Sticking to the Knitting

Dear Friends in Christ,

How is your Lent going? To be candid, by the Friday after Ash Wednesday I was already tired! It has been a good Lent but a long one for me and we are not yet halfway through. One of the good things of Lent is that it makes us focus, or at least it should. As we saw in the readings from the first two Sundays of Lent, there is a reason for our current condition (sin) and there is a goal for which we are to strive (heavenly glory). The problem is the in-between. The question that we all need to face is, where is our focus? Are we focused on heaven or on sin (self, this life)? This is the time of year that our parish staff begin evaluations, goal setting and the budgeting process. We examine and evaluate our job performance and the performance and effectiveness of our ministries and programs. We then set our priorities, make plans for the coming year, and budget accordingly. We evaluate what is working and what is not working or working well. We also examine what changes need to be made and what we need to add to our ministries and programming and what we need to eliminate. This is not always an easy process but it is very beneficial.

Years ago, I read a book, One Up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch, Directing Manager of Fidelity Investments. I found this book to be filled not only with sound financial advice, but a lot of good, practical common sense. (I hope so given that Lynch is Irish, Jesuit trained and a Catholic!) During a time when many companies were committed to the popular trend of diversification (buying companies outside of their main business), Lynch saw weakness. One of Lynch’s bon mots was to avoid investing in companies that commit “diworsification” and instead invest in companies that “stick to the knitting”. Lynch said his success in business was due more to the philosophy classes he took as an undergrad at Boston College than to his MBA at the Wharton School of Business! I do not know if Lynch was aware of this or not, but he was merely following the wisdom of the Sacred Scriptures and the teaching of our Catholic Faith.

Lent is a time for us to look and see if we have committed any “diworsifications” in our lives. We need to examine in the areas of our lives where we have strayed from the path. We should honestly examine and see what actions, attitudes or habits have crept into our lives that dilute, distract or impede us from what we should be focusing on. Is there some activity or pursuit that steals our time and attention away from our spouse and our family? What takes us away from giving our time and attention to God and prayer? What weakens our resolve to avoid sin and temptation? What are the influences in our lives that make our lives worse and not better? The problem with “diworsifications” in our individual lives, just as in corporations, is that they always seem appealing and attractive at the outset. They appear like shining, twinkling baubles that captivate us and our imaginations and distract us from the seemingly dull and boring discipline of the everyday. Like an athlete who must stretch, practice and exercise every day or a musician who has to play scales, we too have to daily commit ourselves to the fundamentals of living the life of a follower of Jesus. For us as Catholics, “sticking to the knitting” is following and keeping the Ten Commandments and the Precepts of the Church. These are fundamentals that we cannot abandon or neglect. This is not always exciting stuff but when we keep the Commandments and Precepts, we avoid a lot of needless problems and the suffering and pain that follow. Life has enough challenges, suffering and pain, we do not need to create situations to cause more! “Sticking to the knitting” of living a life with Christ in the Catholic Church and being faithful to God pays dividends that Wall Street can never imagine! How is your Lent going? Where is the focus of your life?