“Here is Jesus’ invitation: God has come close to you; recognize his presence, make room for his Word, and you will change your outlook on life.”
– Pope Francis
I am your quintessential New Year’s resolver. Cut out all bread. Done… until someone offers me a bagel. Initiate (or re-initiate) 5:00 a.m. work-out routine. Starts January 1… and ends roughly around January 3. As I’ve grown in wisdom, I’ve become marginally better at narrowing down my annual checklist and making sure each resolution follows the SMART Goal criteria I so often force upon Church leaders. As I sat down to draft my 2024 goals, I glanced up at my bulletin board where 2023’s goals still hung. Before I could read through my assuredly shameful progress from the last 12 months, I was summoned to commence the bedtime routine with the younger two children, known in my head as “how fast can 8:30 p.m. come.” Both Peter (10) and Norah (7) need someone to read to them, and my wife and I typically flip-flop who reads with whom. While Peter knows how to read, his radiation treatment from a few years ago has left him unable to see up-close until he gets some upcoming corrective surgery. Unlike Norah’s collection of Dr. Suess and other tales that rhyme, have colorful pictures, and are most importantly short, Peter’s collection includes mythical odysseys retold in dense, full-page chapter books that go on forever.
As I sped through whatever we were reading to finish my obligatory 15-minutes/two chapters, I rolled over to Peter, looked up at the ceiling and said, “I bet you can’t wait until your procedure when you can read to yourself.” He looked confused. “No Dad, I love when you read.” I gave him a kiss, tucked him in, and wandered back to my desk where I looked over the resolutions where I had fallen short. “Spend one hour a month with each child individually.” My eager 2023 self had visions of grandeur where I imagined delightful lunches or aesthetic mini hikes with each child where we had profound and thoughtful conversations. I couldn’t help but do the math. Fifteen minutes of reading, even just once a week, would equal my target and I loathed more pages than I cared to admit.
Not only had I failed to achieve my grand plan for earning dad of the year, I also actually missed the small opportunities that could have helped me reach my goal because ultimately, I forgot the “why” with which I set it in the first place. How often in life and leadership do I resolve to do something but lose sight of the overall reason I want or need to do it? Am I missing opportunities to fulfill the larger why because I am fixated on the what or how? Am I resolute in my purpose and values, or am I stuck in my vanity or pride? When it comes to resolutions of faith, am I checking boxes or moving forward and going deeper?
I decided that perhaps a more reachable 2024 version of my resolution would simply be to give thanks to God for any individual time I get to spend with my children. Even that won’t be a slam dunk but I’m thinking God wants me to do less and be more. As we march full steam ahead into this new year, let's resolve to make sure that whatever we do, we remember we are marching toward Him.
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