By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
In our everyday lives we find ourselves making deliberate attempts to prepare for the unforeseen future. We plan for retirement, put money in our 401k, and plan our savings. Some of us invest in the stock market and are anxious each time the market goes up or down. We do all this planning to be sure that the future is enjoyable for us, and it is truly wise to plan for our future financial security.
But we need to extend this type of deliberate planning even more to our spiritual lives. Each of us should pay attention to our spiritual life when it goes up and down. We need to make deliberate arrangements to include prayer and God in our schedules. We wake up in the morning and plan how to accomplish the tasks of our daily schedule, but often we forget to include prayer on our “to-do list.” Consequently, as we finish our daily tasks we are often so tired that we feel we have no time to pray or to have a personal relationship with God through reflections and moments of silence. Check your daily schedule again and see if you include a spiritual plan in it.
We need this spiritual plan in all our life endeavors. One area that especially needs to have God included in the planning is the preparation for a marriage. We learn from successful entrepreneurs that in order to build a successful business one needs to have a well thought out business plan. In the same way, in order to create a successful spiritual family, couples need to develop a spiritual plan from the very beginning — before they even go into marriage. Most of the time engaged couples spend a tremendous amount of time preparing for their wedding. Most of the preparations are usually centered on how to have a successful ceremony – the dresses, the venues, the guest lists, the food, etc. Rarely, if at all, do couples include a plan on how they want their spiritual lives to be after they get married and begin a family. But this should be an important focus before marriage. If they ignore that part of the planning they may find themselves struggling with faith and spirituality in their home and family, and sometimes the unintended consequence will be that they neglect to impart the faith to their children, and to model for them how they can grow, observing and living well-formed lives in a well-formed spiritual home. Kids need to see their parents actually living and practicing their faith in order to grow naturally in it. We need to be deliberate in making a spiritual plan for our homes and families.
Engaged couples who are working toward marriage should not restrict their planning to the material preparation, but should also draw out spiritual plans. What is going to be your family prayer life in the future? What place will you give God when you start a family? What are the spiritual exercises that your children will see you perform so that they will emulate you as they grow? These are some of the questions regarding spiritual plans that engaged couples should discuss and include in their marriage plans.
As we begin this new year and are trying to make resolutions, let’s consider adding a spiritual plan to our resolutions. We should make a deliberate plan for how we will live our spirituality and faith this year. Every Christian family, young or old, should have a spiritual plan that is deliberately inplemented for the purpose of growth in their spiritual family. That spiritual plan may include prayer time, attending mass, scripture reading time, fellowship with a faith community, and other faith-building activities. Like any other plan for the future, the plan may at some point need to be modified — things may change and demand an adjustment in the plan. Like a business plan, sometimes our spiritual plans cannot be carried out due to various unforeseen factors. When we realize that our spiritual plans cannot be met, we need to reevaluate, adjust and find another path, but not give it up. One may decide that their family will pray together every morning at 6 a.m., but later realize that their schedules do not allow them that time together. Instead of giving up prayer all together, I may decide to adjust the time or pray alone, but I do not give up prayer altogether.
Finally, in all that we do and in all our plans, we should check and see if there is a space for God. He alone can give us the Holy Spirit to keep our plans burning with success. Recall the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13): the five wise virgins were deliberate in planning to have extra oil, the other five were not. When the time came to welcome the bridegroom, the wise ones were ready but the foolish virgins only got confused. We need this type of wise plan for our spiritual lives, a plan that makes us ready to give God a space in our lives. When we include a space for God as part of our life journey, the oils of God’s grace in our lives and families will never run dry.
Father Jacob Dankasa is a parochial vicar at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney and a regular contributor to The Texas Catholic.