Interesting Scribbles

Living with Passion and Purpose

July 9, 2020

Notes from a talk by Matthew Kelly on December 7, 2013 at St. Francis Cabrini Parish.

As human beings, we have a tendency to get caught up in our own little lives. This is dangerous because the way we live our lives depends not on how the world is, but on how we see the wold. God tries to expand our worldview.

There is a spectrum of engagement from 100% engaged to “quit and stay”. People who quit and stay — they’re checked out, but they don’t leave. Such people are toxic. We engage/disengage in everything we do, not just in the office. The way to solve an engagement problem is to work out what drives engagement.

Massively engaged people are hungry for best practices — they want to find who’s the best and how they can Iearn from them. And they’re committed to learning continuously. (These kind of people never go anywhere without pen and paper. Why? They never know when opportunity will arise. Such people form world-class organizations.)

Are we hungry for best practices or our practices? Every parish in the US has its own marriage prep program. How many of them have the talent and resources to build it best? How many Catholics bring pen and paper to church, so we could write down something the priest said, or God speaking to us? How many read a Catholic book to keep learning?

Passion and purpose are attractive, but engagement is a byproduct of personal clarity, of knowing what matters, who you are, what you’re here for. You get really good at saying no. If you don’t know what matters, you say yes to everything so you won’t miss out, or out of guilt. But if you say no to things that aren’t for you, you can say yes to the things that are for you. And vice versa — too much yes makes us miss out on what God has just for us.

First thing, get into the classroom of silence. Clarity comes from silence. Think about driving and being lost — when you need clarity, you create silence. You turn down the radio, or even turn it all the way off. Do you have enough silence in your life to have enough clarity to work out what you’re here for and who you are? Noise prevents you working that out. The soul needs silence like the body needs air.

“The Screwtape Letters” was written in 1939 and mentions having so much noise in the world that you can’t hear the voice of God. And I think we’ll all agree that the world has gotten noisier since then.

The most common prior occupation for prophets and leaders in the Old Testament? Shepherd. Time in silence to find that clarity.

Once we get into silence, Got speaks to us — we see who we are and who we are called to grow into. God speaks to everyone, not just saints and prophets.

Three ordinary voices of God:

Voice of legitimate needs. For example, if you don’t eat, you die. God created us with those needs, and they serve a purpose. It is not selfish to fulfill a legitimate need. Think of the oxygen mask on an airplane — put yours on first, so you don’t pass out, so you can help the people around you. Same for parents and priests — take care of yourself so you can take care of the people around you.

Why did God give them to us? They are clues about how to live life. Physically — eat, sleep, exercise, drink water. Emotionally — opportunities to love and be loved. If you ignore the second group, you’re not going to die, but your personality gets disturbed.

Secular meaning of life — get what you want and be happy. But it doesn’t work because you can never get enough of what you don’t actually need. You can only get enough of things you need. Our needs are clues; our wants are secondary.

This doesn’t mean all of your needs can be met all the time. But take care of a good cross section of them.

Voice of talents and abilities. Universal talent — everybody has those. For example, we have the ability to make a difference in other people’s lives. Everyone has it so it gets devolved in favor of individual talent — things only a few people can do. (Especially the ability to monetize that talent.)

Even the best individual talents — music, sports, and so on — are trivial in comparison to making a difference in people’s lives. Our culture inverts these.

Think of the clash between teenagers and their elders — they take trivial things and make it so important. And the elders with more context and life see how trivial it is. Hence the conflict.

Voice of deepest desire. Talents are vocational — they lead us down a path God has for us.

God gave us the ability to desire and He gave us deep desires. Trouble is telling apart deep desires and shallow ones. Choices are so important. God gave us free will and reason and conscience so we can make great choices.

Getting lunch doughnuts or salad? It’s actually a choice between doughnuts and health. Doughnuts and being in good shape to walk our children down the aisle in a decade. When we see dimensions, shallow desires become resistible.

You want to be happy. God wants you to be happy. Look out in the world — what went wrong? Happiness is a fragile thing. It has to be guarded and fed. Happiness and pleasure are not the same thing. Pleasure doesn’t last past the activity that produces it. Eating — that’s why we don’t stop eating. After exercise — even if you had to force yourself to do it, you’re always glad you did it. That’s happiness.

(Pleasure is a feeling. Happiness is an emotional state.)

Two kids talking in utero — I wonder if there’s life after birth?

As Catholics, we’ve forgotten our story — we’re letting the anti-Catholic media tell that story for use. Every day, the Catholic church heals, treats, educates, and feeds more people than any other organization could ever hope to.

There have been horrible parts in our history. It happens when we abandon the teaching — people bring their humanity to church much more than they bring their holiness. Every family has a little bit of disfunction — things we wouldn’t want to see in the news. But a famous family — theirs shows up anyhow.

The Catholic family is huge — we all bring a little it of disfunction, and it adds up. And our Dad is really well known. Like creator of the universe famous. You have to be prepared for it.

