Spiritual Strategic Planning
There is clarity in brevity. Isaiah’s prophecy is clear and punchy: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
General Grant won the Civil War using simple directives. We see the precision and brevity of his masterful command in his famous order: “Lee’s army will be your objective point. Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also.” Despite their defeat in the Wilderness in 1864, his soldiers cheered when they turned south and continued their pursuit of the Confederates.
Military and business schools study, repackage, and teach the proven management techniques of great leaders. Perhaps we could apply to the spiritual life the practical wisdom of their best practices.
Saint Paul insists: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1) He also reminds us: “…our [citizenship] is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ….” (Phil. 3:20)
Hence, we must direct every thought, word, and deed to heavenly glory.
Set appropriate goals
As we seek heavenly glory, our goals must include these two basic ones: Do good and avoid evil—the foundation of the moral life in Jesus.
Gather and analyze information
With this policy goal firmly in place, we can examine our behavior using the Ten Commandments as benchmarks. The Commandments provide cohesion in all of our spiritual policies, procedures, and protocols.
Formulate and implement a strategy
Resolving to meet our heavenly objectives, we must firmly intend never to violate God’s policies again.
Periodically evaluate and control strategic implementation
Daily, and before every Confession, gather and analyze the information and measure it against all policy criteria. Where have I been non-compliant? Did I gravely violate a procedure? Did I willfully ignore a protocol? Identify the nature and number of all serious violations.
Having clarified our goals and objectives, in accordance with the wisdom offered by the management experts, we are now in a position to reconfigure the Act of Contrition for cascade down all reporting lines and across all organizational units:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to recalibrate my vision, set appropriate goals, gather and analyze information, and formulate and implement a strategy. I further resolve to periodically evaluate my strategic implementation because policies, procedures, and protocols mean nothing without appropriate measurements and controls. Amen.
What? You find that offensive? Do you think this version fails as a mission statement? Don’t worry; failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.
I hope you’ve learned a valuable lesson. Stick with the old-fashioned version, which is pretty sound advice in most things Catholic.
The traditional Act of Contrition (this version) is a masterpiece of brevity and action—the perfect model of a strategic plan:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
No Bible-believing Christian could disagree with that Act of Contrition. Along with the pro-life agenda (nobody can be pro-choice/abortion and be a Christian), this prayer is essential to fruitful ecumenical dialog. Memorize it, pray it often, and share it anew, even in rectories, chanceries, episcopal conferences, and Vatican dicasteries. We’re on God’s team, and there is no “I” in “team.” (Come to think of it, there’s nothing but “I”s in this Act of Contrition, which is why it might not lend itself well as a tool for group-think workshops. So nix that cliché.)
Jesus is the Master of brevity, precision, and strategic planning: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk. 9:23) Here’s his mission statement for every season: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Every MBA in the room—indeed, all of us—could learn from these commands. Even General U.S. Grant would be impressed. Do us a favor, management experts. Don’t try to improve upon them.
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Posted by: FredC -
Dec. 09, 2020 9:44 AM ET USA
Posted by: mary_conces3421 -
Dec. 08, 2020 9:22 PM ET USA
Back to Basics. A good plan. Thank you, Father. And thank you for showcasing my favorite Act of Contrition, which I learned some seventy-two years ago. I once heard a (rather unhappy, disillusioned) priest ridicule it, claiming that most folks said "hardly" sorry, and simply repeated words that they didn't understand by rote. He was in error, at least as far as I was concerned.