For years I have heard people say they don’t have enough time to pray, get involved in parish ministry, attend daily Mass, do Eucharistic Adoration, be involved in their children’s activities, serve in the community, etc., etc. This complaint is so pervasive, that along with silos and surrender, I have identified our misconceptions about time as one of the biggest obstacles to leading an integrated Catholic life. Do we own our calendar or does our calendar own us?
Friends and colleagues have long wondered how I seem to squeeze so much activity into each day. As a reformed workaholic, I have always had a tendency to be fully engaged throughout the day and usually maintain a full plate of faith, family and work related activities. As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, I have thought a great deal about how to make “time” work for me as I seek to grow as a Catholic, husband, father, business leader and servant of the community. There is no magic bullet, but I would like to share five ideas for how we can begin to tame our calendars and lead fuller, richer, faith-filled lives:
- Have our priorities in order. Are we trying to juggle serving Christ, work and family responsibilities each day? Is Christ sometimes an inconvenient add-on to an already packed schedule? Stop. Let’s change our mindsets. We should be serving Christ first, family second and work third on our list of life priorities. Being lights for Christ and serving Him trumps everything! Second, our true vocation is to help our families, ourselves and everyone else get to Heaven. Third, our work should be given up for His greater glory and to serve the needs of our families. The “Big 3” should be followed by our health, friends and other things important to us.
- We control our calendar; our calendar does not control us. The most common complaint I hear regarding time is “My calendar is full and I can’t squeeze that (prayer, Mass, service, etc.) in.” Who enters the activity into our calendar? It is likely we do. With the new priority list in mind, let’s start scheduling around Mass, prayer, family dinner, kid’s activities, community service, exercise, etc. If you are in an environment with a rigid calendar controlled by others, think about what you can get accomplished before work, during lunch and after work and do the best you can. You may find more relevant help in the next few ideas.
- Combine activities when possible. This concept has worked well for me. When I go for a run or get on the treadmill, I pray the Rosary. When I am traveling to or from work, I turn off the radio and pray/reflect or listen to Gregorian chant-anything but loud music and talk radio which steals my peace! My wife and I pray with our children and use our time going to and from sport practices/activities to talk about life, faith or whatever is on their minds. Keep a Bible or some other great faith-based book in your car or bag to read when you are waiting on an appointment. If we want to serve in the community, we can take our spouse and children along and do it as a family activity. There are a number of ways to do this, but the combining concept is very easy to implement.
- Remove the unnecessary and replace it with the necessary. Want to pray more? Get up 15 minutes earlier and pray the Morning Offering and the Angelus before we leave our homes. Add the Daily Jesuit Examen to our calendar and create five very short periods each day for reflection and prayer. Want to spend more quality time together as a family? Kill the TV and video games and replace them with talking, praying, reading or outdoor activities. Go to Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration together as a family. Want to start attending daily Mass more often? Start by giving up one early morning or lunch hour each week and attend Mass at our home parish or one near where we work. Are the demands of our jobs the cause of our issues (travel, demanding bosses, can’t turn off email, etc? We should ask ourselves if we have become attached to a lifestyle that our career is supporting and consider making a change. Downsizing our lifestyle may even be the ultimate answer.
- Know where we are going. All of these ideas should help us on our journey to Heaven. We are made for our Heavenly home and not this world. Our busy lives and daily activities should lead us to this end. Are we leading lives ordered to this purpose or do we serve other priorities that are of this world and not as important?
Even though I did not list it above, it is also vitally important to find quiet time for ourselves when we can detach, reflect, think, pray and restore our energy before we jump back into the daily grind. The concept of leisure is an alien one to our culture, but we need to find that time to restore our mental, emotional and spiritual energy. One idea, if you are married, is to work out an arrangement with your spouse each week to give each other the gift of guilt-free time to relax and detach. It is important and I need to personally do a better job in this area.
Let’s take control of our lives and not let the calendar become an excuse for avoiding what is important and necessary. Do we really want to stand before Christ some day and say we were too busy to joyfully serve Him during our time on earth? I think we know the answer.
Would you like to learn more about “regular Catholic heroes” and the joyful witness they give for Christ and the Catholic faith? Randy Hain’s exciting sixth book, Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic (Servant Books) is available through Amazon and all Catholic bookstores. All of his books are available through Amazon.com