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Unguarded moments: An immaculate conception of leadership

Ann Rennie |  23 May 2017

In a post-truth, fake-news world, we need the kind of leader who isn’t driven by ego, vitriol and divisiveness. 

We are living in a time when many people feel unmoored and uncertain. Backlash and resentment are fuelling a populist rejection of the status quo. Many are dissatisfied with their lot in life and are looking for models of leadership which are authentic and transformative and ones they feel they can trust. This has been reflected in voting patterns across the globe. We need to find a model of leadership that offers a graced alternative that espouses love, justice and inclusiveness for all.

We need Mary. 

We need her more than ever to remind us of a leadership that is universal, profound and world-changing. We need a model of leadership that is gentle, wise and enduring; a leadership that is not shrill or shallow, a leadership that offers hope not hatred.

Mary was incredibly courageous in her faith when she responded with an emphatic ‘yes’ to the Annunciation. Imagine what it took to follow her heart without knowing where her acquiescence would take her. In that mighty ‘yes’ the qualities of obedience, discernment and heroic virtue combined in an affirmative answer that still resounds around the globe. Her ‘yes’ was filled with awe and amazement. Her destiny was fulfilled in becoming the mother of the Messiah.

As the first disciple of Jesus she led by example. Hers was a devoted motherhood as she pondered and puzzled over the future of her beloved heaven and earth child. In leading others to love she knew the heartbreak of seeing her son die cruelly and ignominiously as she watched from a distance. Yet, after his crucifixion and death – and resurrection – she did not turn to bitterness or a withering of heart at her loss, but continued to be the woman of good counsel for those left bereft by the death of Jesus and unsure of what to do. She kept Jesus’ followers together, mothering them and binding them in love and memory until the Spirit empowered them to go out to all nations with the message of the Good News. 

Mary lived with a heart wide open to others; a heart similar to those other good women who have lead by example. We think of Teresa of Calcutta, Mary MacKillop, Caroline Chisholm and the founders of religious orders who responded with faithful perseverance to the urgent needs of their time and place.

Today we desperately need the Mary model of peace and gentleness as an antidote to the fist-pumping intimidation and belittling that is making so many fearful. Many people are scared: of promises that come to nothing, of threats that have sinister undertones, of a moral fogginess that is being enabled by the machinations of big business and small, self-interested minds.

Mary offers us a leadership that is unambiguous. The only agenda is God and good. Her leadership offers comfort, solidarity, intercession and perhaps a certain spiritual stoicism that goes with knowing that a ‘yes’ in a ‘no’ world needs unwavering courage and conviction. Her leadership is not about power or position, but about the truth of her son’s salvation message. She does not need a leadership manual or management guide. She does not need power dressing, glib slogans or sycophantic acolytes. All she needs is love.

In the Magnificat we are reminded that all nations will call her blessed and that God has brought down rulers from their thrones and lifted up the humble. Mary epitomises a leadership that is full of grace in its reversal of the power paradigm. In all the history of all the world there is no other woman who has influenced the lives of mankind more profoundly. 

All Hail Mary. 

We need her and we need her now!


View the reflection questions and activities for ‘Unguarded moments: An immaculate conception of leadership’ here


Topic tags: saints, women’sspirituality, heroesandrolemodels, ourrelationshipwithgod

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