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Faith and Leadership – Action is the Answer not Pity

In Faith & Leadership, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, Philosophy on March 9, 2014 at 12:20 pm

My Lenten Reflection


stmatthew

I am blessed to be in a position to serve others through my work with St. Thomas Aquinas Center and with the Lafayette Urban Ministry. I am also blessed with a close and loving family who I adore and work very hard every moment of every day to be a worthy husband, a devoted father, and a caring son. A day does not go by that I do not reflect on Matthew 25:31-46 and the parable of the sheep and goats.


And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’


At St. Tom’s my work behind the scenes is quite fulfilling. One aspect of my role at St. Tom’s is overseeing the Mother Teresa Fund. The Mother Teresa Fund is an emergency financial assistance program that offers a safety net for families in crisis. Each day I listen to stories of hard working families who need a small bit of assistance. I am humbled by their strength and persistence in a time of great crisis in their lives. Such a little bit of kindness and a small amount of money from St. Tom’s is saving lives, enriching spirits, and giving hope.

In my work with LUM, my primary role is to promote the various services and programs offered by LUM through social media and traditional marketing. Whether it is offering safe housing for the homeless, emergency financial assistance through the LUM Good Samaritan Fund, educational enrichment programs for children through LUM Camp, the After School Program, the Achieve high school program or the 5th Quarter Summer Learning program; or food assistance through the St. John’s/LUM Food Pantry – LUM gives me an opportunity to serve families in our community in transition or crisis. Promoting such worthy initiatives is a joy.


Who am I to judge? How may I serve more? Am I really worthy enough?


I am reminded every day that I am merely a sinner but I have been given gifts from the Holy Spirit and called to serve others. AndThe_Inspiration_of_Saint_Matthew_by_Caravaggio when I serve, I must not judge and I must always try to do more – to be more worthy and more grateful for how “rich” I am. I can and do pray for others less fortunate than I – but my prayers must be followed by action – otherwise I am only offering sympathy and pity to others which is not helpful to anyone. God wants us to serve others as Jesus was called to do. Forgive others as God has and stop punishing others for their past or current mistakes or misfortunes.

On a broader level, we must not judge other “nations” – we must not just hope and pray that the world will get better – we must stand up for others, speak up when we see injustices, advocate for those who are marginalized or disenfranchised, fight for peace, and take action to make positive change for EACH member of our communities not just the majority.


He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did NOT do for one of these least ones, you did NOT do for me.’


Every day I strive to be a good role model for others especially my children. Modeling that we must not only pray for others but we must also be servants – serving and giving without fear, without judgment, without hesitation. We must not let our prejudice and ignorance stop us from serving others. We have all needed the help of others – and seen friends and family members struggle due to unemployment, addiction, incarceration, relationship problems, death, and illness. If we turn our back on those in the most desperate need – it is neither neighborly nor Christian. We must give of our time, give from our gifts and talents, and give monetary gifts and from our material possessions – our tithing. And when we serve we must do so with grace, empathy, and humility — giving others hope and offering love and dignity.

Matthew 25 gives me a guidepost to live my life – and I might get it right 75% of the time. The important thing is that I am reflecting each day on how I can be a servant in some way, to someone each and every day.

And in reality – if I am honest with myself – my service is saving and enriching my soul as much as it is assisting others.



Matthew 25:31-46


The Judgment of the Nations. *31f “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32g and all the nations* will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35h For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40i And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41*j Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42k For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44* Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46l And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”



About the author


For those of you who know me — I must explain why I, of all people, am writing a Lenten Reflection. I have been a Catholic my entire life and love it. But I have never considered myself a pious or even slightly religious person. A couple of years ago when my pastor asked me to use my “gifts” to serve the church, I was honored. Subsequently I have facilitated several parish staff retreats, presented workshops on leadership for parishioners, and developed a capstone leadership program for college Catholic seniors. My pastor must have been pleased with my work and confident in my leadership training, organizational development skills, and work ethic — because three months ago he offered me a job (paid) with the church as their “parish administrator.” I have enjoyed serving my church and assisting my pastor in advancing the ministries, improving the operations, and creating a healthy work environment. What I was not looking forward to or at all comfortable with was the “religious” part of the job. Our weekly staff meeting often consist of reflecting on the readings and Gospel for the upcoming weekend — yikes. This was the epitome of being “outside of my comfort zone.” To my surprise, I get it — and more importantly no one chuckles when I offer my opinion. Then I found out that every church staff member must contribute to the daily Lenten Reflection Booklet. I reached a new level of anxiety — but I faced my fear, was the first one to sign up, and submitted my reflection early. Part of my strategy for signing up first was that I was able to select Matthew 25 — a reading that I have come to know through my work over the past couple of years with the Lafayette Urban Ministry. So — that is my story. I hope this helps put the above reflection into some perspective — and gives you something meaningful to ponder during the Lenten season.


Please let me know what you think. Thanks.


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Emerging Stronger

In health, life, Malavenda, Music, Pablo Malavenda, Philosophy, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, wellness on April 29, 2012 at 9:15 pm


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller

(Stronger, 2011 – Clarkson).


