Complete Your Spiritual Goals This Year


It’s the new year…again.

Around this time of year, everyone online starts talking about goal setting and resolutions.

How to make goals, how to keep goals, how everyone breaks their goals, and how this year you can finally be the most productive person on the planet.

I used to think all that was useless, but now I’m buying into to it BECAUSE I started thinking about this in terms of spiritual goals.

So, here’s a post on how to set spiritual goals for the year, get started on your spiritual life, and motivate yourself to become the most spiritually productive person on the planet (or at least spiritually productive). This is what I’m going to use this year to get off my butt and start praying more, although I’ll probably still be on my butt while I’m praying.

Big resolutions don’t work

About 12 years ago, someone in my Bible study group asked if spiritual New Year’s resolutions were a good idea or just a waste of time. My answer was—are any New Year’s resolutions a good idea?

Let’s face it, big change is hard, and resolutions to make massive changes don’t work. Why do we make them?

Because in the beginning it’s cool. Think about starting a new workout program. You visualize how you’ll look different, feel different, and be different at the end. However, when you start working out it just hurts. That’s no fun.

I think Olympic athletes must be masochists, or at the least they have an incredible tolerance for pain.

What does work?

I ran across this idea of Kaizen, a Japanese word for the process of achieving sustained success through small, steady steps. You do this by building a habit of doing something very small, tiny even, everyday without fail until changes takes place. You’re not even committing to the big goal. You’re committing to the tiny habit.

There’s a book on this by Robert Maurer called One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. There’s also Mini Habits by Stephen Guise.

The problem is getting started is uncomfortable. Doesn’t matter what it is…working out, writing, praying. The hardest part is overcoming the inertia at the beginning.

But committing to a micro-habit isn’t that difficult. Think something on the order of walking ten minutes a day, writing 50 words a day, or reading a small section of the Bible or spiritual book.

Then, once you’ve started moving, it’s easier to keep going. After a while, you’ll likely stick around longer. Once you form a solid habit, you’ll start thinking of yourself as someone who does this particular thing. And then, you’re off and running.

My Kaizen moment

I experienced the power of small, incremental change first hand last year when I started P90X. Now at first this doesn’t seem like a good example, in fact it sort of isn’t. P90X is a big, honking, scary workout program that lasts for 90 days, and I’m not much of an athlete. But, they have this principle built in.

At the beginning, they don’t emphasize the number of reps you do, how strong you are, or even if you can finish. They emphasize moving and gradual improvement. They tell you to learn the exercises and go at your own pace. You can work harder later.

It worked! I just kept moving and stuck with it. At first I couldn’t imagine even finishing all the exercises in the first part, but eventually I could. Then when I started the advanced phase, I couldn’t imagine finishing those exercises, but eventually I could…with strength to spare.

Gradually, and incrementally over time, I did it.

This really resonates with me. I think this kind of goal setting will work. I seriously think it can work for spiritual goals and growing closer to God this year.

Getting started on spiritual goals

So what spiritual goals can you commit to this year? I’m going for at least ten minutes of meditative prayer everyday where I converse with God and listen to what he’s saying.

Something I’ve done for the past few years (that actually does fit the bill) is the Gospels in a Year program from Sign up for the mailing list and you’ll get a little snippet of gospels in your email inbox everyday. At the end of a year, you’ll finish all four gospels. Forget about reading the whole Bible. That’s a great goal, but it’s just too much.

There’s also a program for the Catechism.

Really, this is not that hard. Just read an email a day. All you have to do is click and it’s there.

What you do doesn’t matter. Just commit to something. Make it tiny and easy to manage. Don’t over think it or over shoot. That will undermine the entire thing. Make it short, simple, and sweet.

Here’s to spiritual goals and productivity.

Book Review: Under the Influence of Jesus


I don’t think the average Catholic has a clue what difference Jesus makes.

