the cross.

The coming of God's kingdom means the defeat of Satan's: "If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."5 Jesus' exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus' great victory over "the ruler of this world."6 The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ's cross: "God reigned from the wood."7 (Catechism, paragraph 550)

Wisdom Connection
Mark is not concerned with the content of Jesus's teaching, that is, his exact words. For example, we are not told what Jesus said in the synagogue at Capernaum. Instead, the author emphasizes the authority with which Jesus teaches and the effect of his message on those who hear it. Simply put, they are spellbound. To call attention to Jesus's power, in addition to his authority, Mark tells the story of the man possessed by an unclean spirit, whom Jesus heals by driving that spirit out of him. Mark clearly wants us to see Jesus as both teacher and healer and accomplishes this by connecting Jesus's authority to teach and his power to heal. These two messianic signs are intimately related. Jesus not only speaks with authority, he also acts with power. Mark wants disciples of every age to be confident in their belief that Jesus was both a great teacher and a marvelous healer. Above all, the author wants Christians to know in their hearts that Jesus was the Holy One, the Messiah, so they are not filled with doubt when they hear of this same Jesus hanging on the cross.

The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

The quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

The Lord's Prayer is taken from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Copyright © 1988 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved.

Endnotes Cited in Quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1. Acts 2:22; cf. Luke 7:18-23.
2. Cf. John 6:5-15; Luke 19:8; Matthew 11:5.
3. Cf. Luke 12:13-14; John 18:36.
4. Cf. John 8:34-36.
5. Matthew 12:26, 28.
6. John 12:31; cf. Luke 8:26-39.
7. Liturgy of the Hours, Lent, Holy Week, Evening Prayer, Hymn Vexilla Regis: "Regnavit a lingo Deus."


Saint Spotlight

Saint Thomas Aquinas

January 28 is the memorial for Saint Thomas Aquinas.

A Doctor of the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas is a wonderful model for the role of curiosity in learning. Born near Naples, Italy, he joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244 against the wishes of his family. He studied under Saint Albert the Great and was ordained in 1250. Over the course of his life, he taught in France and Italy and wrote numerous theological commentaries and reflections. His best known work, Summa Theologica, continues to influence the Church’s thinking and understanding of herself. Among other things, Saint Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint for schools, students, theologians, and universities.

For more information on Saint Thomas Aquinas, go to