This article expands upon a recent notice sent to CLAA families which was followed up on the CLAA Family Forum. If you find this helpful, we can continue the discussion and maybe take each part step-by-step. I put this together quickly to help, so any proofreading feedback is more than welcome.
1. GOAL: A final result one intends to achieve.
2. OBJECTIVE: An intermediate step one must take to achieve a goal.
3. TASK: An intermediate step one must take to achieve an objective.
4. SCHEDULE: An ordered list of times at which things are planned to be done.
5. ROUTINE: A course of action to be followed regularly; a standard procedure.
Step One: Setting Goals
When most people begin talking about schedules, they begin with the schedule, lists of tasks, chores, etc.. This is all wrong and it will never work. You do not need a new book suggesting 1,001 ways to do your laundry or 500 ideas for handling clutter. An abundance of chores and stuff is a sign of a poorly planned life. When your life is set in order, chores will be few and your house will slowly be emptied of the supplies needed for spontaneous (and wasteful) living.
What we need to do to establish a good schedule is sit down in the evening with an empty notebook and a glass of wine and think out our goals. This is also a great use of time before the Blessed Sacrament. We need to answer questions like this and pray through them, meditating and seeking to be open and honest before God:
1. What must I do to be saved? The question of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30 is the ultimate question. If we do not have this question answered, we are fools, going nowhere. Jesus asked us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?”
Beware of popular evangelical answers to this question that are based on misinterpreted verses torn from the broader context of the Scriptures and the Church. For example, to say, “If we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we will be saved.” is only true when we remember that this same Jesus, believed to be Lord and Judge or all, has given us commandments to be obeyed from that faith we have in Him, has established a living Church on earth to be honored and served, has established a priesthood and sacraments through which His grace is administered to His disciples and lastly that He will judge us not for what we say of ourselves (as though we were judge), but as He knows us in truth.
A rule in interpreting Scripture is to use clear passages to interpret vague passages–not to build a religion on vague passages and ignore other passages that contradict one’s views, as modern evangelicals do. Remember the clear passages:
“Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers: Nor the effeminate nor liers with mankind (i.e., homosexuals) nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor railers nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God. And such some of you were. But you are washed: but you are sanctified: but you are justified: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.”
St. Paul does not say, “Such some of your ARE, but you are forgiven.” St. Paul says, “Such some of you WERE, but you are washed and sanctified.” We must turn away from all sin and be saved. This is goal #1. By the way, learn of salvation from the saints–not men whose end we do not yet know.
2. When I am dead, how will others remember me? Consider, for example, the deathbed of Dorcas in Acts 9:36-42.
“Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated means Dorcas). She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving. Now during those days she fell sick and died, so after washing her, they laid (her) out in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs where all the widows came to him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive.”
3. When I am preparing to die, to whom will I appeal for help and on what grounds? Most people today die in a state of confusion or an ignorant and false peace. We can only have true peace at the end of our life if we know God’s will and are sure that we have done it. St. Paul teaches us to live with a conscience “void of offense toward God and men”. The Church teaches that to die in a state of mortal sin is to put our soul in danger of Hell. Our lips will not save us from God’s judgment and we must deal with these matters honestly.
As an example, consider the farewell address of the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:1-5:
“I am old and gray, and have sons among you. I have lived with you from my youth to the present day. Here I stand! Answer me in the presence of the LORD and of his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose ass have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whom have I accepted a bribe and overlooked his guilt? I will make restitution to you.”
They replied, “You have neither cheated us, nor oppressed us, nor accepted anything from anyone.”
Remember too that the strength Job found during the days of his suffering was drawn from his knowledge that his life was lived in obedience to God and in generosity–read it in Job 31:16-40. God does not allow the careless to make their own rules or declare themselves to be in a state of peace at their death. We must face the truth and live accordingly today. This too much be a part of our life’s goals.
4. When I am 60 years old, what do I wish to look back and see accomplished? Also when I am 50? 40? 30? etc.. We often live under the tyranny of spontaneous but unnecessary activities that keep us from any meaningful course. We have to set long term goals that provide us with the vision to know what we should say “No!” to today and where our resources and energies should be focused. Great achievements in life are accomplished through years–decades–of persistent effort, not spurts of zeal here and there. Americans must abandon their habit of starting everything and finishing nothing.
