Pope Benedict XVI is in my prayers today. He'll be in my prayers for quite some time as my heart goes out to him, not in a way that I pity him or feel bad for him, but because I am so impressed by the courage of his recently unprecedented decision to retire from being the Pope.
One of the hardest things to do is say no. Most of us are overcommitted and we rush from one thing to another, taking on one task and responsibility after another. I am definitely guilty of saying yes to too many duties. In many ways, even though I think I do a pretty good job at compartmentalizing, I work too much, too long and too hard. "Too little butter on too much bread," as Bilbo Baggins would say.
So, I am impressed by people who set clear boundaries regarding their commitments and keep to them. I have great admiration, especially for those in positions of authority and/or who have a solid work ethic, who refuse opportunities. I respect those who set and see realistic expectations as to what they can accomplish effectively.
It's been hundreds of years since a Pope retired. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had the conviction to make the decision to retire, though, despite not having anyone in recent history to imitate or use as a model.
He needed humility. It's tough for us to resist power, authority, fame, influence, recognition.
He needed faith. Faith that he is continuing to follow what he believes to be God's will for his life.
It's a lesson that I hope to take to heart. I know my wife, children and even my school would benefit from me being a part of one less committee, program, or group. Stripping things down to what's most important and doing those things well would be quite refreshing. Mirroring the shift coming with the Common Core State Standards, I would be doing less things but doing those that I deem worthy of my time with greater depth, involvement and intentionality.
It's a lesson I hope families and students can learn, too. It is amazing how many activities students participate in after school on a weekly basis. From baseball, to dance, to tutoring, to karate, to piano our students are overextended. Family meals, weekly attendance at mass, spending time at home together talking, reading or getting to bed on time often take a back seat to being uber involved in as many things as possible.
Stay in your lane.
Know your role.
Just say no.
Let us use Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as a model and let us pare down our lives to be able to spend more of them in prayer, reading, writing, reflection and spiritual growth.
Let us take advantage of this momentous occasion in our Church to teach kids to have the courage, conviction, faith and humility to just say no.