Priorities and a Life Filled with Meaning

by Randy Hain | November 11, 2010 12:01 am

This is the second half of a talk I gave to the Catholic Business Leaders Breakfast at Sacred Heart Parish in Atlanta.  The first part of my talk was on my conversion into the Catholic Church in 2006 with my wife and sons after I spent 23 years in the “spiritual wilderness”–a period when I had no faith in my life after leaving the Baptist Church as a teenager.

As I was thinking over the last few weeks about the message for my talk, I wanted to find a way to share how I lead my life since my conversion into the Church.   It took me almost 40 years to make my way into the Church that Christ founded and I feel a burning desire to make up for lost time….and to make the most of the second chance I have received.  To that end, I would like to discuss my Top 3 Life Priorities and how they keep me focused on living a Christ-centered life, filled with meaning.

I will suggest to you that we tend to make things more complicated than they really are.  When it comes to priorities, many of us have a check list of some kind that includes everything from going to the grocery store for milk to making sure our children get a great education.  We confuse mundane tasks with what is truly important in life.  If everything is important, than nothing is important.  When it comes to living a fuller, richer life filled with meaning, what are your priorities?

Since my conversion into the Catholic Church, I have thought and prayed a great deal about what is truly important and what Christ wants me to do.  I tend to have a clear and unambiguous view of life and the more I try to discern the Lord’s plan, the more apparent it is becoming that I have just 3 simple priorities:

  1. I will serve Christ and love Him with all my heart.
  2. My family is my primary vocation.
  3. My workplace is also my ministry.

Seem like obvious choices?  Perhaps.  But, in my professional life and through the ministries I am involved in I meet hundreds of people every year who have no priority list, desperately want a list and don’t know where to start or have the list I referred to earlier that only includes trips to the grocery store.  Let’s “unpack” each of these priorities and examine some of the specific actions we can take to help these priorities become reality for each of us in our pursuit of meaningful lives.

1st Priority-“I will serve Christ and love Him with all my heart”

What does this mean?  How do we serve the Lord?  If we love Him with all our heart, is there room for anything else?  These are questions which are probably running through your minds.  I would suggest to you that we serve and love Him by being humble, obedient, serving and loving others, being good stewards and surrendering to His will.  Please consider these actions:

2nd Priority-“My family is my primary vocation”

I made reference in the first part of my talk to my workaholic tendencies in the early part of my career.  When my first son was 2, I began my career with Bell Oaks Executive Search in the pursuit of a more balanced life.  But, it wasn’t until my wife and I entered the Catholic Church that we truly understood our family is our #1 vocation.  Sounds great, but what does that mean?  Isn’t our career our “vocation”?  How do we accomplish this lofty goal?  Here are a few practical steps we are focusing on to make this a reality:

The Catechism #2223 says,Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.” Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them.

3rd Priority-“My workplace is also my ministry”

Most of us spend the majority of our adult lives at work. The workplace today is a challenging environment to be open about our Christian beliefs.  Political sensitivity and rigid company policies have led many of us to compartmentalize our faith in an unhealthy and unnatural way. I often hear people say “I just leave my faith at the door when I get to work.”  But, how can we possibly separate our spiritual selves from our physical being?  In Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council weighed in with this declaration: “One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives…  The Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties towards his neighbor, neglects God himself, and endangers his eternal salvation.  Let Christians follow the example of Christ who worked as a craftsman; let them be proud of the opportunity to carry out their earthly activity in such a way as to integrate human, domestic, professional, scientific and technical enterprises with religious values, under whose supreme direction all things are ordered to the glory of God.”

Here are some ideas and thoughts on how to practically carry your faith with you to work:

My intent in sharing these priorities this morning is to show how simply we can alter our lives in a way that assimilates faith, family and work and puts us on the path to a Christ-centered life, filled with meaning.  I try every day to do the actions I have shared, and I assure you that I struggle like anyone else.  The challenge is to practice them not as a bunch of new “to-dos,” but as part of a broader, unifying approach to a balanced and meaningful life that places Christ first in all areas of our lives.

We are faced with a choice between a compartmentalized life or an integrated life where faith, family and work are unified and centered in Christ.  We are asked to “change our hearts”, let go of our attachments to material things and place Him first in our lives. We are challenged to know our moral non-negotiables and not cross ethical boundaries.  We are asked to let others see Jesus within us and to share our joy with others.  Our humble and virtuous example to others throughout the day will positively influence their behavior and individual faith journeys.  An active prayer life-one which turns our day into a conversation with God and firmly places His desires before our own, will open us up to receive boundless grace.

Christians are meant to stand out, not blend in.  Blending in speaks to conforming and making concessions so our faith becomes part of the mainstream…and we need to fight it!  We live in difficult, trying times.  Families are under attack, our children are at risk, many people are blind to the need to respect and value all life and atheists are one of the fastest growing groups in the world.  We have an opportunity, especially in the workplace, to be beacons of light and good examples of Christ’s redeeming love.  We will be judged one day on the fruits of our apostolate and hope to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

My hope is for everyone to undergo a true “conversion of the soul” and lead an integrated, balanced and meaningful life.  It isn’t easy, but worth the journey.  I encourage you to begin tomorrow with a firm disposition to do good, practice virtue and emulate Christ. Thank God and praise His name.  Say a prayer to our Lord on your way to work asking for guidance and grace throughout the day.  Be kind to people you meet and offer assistance freely without an expectation of return. Pray for Jesus to show you that the challenges which present themselves each day are opportunities to grow in holiness and virtue.

I would like to end with a quote from one of my favorite writers, Francis Fernandez and his wonderful series of books, In Conversation With God, “We have to show everyone that Christ is still alive by living heroically the events of our daily lives.  The apostolic vocation which we all received at Baptism means giving witness in word and deed to the life and teaching of Christ.  People said of the early Christians, See how they love one another! The pagans were really edified by this behavior and those who conducted themselves in this way had favor with all the people, as the Acts of the Apostles tell us.

Normally Our Lord asks us to give a Christian witness through our ordinary lives, engaged in the same ways of earning a living, tackling the same concerns as other folk.  We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us:  ‘This man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is ready to understand, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love.’

We make our Lord known through the example of our life, looking for occasions to speak out, not missing a single opportunity.  Our task consists to a large extent in making the way to Christ cheerful and attractive.  If we behave like that, many will be encouraged to follow it and to bring the joy and peace of the Lord to other men and women.”

Friends, I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  But, I sincerely hope that somewhere in the thoughts and ideas I have shared today, you will find comfort, encouragement and possibly inspiration to make a new priority list and commit to a Christ-centered life filled with meaning.

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