It’s a good thing to plan for the future. Luke’s Gospel says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” However, don’t confuse planning with self-fulfilling prophecy — predicting something bad is going to happen in the future, getting fixated on it and changing your behavior so that it actually fulfills the predicted bad outcome.
As we enter the parish listening session phase of the All Things New strategic pastoral planning initiative, many of us may be unintentionally drifting into a self-fulfilling prophecy. By fixating on a fear that “my parish is going to close” early in the planning process, we may stop doing those things, now and moving forward, that keep us in a good relationship with God and each other — like praying, participating in parish ministry and generous giving. Good planning allows room for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and provides hope for what is possible in the future. Spreading false rumors becomes the self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to division and finger pointing. This is the exact opposite of open and honest communication. And this is right where the devil wants us: feeling isolated and lonely.
During this time, it is important that we follow Jesus’s example of leadership:
Prayer. Before big decisions, Jesus often went off by Himself to pray, to discern God’s will in His life. We pray communal prayers with each other regularly, but do we ask God individually how He is calling us to respond in the current situation? What is God’s desire for you personally in this new plan?
Patience. Many of us want the final answer right now because it will make things more convenient for me and won’t disrupt my plans. But, many others will also be affected. The whole point of All Things New is to bring everyone closer to God. This will require time to make sure all of us are heard, and not just the loudest or those with the most resources.
Humility. In the Letter of James we are reminded, “everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” When you listen, do you actively listen to understand or are you developing a well thought-out response to prove your point? Humility allows us to understand what is best for everyone involved, putting others first, and not just focus on getting my way or winning an argument.
Mercy. We all will be going through massive changes with All Things New. There will be an initial sense of loss, and this will require time to heal. There will be an initial sense of anger, and this will require time to regain peace of mind. Mercy can address both our sense of loss and anger by helping us determine the motives behind these feelings, re-establishing broken relationships, freeing us from holding onto grudges and ultimately, providing an opportunity for spiritual growth and hope for the future.
We have a real opportunity to help shape the future of our archdiocese. Let’s follow Jesus’ example of prayer, patience, humility and mercy to build a path of holiness for everyone. Guided by the Holy Spirit, let’s make a plan that will build disciples and turn them into saints!
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County.