Only 15–20% of US Catholics come to church any given Sunday. What’s going to happen if we don’t do something? Look to Europe — 1% mass attendance. We need game changers.

Research — difference between engaged and disengaged Catholics. More on that later.

Need for world-class models for catechism for the sacraments. There’s no video programming for Confirmation, for example. We’re working on it. (My organization is releasing a program in the Spring — the funds raised from these talks fund that program.)

Giving out books after Christmas Mass. So many people, if they go to Mass, Christmas is the only time they go. Reach out to them on that day in every way you can. Input on giving, attendance, volunteering in ministries.

Simplicity is our friend. Complicate it, and only the usual crowd of parishioners show up.

Three game changers — pick one for the next hundred days:

Scripture. Jesus walking down the road asks the disciples two questions. Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am? When God asks a question, pay attention. Sooner or later, we all have to answer the second question. Other religions see Jesus as a great teacher or great prophet — but he never claimed to be. He claimed to be the Son of God. If he’s not, he’s the biggest liar — he can’t possibly be a liar and a teacher or prophet. Words have power passed on who says them. Read the gospels for 15 minutes a day. Work out who Jesus is. Jesus says the gospel isn’t just a self-help book. He’s a radical; you can’t ignore him or his teachings. Pray for your enemies — pray for Osama bin Laden? How would that have gone over?

Jesus wants to turn your everything upside-down — so that it becomes right-side up. He wants to have a radical impact on our lives, but we don’t want our lives transformed. We just want little tweaking in our lives. You pray a prayer of transformation — he answers that every time. Put everything on the table and let God work with all of it.

If I just lived today’s one gospel reading 100%, how much would my life change? Radically. There is a big gap between life and the gospel. God wants to close the gap. But most of us already thing we’re pretty good Christians. Compared to what?

Confession. Olympians train like 4, 8, 12 years for an event that lasts ten seconds. Imagine the reverse. And all of them have coaches — why? They’re the best in the world? Nobody gets to excellence without coaching. Who are you getting your spiritual coaching from? As a church, we are deeply committed to mediocrity — we need to get back to excellence. Most of use pretty quickly figure out we’re not the best at being Catholic. What are we going to do about it? How de we chase excellence?

We do things every day that don’t help us become the best version of ourselves. Even purely from a mental health point of view, confession is genius. Why are you concerned that your priest knows you? There are no original sins. Going straight to Jesus doesn’t work — we have an incredible ability to deceive ourselves. After a while, we create God in our own image.

Coaching. We don’t any of us see things as they really are. That’s why we get a second point of view. Realizing this gives us the humility we need.

Go to confession once a month.

Mass. People think it’s boring. God, show me one way I can be a better version of myself. Then really listen. It’s not about better music or kneelers or homily or any of that. Get yourself a journal — write down one thing every Sunday. Only one person left the Last Supper early. And he left right after communion. Judas.

Lives change when habits change.

Every relationship improves when you truly listen.

When we remember how God has worked in our lives, we have hope for His working in our lives. And when we forget, we live in the hopelessness of the world.

“Right here, nowhere else. Right now, never again.”

If you are what you should be, you’ll set the world on fire.
— Catherine of Sienna

Just be yourself — this is harder than it sounds. There are so many emotions making it hard to work out who we are and why we’re here. God doesn’t want you to be some second-rate version of other people around us, He wants us to be best version of ourselves.

How did the early Christians handle it? They had thousands of people joining at a time. We’re thrilled to have six people at the Easter Vigil. First century culture was cold, harsh, impersonal, and brutal. Christianity was in contrast warm, loving, and personal. There is nothing more attractive than holiness. You don’t need a few hundred holy people — just one. Look at St. Francis — 800 years later, people are still impacted by how he let God impact his life.

The biggest lie in the history of Christianity — not one that people tell about us, but one that we tell ourselves — is that holiness is possible for others, but no for ourselves. As proof it’s a lie, go make one holy moment. A moment when you’re being the best version of yourself and doing God’s will. Once you’ve worked out how to do it, you can scale it. One tomorrow. Two on Tuesday. The saints weren’t born perfect, they strung together as many holy moments as they could.

If we lived the Gospel, we’d work differently. We’d be the best. We’d do customer service better than anyone. But we don’t — we blend in.

Christianity is, at it’s core, counter-cultural. We have to take a counter-cultural stance. As parents, the things we want for our kids are counter-cultural. What in your life is teaching them counter-culture? Showing that your family is in the culture but not of the culture. So many things people think they could live without — they can thrive through.

It’s easy to be counter-cultural and look like a freak. Jeasus’ secret was to do it and make it attractive.

How do we get the courage to do all these things? Get to know the shepherd. (See also Psalm 23.)

There’s nothing wrong with Catholicism that can’t be solved by what’s right with it. Scandal happens, not when we live out faith, but when we fail to live it.

Don’t spend the first half of your life saying you’re too young, and the second half saying you’re too old. Now is our time.