One of the paradoxes about having a life in Christ is that in order to be leaders, we have to be willing to serve. So many women fight for positions of leadership in major corporations, but they often forget that there is more than one way to be successful in life.
Let’s look at two women: A queen from Biblical times and an American woman. Although these two women were known for being leaders, they couldn’t be any more different from each other.
Athaliah was the daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Upon the death of her husband and her son, she decided to seize power by killing all of her grandchildren. She didn’t want to be regent, a mere placeholder until the rightful king was old enough to reign. Nor did she want to accept her loss of power that would come with being a widow. In short, she wanted to hold onto her power at any cost. That cost came at the expense of the lives of her own grandchildren. Athaliah’s self-imposed reign lasted a short seven years until Joash was anointed as the rightful king of Israel. The evil queen paid for her treachery with her life, all because she grasped at power that didn’t actually belong to her.
Understand that while Athaliah has a lot of bad things going on, her biggest flaw wasn’t the fact that she was a woman in power. Her tragic flaw was the ambition to take power at any cost, to hoard it all for herself.
In contrast, let’s take a look at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. One thing you should know about Elizabeth Ann Seton is that she was born in America back in the Colonial era. Her family was part of New York society. But instead of leading an idle life, Elizabeth Ann Seton devoted her life to serving her community. Eventually, she became a treasurer of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows With Small Children.
Life wasn’t easy for Elizabeth Ann Seton, though, because she had to raise a lot of kids and suffered some economic hardship upon the death of her father-in-law and the War of 1812. Her husband suffered from tuberculosis and died when Elizabeth was only 30 years old.
It was through her husband’s friends that Elizabeth was introduced to the Catholic faith. Her eventual conversion was met with a lot of backlash from both her family and friends. In spite of that, though, she founded a religious community called the Sisters of Mercy. She established the first free Catholic school in America. To this day, there are six religious congregations that can trace their roots back to Seton’s Sisters of Mercy and many schools that bear her name.
What made Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton a great leader wasn’t her wealth or her connections, but her selfless devotion to her community and her desire to serve God. She stuck to her newfound faith even at the disapproval of her family and friends. What she lost in wealth and prestige, she gained in her historical legacy and sainthood.
By choosing to serve God and others instead of seeking the empty promises of ambition and power, we are paradoxically granted the grace to become great leaders. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Mark: “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
I pray that you will find opportunities to lead through serving today, dearest sisters in Christ.
Think of a time when you were in a position of power or involved having authority over others. How did you take responsibility as a leader?
- What do you think is the difference between grasping power and being given power?