5. What do I want each of my children to be when they are 18? Again we wrongly think of making our children happy NOW, but this leads to their misery later. Read Sirach 30:1-14–and don’t think the modern psychologists are wiser than Scripture. Learn about great child-saints like Aloysius Gonzaga, Dominic Savio and Maria Goretti. Look at the ages at which saints achieved things in their lives: St. Aloysius Gonzaga was praying and fasting as an 8 year old, St. Thomas went to the university at 12, and so on. If the age of reason is identified at 7 years old, why are we treating children like unreasoning animals when they are 12, 15, 17? Let them grow and treat them as reasoning men, not fools-in-holding.
6. What kind of family do I want mine to be? Start with the Holy Family and think of how their life can be imitated. Meditate on Mary as a mother: quiet, simple, thoughtful, humble. Consider Joseph as a father: righteous, self-sacrificing, free from the desire for money or pleasure, vigilant in the protection and care of his family, etc.. Reflect on the child Jesus: eager to make friends with wise men, to spend his free days in the temple, obedient to his parents, patient in waiting on God’s direction.
7. What kind of Catholic do I want to be? Start with the saints and think of how their lives can be imitated. We all know the stale and impious Catholics that bring so much slander against the Church. We need to embrace the challenges of vibrant, spirit-filled Catholic living we find in the saints–whose lives always led to conversions. Is our faith attractive and transforming or is it shallow and undesirable? Our neighbors should come to ask like the Samaritan woman who met Jesus and prayed: “Give me this water that I may drink and never thirst again.”
Step Two: Setting Objectives
Once our goals are sketched out and we have a clear vision of where we need to go, we can begin writing out objectives. Objectives are stepping stones or intermediate mini-goals which must be achieved for us to get from where we are right now to where our goals call us to be. For example, if your goal is for your son to be a strong Catholic, then providing excellent Catechesis is an objective. If your goal is for your daughter is to be a saint, do you realize that almost all of the canonized saints had religious vocations? That may be a real objective–to cultivate in her an appreciation for religious life.
Now, if after writing your goals out, you realize you don’t KNOW the steps by which they are achieved, then you see where you need advice. Learn, however, from those who have achieved them by normal means–not extraordinary instances or the ever-present know-it-all who achieves nothing himself. Ask. Seek. Knock. Remember the promise of St. James: ” if any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men abundantly and upbraideth not. And it shall be given him.” That is a promise, remember, not a suggestion.
Objectives naturally need to be set out in time. If a goal is set for 20 years down the road, then there needs to be a timeline of objectives between now and then. You see this in the CLAA, how we set the goal of having our students study Scholastic Theology when they are in their late teens, which requires they complete Logic in their early teens and Dialectic before that, and Grammar before that. This gives a clear a practical mission TODAY, since without Grammar now, there can be no Theology tomorrow!
Step Three: Listing Tasks
Once our objectives are set out (and that may take some time), we can break those objectives into tasks and these become our daily work. For example, I know that if my son completes his memory work for Grammar Lesson 12 he is one step closer to Theology. I don’t think of theology—only the Lesson 12 Grammar work–because in the grand scheme of things, it is all that matters in the pursuit of my goal. This allows to concentrate our attention and energy on today’s task and not be discouraged and stressed out with major goals in our minds every day–which is the cause the madness in most educational circles. If you hear people talking goals when it’s time to talk tasks…run for your life. They’re called salespeople.
As you assemble these task lists, you will need to fit them into your day. Your daily routine should naturally grow out of your family’s unique set of goals, objectives and tasks. This is why I am not a big supporter of lots of community activities–it is very unlikely that your family’s tasks are the same as other families’ and that should affect your ability to imitate other schedules, routines, etc.. If you don’t stick to your goals and objectives you will pay for it. Don’t allow your family to become a means of another family completing their goals in the name of “community”. There’s a reason why monks separate themselves–and no one calls them selfish or unfriendly because they make their goals and objectives clear to everyone.
