Lately, I have been really busy. Spring has sprung and with it...LIFE! With the end of the school year comes vegetable gardens, chicken butchering, the ongoing battle with taming the weeds on our little corner of the 28 acres, and the inevitable run-in with ticks, bees, and dive-bombing barn swallows. This is also the time designed by God for us to pray the traditional novena to the Holy Ghost.
Spring always has a powerful effect on me. I chalk it up to my farming ancestors and the need to work harder and longer during these weeks of planting. The windows of opportunity to get seed in the ground are small, and the farmer is ever aware of the quality of the soil and sun. Spring is the time God has set for planting, not only in the field of the earth, but also in the field of eternity. We celebrate the joy of Easter, but ultimately, the Holy Ghost is coming to finally give life to the seed that was planted on Good Friday ("unless a seed falls to the ground and die..."). Pentecost is the great feast of establishing the Kingdom of God in the power and courage that was hidden in the hearts of Peter, John, and the rest of the Apostles.
I have often had a problem with those that have called recent years or events, "a New Springtime". Whether it was Pope John Paul II calling for a new springtime in the Church or those calling the modern revolutions in the east, the Arab Spring. It always struck me as odd...in the Church it seemed like the hem was coming loose and more and more dissent was becoming metastasized in the Church (think Georgetown today?!) How was this a Springtime? As to the Arab Spring, well, it may well become a Christian Autumn in the Middle East. All of this being said, I have recently reflected upon springtime and may see what the Holy Father was trying to inspire.
Springtime is a time for planting, fertilizing, growth, new life, etc, etc etc. To use some old scholastic philosphical terminology, Spring is the great time of potentiality. The seed holds within it potential to become a verdant head of lettuce. The egg holds within it the potential to become a chick, then a full grown chicken, and then dinner for my family. The Apostles held this potentiality in themselves from Christ breathing on them in the upper room. We hold potentiality within us from our Baptism to become all that God desires of us. As Christian men, we hold within ourselves the great potential to become the priest, prophet, and king of our family and of turning our little corner of the world to the good God that has made us.
All of this potential is what ultimately makes Spring great. I often laugh at the image of the pessimistic farmer (yep, they are all around). What is funny is that, although he may be pessimistic, he still tills...he still plants...he still fertilizes...and yes, he still harvests the crop in due season. Many of us may also be pessimistic in our attitudes about ourselves, our kids, our wives, our families. We seem to be stuck and can't change our ways. We are stuck in our addictions to entertainment, food, pleasure, and selfishness. Spring tells us, "Don't give up...just plant some seed...watch it grow!" God is telling us, "If you have died with me, so you shall be raised up with me." All the potentiality of our Baptism is there, waiting for us to pray and act. Pentecost will see the great germination of the seed of our Baptism if only we will let it grow.
It really doesn't matter how many times I have prayerfully read"The Imitation of Christ" cover to cover, it still has an incredible way of kicking me in the pants each time I pick it up. This work by Thomas a Kempis is so rich and deep a well of spiritual water that we ought to continually go back to it for nourishment. Just last night I picked it up for a little reading before falling asleep and was surprised to be as convicted as if I had just knelt down to St. Pio for Confession.
What was it that struck me? It might seem strange for a father of seven to say, but it was Chapter XX, "On the love of solitude and silence". On the surface one might chalk up this chapter to being only practically applied to the religious monk or nun, however, this rich food has enough for even a secular man like myself. I quote:
"Seek a suitable time for thy meditation, and think frequently of the mercies of God to thee. Leave curious questions. Study such matters as bring thee sorrow for sin rather than amusement. If thou withdraw thyself from trifling conversation and idle goings about, as well as from novelties and gossip, thou shalt find thy time sufficient and apt for good meditation."
I admit that I used to see this in a different light back in the days of studying theology at Franciscan University. Curious questions to me seemed to be the philosopher's favorites, "Will we have clothes in heaven?" or "Will my dog be with me in heaven?" Those were amusing times. Now, with seven children and a bit more responsibility I don't really have time to think on such "amusing" questions. How then does this strike me right between the eyes?
My "curious questions" and "trifling conversation and idle goings about" is mainly online news and facebook junkie-ism. Does it matter to my eternal salvation if Ron Paul wins the Pa Primary or if Brambles stock loses 14 cents in a day of trading? Does the meal that someone just ate or the game someone just played cause me to move closer to my eternal reward? The fact for me is that I spend TIME on all of these things. Time spent. Period. Time used up, never to return. I can't get back those 45 minutes I spent reading useless news about Syria and the retired space shuttle.
For the business operator, time management is one of the most important areas to manage properly. Lost time is lost work, lost revenue, lost productivity, etc. If one cannot get a firm grasp on managing time properly, business will inevitably suffer serious consequences. Deadlines will not be met, orders lost, opportunities missed. The owner that lacks this skill will also lack the ability to plan for the future and develop a vision for the company, because he will always spend his time putting out fires that could have been prevented.
In family life, it is much the same. If I don't manage my time at home, there will be lost opportunities, missed moments, and typically frustrated family members. If I spend my small amount of time on useless amusements and "trifling" and "idle" novelties I will inevitably run out of TIME! I will be like the useless servant that failed to invest his time and instead hid it in the ground...he lost the little he had! So it may be Facebook, online news, professional sports, movies, or games that use up our limited supply of time. Whatever it is, one can never say one does not have enough time, only that it may be poorly used.
As men we have immense responsibilities and time should be a very special one to us. Most of us that work, work outside the home and so we spend less time at home than at work. This should give us pause to ponder how we spend this time with our family. Do we spend it on ourselves? or do we spend it on God and our family? Thomas a Kempis says that if we would give up the useless pastimes we would indeed have the time we need (and most likely desire) for things of faith and family!