THE FIGURE OF THE SERVANT LEADER
How can we define a servant leader? Sometimes we can live, even through years, in a spiritual dimension with God without fully understanding that condition. Most in spiritual life we can stand as a mystery to ourselves , a mystery that can be revealed to us only by the Holy Spirit, gradually doing that, when we ask Him for, while opening our hearts more deeply to His action.
I listened to a lot of explanations about the figure of a the Servant Leader. The simplest ones start obviously from a purely human point of view. Thus, by this term, they variously mean somebody endowed with big intellectual gifts, a clever speaker, a novelty inventor, an actor as, for instance, we can see in cultural or political environments, in television programmes, in tourist villages. In the ecclesial language, on the contrary, a Servant Leader is basically a person who carries out a service or a ministry, which he was qualified for by a peculiar education. Thus a long training path is needed to get the qualification of leader in catechesis or liturgy or pastoral service or as a prayer school teacher.
All that is appreciable if you get it, but it is not enough to be a real Servant Leader. Being a Servant Leader is essentially a gift of God, Who chooses whoever he wants to entrust with this task in a fully free way, giving him a peculiar vocation, special gifts, a prophetic acknowledgment by the Community, as well as the particular life status coming from all that.
I also heard that a Servant Leader is a person who is called “to give his or her heart and soul” to a community. Though, once again an initiative from man can be seen in that definition, where “doing” precedes “being”. In a simpler way I think that a Servant Leader “is “ just the heart and soul of a community, that is: the one who has got the greatest receptiveness of God’s Holy Spirit.
In a human body, let me say like that, the soul is the place where the real God is welcomed in us. It is the tabernacle of His presence, the bridal chamber of the intimacy between God and His creature. All the body is permeated and transfigured by that presence, since there is no separation between body and soul. And it is just in the soul, the most spiritual part in man, that this meeting, this marriage can happen. Each of us was given a soul just in order to understand and experience that we are destined to make a full communion with God some day while now receiving the pledge and earnest of it.
So all those who live “according to the Spirit”, continuously awaiting and welcoming Him, while consummating the marriage (in the form that we can experience here on earth), are part of the soul of a sprightly-living and well-constructed body, as we can define the Mystic Body. Servant Leaders live in this spiritual dimension with a greater awareness, animated by a strong wish to communicate this grace to all the other members.
Servant leaders know that, if they are the soul of the Mystic Body (each of them taken separately and all of them considered as a unique whole at the same time), they have to keep this soul alive every day, stretching it out to the Spirit every day, so that He may enrich this soul with His visit and gifts every day. Otherwise, the Community will be “inanimate”, that is: “without a soul”.
It is a huge responsibility, which comes to us from God and which we cannot escape, under pain of refusing and betraying the vocation we were given. If we, the Servant Leaders, do not continuously welcome the Spirit, until we experience Him as a new component in us, until we feel His strength as something passing through us to enrich the Church and the world, if we do not welcome Him like that, not only the Spirit will be lacking in us, but it will be lacking in the community we have to lead and in the whole Church.>
- A. Alberta Avòli and Roberto Ricci- “Make a gift of your life”
“Guidelines” Collection No. 4 – The Risen Jesus Community Edition –pages 41-42.
CALLED TO TAKE A RESPONSIBILITY
From Servant Leader the SNC will call those who are to assume a responsibility for:
– leading communities in parishes and other places;
– representing the SNC as delegates for a certain diocese:
– going on mission and founding or strengthening communities;
– carrying out particularly important community services, so that the good trend of the ordinary community life and main events may be assured.
What are the qualities requested to a good Community Leader?
– personal prayer, where we can receive prophetic vision, wisdom and all gifts to lead the community or to carry out the service we are entrusted with;
– specific charisms of spiritual discernment, authority, governance but linked to those of humility, brotherly submission, charity;
– strength in faith, even in adverse circumstances and persecutions, personal maturity, which means to live a well-balanced familiar life, to be seriously engaged in one’s work, to enjoy general esteem;
– a spirit of deep communion, which is to be practiced at all levels, with all those who share responsibility with us (that is, with the SNC, all the faithful, all the other components of the Church);
– the capacity to awaken love for God and community life all around us.