Magazine article U.S. Catholic

A Big To-Do: When Life Becomes a Series of Checklists, It's Easy to Lose Sight of What's Really Important

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

A Big To-Do: When Life Becomes a Series of Checklists, It's Easy to Lose Sight of What's Really Important

Article excerpt

1. GO TO MASS

I can't get through one day without a checklist. No Black-Berry or Palm Pilot for me, though. I organize my life the low-tech way, with 3-by-5 index cards on which I scribble endless "to-do" lists. Make a goal, write it down, do it, cross it off, move on--that's the rhythm of my life.

Although I rely on lists as I juggle the demands of four children and a full-time job, I've come to realize that my checklist mentality, useful as it is, might have some spiritual drawbacks. Too often I am distracted from the present, focusing instead on the next item on my agenda. Jesus wisely counseled against such behavior when he said, "sufficient unto the day the evil for the day," but that's difficult for a Type-A personality like me to accept. Besides, if I don't write my obligations down, I'm likely to forget them.

The self-righteous Pharisee in Luke's gospel shares my excessive devotion to lists for their own sake. A compulsive itemizer, he stands in the temple before God, intent only on presenting his roster of good deeds. He ticks off his spiritual accomplishments, but as Jesus points out, his checklist mentality does not lead him to grace or humility.

Until recently my own zeal for lists has been most pronounced in December, when I plot my New Year's resolutions, the ultimate spiritual inventory. Knit more, read more, diet more, exercise more, pray more, give more alms! Like the Pharisee, I crafted a long list of annual goals that I was sure would result in a thinner, happier, more spiritual me. But it never worked that way. Even though I accomplished many of my earthly goals, the spiritual dimension of the exercise always eluded me.

That is, until I read this terse quote from St. Josemaria Escriva: "Make few resolutions. Make them definite. And fulfill them with the help of God." This made sense. …

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