VP Leni and the grace of office (1)
Now that Vice President Leni Robredo has accepted President Duterte’s offer for her to be cochairman of the Inter-Agency Committee On Anti-Illegal Drugs—to the astonishment of her supporters and the discombobulation of her vile detractors—one cannot help but wonder what would sustain her for the long haul, the President’s real motive notwithstanding. Remember that he had not given her any Cabinet position in the past, deliberately leaving her out of the loop. He brought this up again at a press conference two nights ago and stressed his mistrust for his new appointee. Did he appoint VP Leni to the position so she could help lick the drug menace or to only prove she doesn’t have what it takes?
Is the appointment the President’s grudging way of recognizing that VP Leni is indeed the rightful winner in the vice presidential elections? And not the forever protesting Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.?
VP Leni will now have to sail forward and navigate the rough, drug-ridden waters, and she—and we—can only pray for the grace that will sustain her. That grace, in spiritual parlance, is called “the grace of office.”
(As a lay person, I should not be apologetic for treading on spiritual ground usually reserved for the so-called “called and chosen” few who have the expertise on matters spiritual.)
That said, may I proceed by saying that when God invites or calls an individual to undertake a task, God also provides that individual the grace to carry out the task or calling. “The grace of office” is often used in the context of a religious vocation, especially for those in leadership positions— their imperfections, weaknesses and reluctance notwithstanding.
Biblical times and contemporary history have had ordinary persons rise to enormous tasks, strengthened only by their belief in God’s calling and their faith in the grace that would help them carry out their destiny. There were those who rose and fell, there were those who fulfilled their mission with humility and obedience. Would that political leaders were conscious of this.
I sought out Jesuit Fr. Karel San Juan, president of the Ateneo de Zamboanga and author of “The ‘Grace of Office’: The Call of Leadership and Transcendence” that appeared in the Jesuit publication Landas.
Here are some of his “quick reflections” related to VP Leni’s appointment.
“The grace of office is ‘operative’ in any context, religious or not, if some conditions are present, largely in the leader himself or herself, like the following:
“A disposition of interiority, of self-knowledge and awareness, of acceptance of one’s strengths and weaknesses, and a habit of reflection and introspection. From this flows humility, which leads to reliance on a power higher than one’s own, even dependence on it, and the wisdom it provides. For many this is God, or any transcendent being. Humility disposes the leader to listen, to openness, to change one’s premises if necessary.
“A disposition of magnanimity, or the ability to offer one’s self and more, in an attitude of generosity and self-giving, which can lead to sacrifice, and risk.
“All these I see in VP Leni: interiority, humility, magnanimity. And all these dispose the leader to the ‘grace of office.’ She will thus be ‘helped’ in her leadership, she will have courage (which she has already exhibited many times), she will be empowered or given power not her own, but a transcendent power, and with it the wisdom and strength that leaders, especially transformational leaders like VP Leni, need.
“This endows leaders like VP Leni an innate spirituality, which becomes the inner fire within, what current leadership literature calls now as grit. The grace of office combines grit and grace.
“For the religious, for those who believe in God, this grace is essentially God and His goodness and love, and His protection to all those who commit their lives to Him and His kingdom. VP Leni has long committed her self and her leadership to this, hence, I am confident that she has the grace of office, and will continue to have it, in her new challenge of confronting the drug menace in our country, and dealing with the complexities surrounding it.”
More on the grace of office from other spiritual women and men next week.
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