Monday, April 15, 2019


Our son Gabriel will turn two and a half later this month. While I have come to appreciate all of the ages of my kids as they've gotten older, Gabriel's current range has been one of my favorites. The explosion of words. The emergence of personality. The exploration of movement. I understand why this age is considered terrible, but to me it's also, thankfully, a lot of fun.

One of Gabriel's current sayings is "because..." in response to questions about how something happened.

For example, if you ask, "Gabriel, how did that train get over there?"

He might respond, "Beduz, da doo-doo oer dere."

Or, if you were to pose, "Gabriel, how did you jump so high/run so fast/eat so much?"

Most likely the first word out of his mouth would be, "Beduz" followed by something like "I do dat."

It has reminded me of how Elizabeth referred to herself using the pronoun "you" or how Catherine was already telling detailed fantasy stories around the same age.

As I think about his response in regard to Catholic school leadership, though, I find it to be incredibly profound.

In response to questions about how something happens, he responds with rationale. He responds with an explanation of why it happened in describing how it happened.


This is something that Catholic school leaders should do, too. We should lead from our deepest convictions, our beliefs, and use them as the purpose behind all of our decisions, words, actions, and programs within our schools.

For example, if a teacher were to ask, "How am I supposed to turn in lesson plans next Monday with so many other events between now and then?"

A dynamic, transformational Catholic school leader may respond, "Because we believe that excellence happens on purpose, we ensure that we are adequately prepared to impart this excellence to our students."

When our why is strong enough, we will figure out the how. This is what can make leading with beliefs and responding with "because" so powerful. It puts the issue on something more fundamental than logistics. It pushes the issue into the emotional realm. It makes it something that cuts to our hearts...if others share in this belief in their hearts, too.

Or, maybe it's a response to a parent or family, questioning the use of time during the school day for religion or liturgy, "How can you meet your instructional minutes by spending so much time on God?"

"Because we believe that we are disciples with hope to bring, we tap into the source of that hope as often as we can. In this way, we have greater zeal and focus for the other portions of our days and weeks."

Simon Sinek calls this starting with why, stating, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." Our decisions and behaviors, Sinek argues, stem not from the neocortex, but from the limbic region of our brains, where emotion and desire are housed and transmitted. This is what can create loyalty organizationally, connecting us to more than just products and end results.

Here are some other examples:

How can we meet the needs of all students? 

  • Because we believe that all children can and will learn, we utilize a variety of instructional methods and assessment strategies to engage students in ways that best suit their needs so that we can help all of them to achieve our standards and benchmarks. 

How can we compete with charter schools and a declining sense of the value of Catholic education? 

  • Because we believe that God is in all things, we see the world in a sacramental way and we recognize God's presence in it, especially in developing the religious dimension of our students. 



I've also heard it said that while how is powerful, why is magical. Focusing on how or what can get us trapped in the details and arguments over particulars. Being rooted, however, in your purpose - your why - can unlock the constraints of personal preferences or logistical demands and usher in creativity, innovation, collaboration, excitement and synergistic effects.

Starting with why, being purpose-driven, mission-minded, intentionally-inclined.

Whatever you call it, living from your deeply held beliefs can infuse your life, and in turn your ministry, with new energy, momentum and spirit. It can invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to transform your efforts into something greater than what we can ask or imagine.

Start with why.

Return to why.

End with why.

And the next time someone asks you how something is to take place, lead with because... 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


“When faced with change, conflict, relativism, and bleak prospects for the future, people are beginning to despair under the burden of daily life and have forgotten how to be protagonists in history.” 

In the first reading from last Thursday, Moses is conversing with God on the top of Mount Sinai when God’s people, delivered from slavery and saved from death multiple times, erect a golden calf and start to worship it. In response to this idolatry, God wants to wipe them out. Moses, however, intercedes and gets God to turn back His destructive wrath.

For a bit more context, we can read earlier in Exodus to know that Moses has been on the top of the mountain for some time. This is when Moses receives the ten commandments after which God offers more in-depth instructions about the prescriptions of the law. Scripture scholars believe that Moses stayed on the top of the mountain for 40 days, enough time for the Israelites to grow weary of waiting, and to want to put a face and shape to this God who had delivered them. Culturally, this is what they knew to do. Aaron, at the people’s urging, solicits all of their gold, melts it and forms it into this idol. He then declares a festival to the “Lord”.

In the responsorial psalm we hear that the people “exchanged their glory for the image of a grass eating bullock” and that “they forgot the God who saved them, who had done great deeds in Egypt.”

They had fallen short of their call as God’s chosen people. They had forgotten that they were to be protagonists in history.

How often do we fall into this trap? Weary of the work, impatient for God to move, how easily do we despair? How often do we forget the good things that God has done for us, that He has been faithful before and that He will be faithful again?

But, just as Moses pleads to God for mercy, inviting God to remember the good deeds done to save His people, we, too, must remember that we are children of God. We must believe that the Holy Spirit courses through our veins in no smaller measure than any of the saints. Whereas Moses was privileged to converse with God and see His back, we have the living God inside of us!

We need to remember.

Jesus warns us in last Thursday's Gospel, “You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.” Let us not forget or fail to realize that all the scriptures pointed to Him! Let us listen to His words, and recognize His ongoing presence in our world.

We must remember that He has called us to a relationship, an encounter, a covenant. He does not a desire a contract.

We must remember that we are God’s, created for a specific purpose, called to bring Him honor, glory and majesty.

Change, conflict, relativism, and bleak prospects for the future, cause us and others to despair. The burden of daily life overwhelms us.

In these times, though, we must remember that we are His chosen people, that He has been faithful before and will be faithful again, that He desires mercy, not sacrifice, our hearts, not just our heads and hands.

We must remember that we are His protagonists, called to advocate and fight for others, and in doing so calling them to this same remembrance: we are His.

We must remember...