The prayer of (and for) a mindful leader

19287412092_8213c908e5_k“Ever since the day when the burden of episcopacy was placed on my shoulders, a burden to which it is so difficult to do justice, I have been troubled by the anxieties that go hand in hand with the honour. Today, which is the anniversary of my ordination to the episcopate, I am troubled by these concerns more than ever, for I am reminded once again of my duties, but also I get the feeling that I have only just begun.

 What is it that I fear in being a bishop, if not that I take more pleasure in the dangers of the honour than in the fruits that go with your salvation? I ask for the help of your prayers that the Lord may help me bear this burden. Indeed, when you are praying for me, you are praying for yourselves. For what is this burden that I carry if not yourselves? Pray then, just as I pray, that you will not become too heavy for me to bear. Our Lord Jesus Christ would never speak of a burden as light unless he were prepared to assist in carrying it. But you too should lift me up, so that in obedience to the commandment of the apostle Paul, we may ‘bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the Law of Christ.’

 If Christ does not help me with this burden, I will surely fall beneath its weight. If he does not support me, I will sink to the ground. I am so afraid of what I am called to be for you, and yet I am comforted by what I am with you. To you I must be a bishop, and with you I am a Christian. The former I have from the office I hold, the latter I have from grace. One is a source of danger, the other a source of salvation. I am tossed about by the storms of this office as though I were adrift on the open sea. But when I recall by whose blood we have been redeemed, I discover a safe harbour of tranquillity. After struggling in the performance of my duties, I find rest in our common well-being. If, therefore, I find more joy in having been redeemed with you than in having been placed over you, I shall be (as the Lord commanded) all the more willingly your servant.

 We fail as pastors – and God forbid that we should – because of our failings. We succeed as pastors – and God helps us to this goal – only by his grace.”

-Caesarius of Arles (ca. 470-543 AD)
(Sermon 232; CCSL 104, pp. 919-21),
based (mostly) on a sermon by Augustine of Hippo;
here translated by the Rt. Rev. Robert Atwell, bishop of Exeter, in
Celebrating the Saints: Daily Spiritual Readings for the Calendar of the Church of England (Canterbury Press, 1998), pp. 235-236.

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