I believe in signs — and this week little signs were popping up everywhere. Eventually it hit me like a hammer. Here’s my story.


Sign 1:


I rarely listen to pop radio — maybe once every six months or so.  Because I am a music snob, I either listen to my iPod or NPR. Yesterday while driving across town, for some reason, I needed to hear music and hit search on the radio till I found music. The first song was the latest mega-hit by Adele, which is enjoyable. Honestly the rest of the songs have been long forgotten except the last song.  As I was pullin’ up on our house, I saw my wife and daughter; so, I cranked up the tunes and pulled in the driveway.  The song was Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson. My daughter gave me that “Dad, you’re such a dork” look but I was amused as was my wife.  This morning on my way to the gym, I turned the key in the ignition and the radio came on, still tuned to the pop (schlock) radio station.  The song was Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson — AGAIN.  What the heck? Although I think American Idol is evil to the core, I do admire Kelly Clarkson; and this song isn’t half bad.  It is a bit cliche but it is a catchy pop song with a great hook with the chorus; and it is enjoyable in a mindless sort of way.  My daughter loves Kelly Clarkson (it could be worse) so I listened a bit closer; and although it is an angst infused love song of sorts I was struck by the “…stand a little taller…” line. Yes — this is the first sign — a message being sent to me to get me through this week. I immediately needed to hear Kanye West’s Stronger.


Work it harder, Make it better,
Do it faster, Makes us stronger,
More than ever, Never over,
Our work is never over.

Now that don’t kill me
Can only make me stronger

(Stronger, 2007 – Kanye West).


History


The saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is from Twilight of the Idols by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a German philosopher, who was a writer, poet, and commentator on philosophy based on the foundation of values and morality as well as religion and culture of his times. His outspokenness and critiques made him so famous that he decided to publish the equivalent of Nietzsche for Dummies in 1888 entitled Twilight of the Idols.  This book was divided into several sections to make it easy to understand the most important work of Nietzsche (according to Nietzsche).  The first section the Preface set the tone by including a maxim from Roman author Aulus Gellius. The quote which Nietzsche referred to as his motto is “Increscunt animi, virescit volnere virtus” which translates into

“The spirits increase, vigor grows through a wound.”

Wow…this could be the next song by Ms. Clarkson or Mr. Kanye — or better yet their collaboration.

This section of Twilight of the Idols was aptly called Maxims and Arrows.  In Maxims and Arrows, Nietzsche shares profound statements in short-form — a list of incredibly thoughtful, mind-boggling, tidbits of philosophies by which to live. Although Nietzsche was being ironic, sarcastic and mocking in many of his entries, today we revere them in a literal manner. Number eight of the Maxims and Arrows is “Aus dem Leben der Schule des Krieges: Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker” which means: Out of life’s school of war:

What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.

This famous saying has been paraphrased in several different ways, sometimes with “Whatever” or “That which” instead of “What” and “slay” or some other verb in place of “destroy.”  Today, we state “What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” {And it is quite ironic that Nietzsche uses the word “Idols” in his title and Kelly Clarkson was the first winner of American “Idol.”  False gods for sure.}


Song composers and screen writers love Nietzsche.  Some mentions of Nietzsche and this famous maxim (or is it an Arrow?) in movies, music, and  entertainment news are as follows:

  • Conan the Barbarian (1982) – quote shown in opening credits
  • Steel Magnolias (1989) – stated by Clairee played by actor, Olympia Dukakis
  • The Dark Knight (2008) – a variation stated by the Joker played by actor, Heath Ledger. Joker’s line: “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you…stranger.”
  • The General’s Daughter (1999) – “Whatever hurts you makes me stronger” stated by Elisabeth played by actor, Leslie Stefanson
  • Little Miss Sunshine (2006) – Uncle Frank (played by actor, Steve Carell) looks at the banner with a drawing of Nietzsche and says, “Nietzsche, huh?”
  • Music artists who used Nietzsche as inspiration include Pink Floyd, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Radiohead, Dust Brothers, Mobb Deep, Manowar, Black Sabbath, the Doors, Slayer, Metallica, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Fall, Pantera, Fear Factory, The Dandy Warhols, Judas Iscariot…and of course, Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson.
  • Mel Gibson in an interview with the Telegraph (2010) reflecting on what he had learned through his humiliating experience that “It changes you and makes you one tough m*th*rf**k*r. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s really that simple.”
  • Angelina Jole’s tattoo on her hip is a Nietzsche-like Latin quote “quod me nutrit me destruit” which means “What nourishes me also destroys me.”

But seriously; Nietzsche was on to something.  All of us have (or will have) to deal with tragedy, although you may doubt that it really “makes you stronger.”  No matter what’s going on in your world that makes you feel like it can’t get worse — I guarantee there is someone worse off.


