What Good Did You Do, Today?
A Reflection by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
This is a question we can ask ourselves more frequently. The day isn't just about getting up, saying a few prayers, heading for work or staying home. There's more to it. Life would be dull if the day would be just that, and nothing else. For many people, when you ask them "what's new?" the answer would be "Oh nothing." Not surprising these days. Many a day, especially now that I am retired, I spend much of the day in front of the television. Those days are generally unproductive, lazy, unmotivated, and sort of drab. But if you get up in the morning, with the intent of doing some good, you've got half a chance that at the end of the day you'll feel you've accomplished something.
Despite retirement, and your great desire for an uncluttered and undisciplined lifestyle, it is necessary to at least jot down a few items you'd want to tackle on any given day. Maybe the day began with Morning Prayer? If you are a Franciscan or a member of clergy, you'll have prayed a part or all of the Liturgy of the Hours. And, Secular Franciscans, have that option as well. The Liturgy of the Hours gives some structure in a day, a bit of a schedule, if you will. That's how monks keep schedule - by the "hours" of this particular Liturgy, except that we OFS types often just pray Morning and Evening Prayer from that Liturgy, and monks, priests, religious sisters and other consecrated persons will pray the whole thing, even the smaller "hours."
A good day will, if possible, begin with Holy Mass, and certainly Holy Communion. And if that isn't possible, perhaps some time of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in an Adoration Chapel attached to one of the local parishes. That's a good time to spend. When I still did adoration, and hopefully will come to do again, I was alone for some of the time, and I must admit, at times, I dozed off, but I was at peace because I was in the right place. Jesus allows us to doze off from time to time because it is the intention that counts. And in the stillness of such a visit, did we listen for the voice of God? That quiet but firm voice speaking to us as a friend, a confidant, an advisor, a brother, and one who loves us completely. One we should trust completely, too. Someone who makes the effort to go to Holy Mass or visit the Blessed Sacrament (provided the opportunity is available) is not a complacent person. He or she goes the extra mile.
We do Christ's work anytime when, for the love of Him, we do something to ease our neighbor's burden, and I believe that also includes praying for them for various intentions. Human beings are social persons, and as such we make conversation with the people around us. We get to talk about our past and their past. We talk about what happened when we were raised at home or had Catholic schooling through high school perhaps, and we speak of Christian brothers, and "the nuns." Teachers who were nuns, despite their good intentions, were often criticized for harsh treatment, treatment that was common years ago, little punishments to get "Johnny" to read properly and keep his mouth shut in class when it wasn't his turn to speak. Remember that?
A couple of years ago, I attended a lecture on St. Bonaventure's "Tree of Life" (very interesting, by the way), and with me were a couple of guys who were interested in joining a religious order. Anyway, one of them looked at this nun who was leading the presentation, as this was held in a Motherhouse of a Franciscan order of nuns, in Indiana, and remarked that this nun looked pretty familiar. Turns out it was his grade-school teacher. So we got to talking about our grade school experiences with the nuns and some of the stories were rather interesting.
Suffice it to say, that the nun in question remembered the boy who sat in her grade school class about 20-odd years before, and even which seat he sat in. So you never know who you're going to run into. In any case, as social creatures, we talk a lot and occasionally say significant things! Very occasionally. I think less than 5% I hear during any given day is significant in any way, but when the Lord speaks to me, I am all ears. When I get an opportunity to make a remark to guide another person to be closer to God, I often take that opportunity. Or, at least I try to reinforce a position that brings people closer to God. And so, that morning's conversation one of the people was talking about no longer going to church but he said he still prayed before going to bed. I told him that was a good thing to keep up.
We do have the opportunity, daily, for many small deeds of mercy, be it from a smile and a "thank you" to a salesperson in a store, to allowing someone trying to turn into the avenue which is clogged with cars, in front of you, knowing that if you don't provide that opportunity, he or she may sit there waiting for quite a long time. That's practicing charity. I feel great when someone does that for me.
So apart from prayer and the abstention of sin, what good did we do today? Yes, we should try to abstain from sin. This isn't easy but it can be done, if we love God! That begs the question how do we treat the women/men in our lives? And how did they treat their spouses? Many women are at home all day long, especially retirees, and their day might not have been so interesting, and come even close to boredom. Then again, many women work these days. It is healthy for our general well-being to get out of these daily ruts. Monotony is not particularly good for us. We become grumpy and discontented and we treat others in a negative way. So we try to be positive and become more active in some way. For parents with children, their life of course revolves around the children. But once grown and out of the house, we live on our memories and the home may seem empty at times. Some interest outside the home is necessary and desirable. I used to go to lunch outside of the house almost daily. That was a way of meeting other people.
Many people join church organizations, just to get something moving in our lives. We need to get loose from our "self" and invigorate mind and soul by doing something for and with others. What did you do today that was good? Even better, did you do something that was great?
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
July 31, 2019
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs