Someone once told me that you should program your computer so that when you start it up, your calendar is the first thing you see. That way, you won’t get sidetracked by other things before you hit your agenda and to-do list.
I tried this for a while and found it to be a frustrating conflict with real life. After my morning prayer, I would analyze my plan for the day. From then on, while my mind was full of the tasks ahead of me and their allotted timeframes, my day was unfolding in ways that didn’t match my agenda. I had a game plan and a game-face on to accomplish it, but God kept sending other things my way. Most of the conflicts involved a choice between giving my attention to people vs. tasks, or a detour because of an inspiration from the Holy Spirit; a call from a colleague who needed help, an inspiration for an article, a child getting sick at school, a break-through in a project I had been stuck on, a problem that took longer than expected to solve… The interruptions in the face of my planned agenda left me feeling defeated and like I was never going to accomplish anything, but also sensing that there were more important ways to prioritize my attention than a well-executed day plan. Instead of mapping out my day by the minute and hour, I changed my day plan to a day list, prioritized but adjustable to the curve balls that I couldn’t see yet.
Then I heard about Pope St. John XXIII’s daily agenda. One would imagine a pope’s day is planned out minute by minute, and that at all times he is accomplishing the plan of God in many kinds of important work. The “pope of the laity” who convened the Second Vatican Council had a plan that was not what you would expect. It consisted of 10 things he would do, for one day only, “only for today.” Called The Decalogue, it contains beautiful wisdom and allows God to work more fully through us than any human agenda we could masterfully put together.
Pope John XXIII had a dream for all Catholics, firmly stating that “Every believer in this world must be a spark of light, a core of love, life-giving leaven in the mass: and the more he is so, the more he will live, in his innermost depths, in communion with God.” The Decalogue was his way of living one day in his innermost depths, in communion with God. As advent begins, take a moment to reflect on it compared to the plan you have.
Consider writing your own decalogue. You’ll be surprised at what God will accomplish when you move your agenda out of the way.
The Decalogue of Pope St. John XXIII
1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
5. Only for today, I will devote ten minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for twelve hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.