Sign 2:


Last week a travelling Broadway production of Young Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkensteen) came to town.  It was a pretty good show if you enjoy silly, sophomoric, fart, horny, pee-pee humor — but it is what it is.  During the show I recalled with amazement how many stars were in the movie version including Gene WilderTeri GarrCloris LeachmanPeter BoyleMadeline KahnKenneth MarsRichard Haydn and Gene Hackman. I couldn’t remember though the name of the actor who played Igor. I now know it was the incomparable Marty Feldman. Fast forward to Monday’s CBS This Morning — Anna Quindlen was being interviewed when she shared a story. She was stuck in a dangerous storm and her daughter was worried about her to which she replied, “I am too old to die young.” A powerful and witty quote that could mean a number of different things.  My interpretation is that once you get to a certain age (I hate that term, btw), you realized that tragedy is a part of life and you survive by how you deal with it. After another Google search — I discovered that Marty Feldman was the author of this quote. He was close to the end and quipped

“I am too old to die young, and too young to grow up.”

This was Sign 2 — and it hit me like a Hammer.


Sign 3:


This weekend I was following the tweets of my friend, Sam, who has been training for months to run a marathon, and it was this weekend. Sam did a great job of tweeting to his followers regular updates on his progress to the starting line and ultimately to finishing the race — fulfilling a lifelong goal. About the time that the marathon was about to start, one tweet caught my attention. This tweet mentioned “the reason why I am running” with a link to a post on his blog, “Making Sense of the Senseless…I Think?!” The title of the post is “Running Through Pain,” and it is a powerful and personal account of why Sam had to run this marathon.  Sam’s journey includes mentoring through Big Brothers a young man going through tough times, the loss of his grandfather last year, and remembering the loss of his cousin and best friend at the very young age of 19 — the marathon is the 6-year anniversary of his cousin’s death. All of this “pain” plus the real pain of training for and running a 26-mile marathon is the theme of the blog post.  Sam’s story is so powerful I had to read it twice — and then share it with my son (and anyone else who would listen to me). Trust me — you must read this blog post about Sam’s journey. It reminds me of our resilience. Much of what we feel is a choice. How we respond to tragedy, pain, setbacks, disappointment, and mistakes, intentional or accidental, not only determines how we feel but reflects our focus, our vision, our determination, our  patience, our forgiveness, our perseverance, our strength. You learn a lot about others and yourself when things go wrong. As Maya Angelou said,

“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

Sam’s journey and the recent death of one of our friends due to cancer, again at the young age of 45, also reinforce that no matter how low I feel, there is always someone who is suffering more.  More importantly, be grateful for all of your blessings now, and make sure you know what is important — and it ain’t money.  I am focused on family especially my wife and kids and my friends — who are positive and supportive.  I value my home, the food in our pantry and on our table each night, my freedom, my time with my family, and the resources I give my children to become caring, loving, and STRONG servants and scholars.  It saddens me that others are suffering more and have less than I, but it gives me hope and motivates me to give and serve. It puts my problems in perspective.

And yes, you can disagree with the maxim “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” but it is hard to ignore the success stories.  Three individuals come to mind, who were severely abused but managed to rise to unbelievable levels of success. They are Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Louie Armstrong. I chose these three individuals because no one can deny their achievements have been extraordinary and their hardships were extreme.

  • Is adversity a blessing in disguise?
  • Feeling sorry for yourself is a choice.
  • Shame and guilt may be a choice but still overwhelming. As my pastor says though you should not feel Shame but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of Guilt to motivate you to change.
  • Setbacks in life give you fuel for growth, give you a way to heal, allow you to succeed on your own terms, and cultivate within you compassion and empathy.
  • I assure you the next time someone you know gets in trouble, you will not be so quick to judge, you will refrain from gossip, and you will reach out to them — with compassion and empathy.
  • Mercy, forgiveness, and grace are powerful and transforming.

So, now go read Sam’s blog post: “Running Through Pain,” cue up Kanye’s Stronger and crank it up.

Stand a little taller; and Believe that we will be BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER — ’cause our WORK is NEVER OVER.




“Lord, please let them accept the things they can’t change; And pray that all of their pain be champagne”

(Otis from Watch the Throne, 2011 by Jay-Z and Kanye West).


Prologue – More Signs:


Bizarre Random Signs of Nietzsche since the post was published:

  • April 23, 2012 – Dances With the Stars: I was working on the first draft of this post while watching DWTS and Bruno said to Urkel, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” {Spooky}.
  • April 30, 2012 – Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: In a comedy bit called “Don’t Quote Me,” Nietzsche’s quote “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” was featured with a lesser known Nietzsche quote (here’s the comedy part) — “A fourth bong hit is always a bad idea.”  Click HERE to see the Jimmy Fallon “Don’t Quote Me” video: Nietzsche is the last quote in this segment and may be seen about 4 minutes into the video.
  • May 19, 2012  – GLEE marathon on Oxygen network. GLEE cast covers Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You). Originally aired on Fox network during the GLEE winter finale episode “On My Way” on Tuesday, February 21, 2012.
  • August 22, 2012 — found this quote online — “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

READ more about Choosing Your Attitude — PCPop blog post: