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by Matthew Kelly
Walking with Purpose
by Father Bob Sherry
I love people of possibility, people who dive in and make things happen. They have an energy and enthusiasm that is contagious, and people love being around them. They see possibilities everywhere they look. And everyone loves having people of possibility on their team at work and in their parish.
But there are also people of impossibility. To these people nothing seems possible. They are negative and filled with discouragement. Their attitude can also be contagious. They can be sarcastic and cynical; they discourage others and belittle every idea that points towards new possibilities. People avoid people of impossibility.
As children of God and Christians, and particularly as Catholics, we are called to be people of possibility. We should be contagiously hopeful about God’s plans for our lives and the world.
This hope—the hope of a joyful Christian—is needed in society today more than ever. What are three ways you can bring hope to other people this month? I invite you to pray about this challenge, so God can empower you to become a powerful ambassador of hope and encouragement.
Everyone needs to be encouraged from time to time.
If we want to be women who walk purposefully and experience all that God has for us in this life, then we, like Saint Paul, are going to need to focus and prioritize.
— From “Walking with Purpose: Seven Priorities That Make Life Work” by Lisa Brenninkmeyer
Walking with purpose requires that we come to grips with what ultimately matters. We need to understand why we are here on earth. The reason we are here is far bigger than personal fulfillment, inner peace, or happiness. It's bigger than raising a family or having a career. The reason we are here is because God wanted us to be here. You were made by God for God. If we don't look at life from that perspective, nothing will make sense.
This is what Saint Paul had to say about his life focus:
"It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]. Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling in Christ Jesus."
Saint Paul wasn't saying that he had it all perfectly together. But he kept his eye on the goal. He knew that God was calling him to something better. He wasn't going to turn back. Instead, he was determined to focus on the prize so that he could experience everything that God had planned for him.
Saint Paul's faithfulness to God, focus on his mission, and determination not to compromise literally changed the world. He didn't do this by floating along the river of life, letting his circumstances guide him. If we want to be women who walk purposefully and experience all that God has for us in this life, then we, like Saint Paul, are going to need to focus and prioritize. There simply isn't enough time in the day to do everything that your loved ones tell you is important and the things that our culture values, and still do the things that God is calling you to do. If you're interested in joining me on the journey, you will have to make choices—like what to pack for the trip.
One of my favorite getaways is Camden, Maine. I could write a very interesting journal full of packing mishaps for those trips—like my twelve-year-old announcing five days into the trip, that he had forgotten to pack any underwear. It's funny (at least looking back on it) when it's my kids who didn't pack well. It's just plain embarrassing when I'm traveling alone and I have no one to blame but myself for what's not in my suitcase. We all realize how important it is to have the basics with us when we leave on a trip. Walking with purpose, in that sense, is no different from any other journey. Before we set out, then, let me suggest four essentials that we want to have packed away for the journey:
1. Understanding the Depth of God's Love
2. Recognizing What Drives You
3. Avoiding Distractions
4. Cultivating an Eternal Perspective
One of the best ways to become a-better-version-of-ourselves is to help others become a-better-version-of-themselves. We can begin by looking at how we talk about and to others, especially our family. We often are much harsher towards those we love the most. Are you as patient with and as kind to family members as you are as patient with and as kind to friends, co-workers, and other people?
At a recent daily Mass at Dynamic Catholic, we read about the stoning of Stephen. Stephen’s opponents built up a case on fabricated false evidence against him. Lies, all lies. Stephen’s death by stoning was based on lies.
To help us remember the impact of our words, I brought a bag of Stephen Stones to Mass that day. I invited everyone to take a stone for their desks and a stone to keep at home, as reminders of the damage we can do to others by our words. But these stones can also remind us to say kind and affirming words to others.
Stones can also remind us of God’s incredible love. The reading that day said: “Be my rock of refuge, O Lord, a stronghold to give me safety. You are my rock and my fortress.”
I never believed the childhood ditty: “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” Words of affirmation, as well as words of defamation can echo for a lifetime. Speak words of life.
Last fall I attended a faith formation conference with Allen Hunt from Dynamic Catholic. He gave us the book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic and talked about the four signs, including developing a daily habit of prayer. I know what a difference my daily habit of prayer has made in my life, and so as a pastoral minister involved in faith formation, I was very excited to read the book and see how we could engage our cluster parishes by using these four signs.
We used The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic as the basis for our next leadership day retreat. It inspired the development of our “Four-Year Strategic Plan” to get more engaged as a cluster in each of the four signs: prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization. We began at Christmas with our priest giving the book as his gift to our entire cluster. We then presented our plan to the cluster at each of our weekend Masses.
For 2015 we developed four initiatives on the first sign, prayer:
1. Inform, promote, and educate our cluster on being a more prayerful people.
2. Conduct our “Pray a Million Minutes” campaign. (Have a weekly tally card for people to record the time they spend in meaningful prayer, which will be collected, counted, and recorded on our “Goal Crosses” made by the Confirmation class.)
3. Hand out “The Prayer Process” cards (Spanish and English) at Mass. (Religious education teachers learned about “The Prayer Process” and were given posters to use in their classes each week.)
4. Educate people about and provide more opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration. (We plan to offer Adoration during religious education classes for parents and others while the children are attending classes. We will provide other opportunities for Adoration throughout the year.)
This is just the beginning. As we get more involved in prayer as a cluster we will be providing even more learning opportunities. In each subsequent year, we will focus on the other three signs: study, generosity, and evangelization.
A lot of amazing things have already come from reading this book, and we hope to make a big difference not only in our cluster, but also our community and ultimately the world.
I am so excited about the things this book inspired our cluster to do, and I just had to share it with you. Every Catholic needs to read this book!
Want to share your story? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Making time for each other isn’t that difficult if you think about how to anchor the time around already established routines at home.
Life is short, and the holidays fly by. Don’t waste this time texting your friends about how crazy your family is making you (even if it’s true). Do your best to be present to them, seek to understand and to love.
Waking up early is a war. It is a battle against the self. You are your enemy. And there is only one way to win the war: Discipline.
When you choose to be the-best-version-of-yourself, when you exercise virtue and strength of character, you impact the world more than you will ever know.