Holy moments and love-driven leadership

“When you sense that something is missing, that there must be more to life, or that you have so much more to offer, your intuition has never been so sharp… Each of these yearnings is a summons to live a more meaningful life” —Holy Moments

Last December, a couple weeks before the holidays, I took a quick weekend trip to northwest New Mexico on behalf of GRACES, the nonprofit I’ve been involved with for the last six years. The goal of the trip was to meet current supporters and raise awareness for the work being done in Guatemala.

Northwest New Mexico is home to the Navajo Nation, Farmington, Gallup, Aztec, Blanco and Bloomfield. In our quick Friday-to-Monday excursion, we made stops throughout the region and took the long drives through the high New Mexico desert to get from place to place. 

Accompanied by my good friend (and the executive director of GRACES), Hannah, the road trip gave us time to engage in some long term planning for the organization, as well as some great reflection time about our individual and collective experiences (more on that in a few paragraphs). 

While in each town, Hannah and I met with groups of people, some of whom had been to Guatemala pre-pandemic, and others who were interested in going this year. We spoke at six different Masses across three towns and met with individual parishioners before and after. 

A byproduct of our work, though not the purpose of the trip itself, was a new sponsorship for a child in Guatemala, along with several donations. We scrambled to find an envelope as people generously opened their wallets to give from what they had. 

Between presentations, we shared meals and conversations with a couple who generously welcomed us into their home. Norm and Karen took us under their wings, inviting us to participate in all the things they were doing that weekend. We walked along the river, explored an art gallery and visited a coffee shop in the area.

Norm and Karen are both public school teachers in the area, and both are deeply involved in their parish.

The first night in Farmington, we ate dinner with some of Norm and Karen’s youth group kids. While at dinner, everyone—and I mean everyone—said hello to Norm and Karen. Business owners, church community members, kids of all ages, the wait staff at the restaurant—they all knew Norm and Karen.

This wasn’t just a surface-level acquaintanceship, but a profound and lasting friendship, punctuated by Norm and Karen’s rich knowledge of what was happening in each of their lives. The two of them were entirely present to the people in their community and demonstrated infinite love in their exchanges. 

In their presence, we felt totally welcome and embraced. We shared personal stories of strife and heartache, faith and conviction, and we walked away from that weekend feeling as if Norm and Karen loved us the same as they did their longtime community. 

I recently finished the book “Heroic Leadership” by Chris Lowney, a former-Jesuit-seminarian-turned-business-executive who writes about the magnitude of Jesuit spirituality in everyday life. Lowney talks about the importance of love-driven leadership in the workplace, noting that teams “cemented by such mutual regard effortlessly outdo most organizations” and that “environments of greater love than fear generate energy.” 

This kind of love is the true meaning of the theological virtue of charity, which wills nothing but the good for everyone we encounter. 

“Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. Charity inspires a life of self-giving” — CCC 1889

Norm and Karen are great examples of this kind of love-driven leadership, which unabashedly stems from their love for and commitment to Christ. 

As we wrapped up the last Mass and conversations in Farmington, Karen handed us each a copy of the book “Holy Moments” by Matthew Kelly. This hundred-ish-page book was a great quick read and reminder to pay attention to the yearnings and questions in our lives that guide us toward the more. 

In Jesuit-speak, this is known as the magis. Lowney’s book spends quite a bit of time talking about the relationship between the magis and leadership in the workplace:

“Magis-driven heroism encourages people to aim high and keeps them restlessly pointed toward something more, something greater… Magis-driven heroes bring energy, imagination, ambition and motivation to their work; the results take care of themselves.”   

Hannah and I left Farmington and headed to our final stop of the weekend in Gallup, New Mexico. On the way, we launched into a philosophical discussion about the value of work and the types of work we were both engaged in at the time. Without going into too much detail, it became more and more apparent that I was not part of a team that embraced heroic leadership in my 9-to-5 job. 

I longed for the type of leadership I observed in Norm and Karen in Farmington, the kind of love-first hospitality they showed to their students, youth group members, friends and total strangers. I craved the type of company I learned about in Lowney’s book and the type of passion-forward work I read in Kelly’s book. 

A good friend reminded me recently that we are not guaranteed tomorrow and that reflecting on this is fruitful every day of our lives. We have the opportunity to zoom out and look at the entirety of our lives and to do things differently. We can, in fact, make a change, hit the “do over” button, and reorient our trajectory in one single moment, one idea, one decision. These are called “Holy Moments” in Kelly’s book, and, as he defines this practice: 

“A Holy Moment is a single moment in which you open yourself to God. You make yourself available to Him. You set aside personal preference and self-interest, and for one moment you do what you prayerfully believe God is calling you to do.” 

I have no doubt that God asked me to embrace several Holy Moments over the last couple months, beginning with a great wake-up call amidst the red-painted skies of northwestern New Mexico. I am immensely grateful to Norm and Karen for unknowingly beginning the process of transformation, and I cannot wait to see what is next. 

If there is no greater evidence of a Holy Moment, it is this letter to you, my faithful readers. Thank you for sticking with me even in the absence of writing. May the words begin to flow once again. 

The Faithful Writer

By Autumn (Jones) Hartley

Writer. Educator. Social Media Strategist. Gonzaga ’10 (B.Ed.), CU-Boulder ’14 (M.A. Journalism).

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