I sit on a well-worn chair; it is half an hour before the front door is opened and the community invited into the house. I take these moments to look around the Place of Grace; it is empty now, without the conversations and clatter of dishes that regularly fill the space. I look into each room, so often filled with people, and recognize the many stories that I have shared in and remember the many people who have influenced this house and its ongoing work. There is a photo of Earl Madary, his presence still remembered now three years after his death; a portrait of Sister Grace Clare Beznouz rests atop a shelf, her ministry as an FSPA was an inspiration for the naming of this house; toward the kitchen and above the dining room table a painting of Dorothy Day is hung; near the back door and nailed to the wall is that most iconic of Catholic Worker images, the wood carving titled Christ in the Breadlines; and hung near another table is the cross of San Damiano, that cross which called forth St. Francis to rebuild the church….
As coordinator of the Place of Grace I weekly prepare and serve meals for our guests and daily interact within a community that experiences both the bonum of life but also the hardship – be it mental illness, poverty, addiction, or loneliness. Through the many conversations and shared experiences that I have had with our guests I have come to understand what it is to be a servant in the midst of tension, but also what it is to be a servant in the midst of life. The Place of Grace has taught me an identity of the Church in which Christ is most apparent in each of our own imperfections; it is a Church that is not at all times holy, not at all times sacred; rather, it is a Church that is human, composed of the bitterness and sweetness of our lives. And so gathered here, through the sharing of stories and images, are the servant leaders of my own time.
Each morning I try to read a few pages from the diaries of Dorothy Day. Most of her writings are neither in-depth nor completely reflective; rather, they share the day-to-day labors of the house, brief descriptions of the people who come and go, and the daily burdens and tension that arise. Leadership, as I have come to experience it while at the house, often emerges in that which is ordinary, the day-to-day moments of our lives. To be a servant leader is to discover the sacred that is found within the depths of the ordinary – be that in the circumstances of a person’s life or within the context of an arising situation. For St. Francis it was through his embrace of a leper that the sacred emerged, and for the community gathered here, at the Place of Grace, it is through the sharing of a meal and the conversations that develop in which the sacred is brought forth.
As Dorothy Day wrote many years ago in her book Loaves and Fishes: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the Cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun.’” (215)
~ Michael Krueger, Student, M.A. in Servant Leadership, Viterbo University
(excerpted with permission from 2011 M.A. in Servant Leadership application materials)