You have to be specific. There are many people who pretend that their looseness is a good thing, but there’s a reason (again) why monasteries aren’t loosely run–or armies or businesses. This pretended love of looseness is a lie and you should not fall for it. Normally such people are loose in some things (prayer and study for example) to be strict in other things (meal times, TV shows, etc..). We must be strict in our use of time because we are slaves–slaves of God whose time is not our own to waste.
Step Four: Framing a Schedule
Your tasks will break down into annual tasks (homeschool registration, car inspection, tilling the gardens, deep cleaning, etc..); monthly tasks (paying bills, going to confession, etc..); weekly tasks (going to Mass, grocery shopping, etc..) and daily tasks (waking up, morning prayer, Catechism lessons, make dinner, etc..).
Once these tasks are nailed down, you’re going to have to set times for them. If you don’t set times for them and stick to those times, you will begin to allow activities in that were not a part of your goals and objectives! In other words, you will cease to pursue your goals and will begin to slowly fall off course and into idleness and aimlessness. That’s what looseness and undisciplined living is–no matter what anyone says who is loose and undisciplined. Any great person who has ever lived contradicts them. St. Paul, for example, said:
“Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly…No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
St. Paul is not talking about physical exercise–he’s talking about the training and discipline necessary for the heavenly trophy he seeks to win. Christians must be disciplined and strict with themselves. There must be a time for every task and that time must be carefully observed.
Now, you would be unwise to create your own plans for spiritual goals. The saints are our examples of people who have achieved the spiritual goals we should be setting and their schedules were often based on the Church’s liturgy of the hours and sacramental schedule. Since the soul deserves more care than the body (see Baltimore Catechism #7), these should be used as the pillars of the schedule. Morning prayer before anything else in the morning. Midday prayer around noon. Evening prayer around 6pm. Night prayer around 9pm. Daily Rosary. These are fundamentals in any Catholic schedule and (if you’re honest) there really is no excuse for not keeping these hours of prayer. “But my husband leaves for work at 6am!” That’s fine, he can pray Morning Prayer alone earlier and the family can pray when everyone is up and ready–yet there must be a time. Sleeping past the set hour says something about your love of sleep and lack of love for prayer. “But 12:00 is lunchtime.” Does lunch have such priority in the schedule? If so, you’ve begun to find your problem. Lunch can be at 12:30. Prayer should be at noon. It’s an important lesson for your children to learn. For all Christ has done for us, is this really too burdensome? Refuse every excuse or you will admit any excuse.
Step Five: Establishing Routine
To establish a routine, you need to take a week off of your old schedule and practice the new. Walk through the new schedule for a few days, see what is needed, give the kids instructions, make a few adjustments, etc.. For example, in our home we have an alarm on our central computer with the hours of prayer scheduled right into it. At noon, the alarm for midday prayer rings and everyone drops what they are doing and goes to prayer. We have a room arranged as a small chapel and we simply have to get ourselves into the chapel and then prayer is no problem at all.
You must take practical measures or you will be depending on your own strength and you will fail. If you make one of your children responsible for sounding the bell for prayer and making sure the adults stop what they’re doing, you will find them very effective. Their innate Pharisee-ism will inspire them to force everyone in for prayer. You will find that your children embrace routine and the more routine you develop, the better they will behave–isn’t most of their bad behavior due to their idleness after all?
If you need help with these practical measures, ask me. I’ll gladly help. If you’re home schooling, the CLAA is one of the only programs that takes such practical issues into consideration. Our Student Planning service completely integrates the family schedule and the student’s daily work
This mini-article gives you a clear view of the process by which an orderly and effective life is developed from beginning to end. Don’t forget that even with an excellent schedule, you will struggle physically to keep it. This is where the sacraments, prayer, fasting, watching and self-chastisement (which every saint practiced) become necessary. It’s a spiritual war we’re in and we need to treat it as a war. We need to train ourselves, rouse ourselves, encourage one another and never give up. Use music, use inspiring books, movies and quotes, use physical exercise, use fasting and prayers…whatever it takes! We have to be tough to resist temptation and overcome the world and this is why God holds out eternal rewards for those who run this race.
Remember St. Thomas Aquinas’s answer when he was asked, “What must I do to become a saint?” He, who is now a saint, said:
“YOU MUST WILL IT.”