Monthly Archives: August 2018

Acknowledging Our Need of Others

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2:3)

Our human nature tends to want to give the appearance that we are strong, smart, capable of handling things ourselves and not dependent upon the help of others.  This is true in most areas of life and particularly in the workplace.

After having worked as an attorney for over thirty years for large international oil company, I was asked to take an assignment overseeing policy and governmental compliance for our environmental, health and safety operations.  The staff of this organization was made up entirely of engineers and people with technical and scientific backgrounds, a knowledge base in which I was severely lacking.

Shortly after assuming this assignment, one of our audit teams had discovered several operational deficiencies in one our African affiliates that was responsible for producing a significant percentage of our crude oil production worldwide – over 600 thousand barrels a day, all offshore.   Because of the significance of this affiliate’s operations and its contribution to the overall profitability of the company, the audit findings became quite controversial.

The management of the affiliate attacked both the findings and the competence of our audit team.

Thus, it became my role to defend the audit team and their findings before senior management involving technical engineering issues for which I had little expertise.  Acknowledging my lack of knowledge in this area, I had to ask our staff for help – to literally educate me on each of the technical issues so I could overcome the arguments of the affiliate engineers.

With the staff’s assistance, we were able to persuade management to accept the findings of the audit team and their expertise.

As a result, several changes in this affiliate’s operations were implemented that likely avoided a potential accident costing the company millions of dollars and serious harm to affected employees.  We may remember BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago, killing 11 workers and costing BP billions of dollars to appreciate the potential impact.

Ironically, acknowledging our limitations is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.  We are confessing the truth of who we are and what we are capable of doing and not doing.  As Jesus said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

When we acknowledge we need help, we are humbling ourselves before God and others.  Proverbs tells us that the Lord mocks the proud and gives grace to the humble. (3:34) Jesus says, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”  (Mt. 11:29)

God, the creator of all that exists, performed one of the greatest acts of humility and love of all time when he became an embryo in Mary’s womb to become one of his created in the person of Jesus.   

Shouldn’t we be willing to humble ourselves in acknowledging our needs and seeking the help of others?

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Putting Jesus’ Words into Practice

At the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he challenges us to put his many words into practice.  We are to love, to forgive, to care for those in need, be generous, reflect the Beatitudes, seek God and his kingdom and trust in God, along with the many other exhortations contained in Chapters 5 – 7 in Matthew’s gospel.

When we do these things, Jesus says we are like a man who built his house on a rock. The rains came, the streams rose, the winds blew, but the house remained and did not fall.  The rock is, of course, Jesus.

What kind of foundation is our life built on?  Is it based on the values of the world – wealth, position, pleasure and all of the things that popular culture esteems; or is it built on love and the values Jesus describes in his Sermon on the Mount? 

My friend Leo has been volunteering as a coach for Special Olympics for over 35 years.  Ironically, he began this work even before one of his daughters was born with Down syndrome.  He is one of the most dedicated advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities that I have ever met.

In addition to Special Olympics, he was one of six parents who were instrumental in starting and funding one of the first special education programs in a Catholic high school in the U. S — Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Virginia.  More than a dozen students with intellectual disabilities have enrolled in this program each year since its founding in 1998, including our daughter, Emily.

More than 1500 students from the general student body have volunteered as peer mentors to these students, assisting with their inclusion in various academic courses and school activities.  As a result, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive an education that serves their academic, social and spiritual needs in a loving and nurturing environment.

Approximately, ten years ago, Leo joined with other families to establish Porto Charities, a tax exempt organization to raise funds to support the expansion of these kinds of programs in other Catholic schools in the Arlington, Virginia Diocese.  By the fall of 2019, the Diocese will have inclusion programs in all four of its high schools and a half dozen or more parish schools.  While many others have supported Leo in this effort, he has been the driving force to support a segment of our population that is often neglected.

Leo may not talk about his faith a lot, but Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

On October 1, Leo will receive on behalf of Porto Charities and its many supporters the 2018 Seaton Award of the National Catholic Education Association in recognition for their service to Catholic schools and God’s special children.

Leo, and the many others who have joined with him, are putting Jesus’ words into practice.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)