On completing my to-do list

Saint Francis

I arrived at an amazing place today: I completed my to-do list.  (Okay, I still need to iron a few shirts, but close enough).  In preparation for a summer sabbatical time that my congregation has kindly given me, I’ve been wrapping up loose ends and laying aside responsibilities.   We’ve got some travel planned, but I’ve also set aside generous dollops of wide open time.

A week ago someone asked me what I would do all summer.  “Are you just going to meditate?” they wondered.  “Pretty much,” I said.  Indeed, prayer is central to what I’ve got in mind.

Prayer is more than enough.  Brother Giles, one of St. Francis’ original followers, once said that if a person “were to live a thousand years and not have anything to do outside himself, he would have enough to do within, in his own heart.”1

I’ve got a bit of gardening, a bit of writing, a bit of Lego-playing with my sons to do outside of myself.  But I’ve got even more prayer-work that I need to do within, in my own heart.

My guess is that most of us are in a similar position, though we don’t realize it.  The urgent work of most of our lives is also the most subtle, the most difficult to wrap our minds around, the most challenging.  Jesus pointed to this reality when he taught his disciples to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).  He said that his followers ought to “give for alms those things that are within” (Luke 11:41).  We’re to be people who take the heart labor of prayer seriously, who build up a store of goodness and love and mercy, and who then drop these goods into others’ lives, no strings attached.

In my better moments, that’s the kind of person I aspire to be.  That’s my real to-do list.

bird in hand of saint 2
1 The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Trans. Raphael Brown (New York: Image Books, 1958), p.283.

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