Oh sure, they’ve heard homilies, listened to gospel stories, and read about the doctrines about Jesus in their CCD classes as children.

But do they understand what Jesus can do for them? Why it’s better to believe in him? How he can change them?

I’d say no. That’s because Catholics talk a lot about the “what” and “when” and “where,” but precious little about the “why” and “how” and “how come.”

But Joe Paprocki’s out to change that.
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Why the Fruit of the Spirit Is Missing From Your Life

Transformation: Fruit of the Spirit

Here’s something I’ve learned about saints.

They believe what the Bible says. Not just that the Bible is true, but that it’s true for them.

St. Francis read that Jesus told the apostles they should go preach the gospel and take nothing with them, so he did.

St. Anthony read that to be perfect you should sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and radically follow Jesus, so he did.

St. Augustine read about how the Holy Spirit transforms believers and changes their behavior so he converted.

So what should you make of this passage in Galatians, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-33)?

Is that for real? Can you really have those qualities as the fruit of a Christian life? If so, how?
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Why Catholics Don’t Share Their Faith


When you were a kid, did you ever have a friend in school you were embarrassed to be with around other people?

Sure, you liked him well enough when you were in class or by yourselves.

But he didn’t act like everyone else and said things that other kids thought was strange.

So, because school society was ruled by the small, but vocal, group of “popular kids” who dictated the norm, you didn’t hang out with him at lunch recess. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t even what you really thought, but you were trying to survive.

But things are different now…right? Well…
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Night Flying and the Perils of Comfortable Christianity

Comfortable Christianity instrument panel

It was dark outside.

Really dark, a moonless night.

I could hear the hum of the engine. It’s turns rhythmically vibrated up through the seat and all through my body.

The cockpit was illuminated with a dim red light from the instrument panel. It was just enough to see the approach map strapped to my knee, but not enough to obscure the lights from the city below.

It felt warm, cozy, comfortable. The plane was like a little protective cocoon moving me through black sky seemingly insulated from harm. Every now and then the air traffic controller came on the radio and gave us another heading to fly.

It was the coolest feeling. I felt safe.
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Christmas: God With Us

Christmas - God With Us

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

God is with us.

The idea is old hat to us. We kind of take it for granted.

Yeah, God assuming human nature means he was with us. He was one of us. It sort of goes with the Christian territory.

But that is such an amazing thing! No other god was with his people. No other god was one of them. That is unheard of. Sure, the Greek gods took human form, but they didn’t live our condition. It was a masquerade, a deception…usually for some ulterior motive like sex.

Greek gods used their power to exploit people. They used them for selfish gain. Love? To the point of self-sacrifice? Forget it! Why would they love? It seems they were almost incapable of real love…almost like us.

They lusted. They brokered for power. They manipulated those underneath them.

God is with us.
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What’s Your Spiritual Reading Plan This Year?


Is it too early for New Year’s resolutions?

Not when you start with the new liturgical year!

Last October, Pope Benedict asked the whole Church to study the Catechism for the Year of Faith.

At that time I challenged myself and you to take him up on that–to read the Catechism in a year with Flocknote’s “Catechism in a Year” program.

Now the Year of Faith is over, and I can honestly now say that I’ve read the whole Catechism…twice.

It wasn’t easy. There were some bumps in the road. I didn’t always read every day. Sometimes I had to catch up on 4 or 5 emails at a time because I was too busy when they came in. But I did it!

Now that it’s over…what to do? What are you going to do? Well here’s an idea.
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I Have a Confession to Make


True confessions time. I hate confession.

Not the personal kind of confession but the sacramental kind.

I’ve read what all the Saints say about confession, and I know I’m supposed to love it. I know how important and freeing it is. I’m just not feeling it lately.

Not for a while actually.
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Never Teach Without This

My keynote at the conference on Saturday. That little blue dot on the stage is me!

Last weekend I had the great privilege to speak at a catechetical conference in the Diocese of Nashville.

I did two keynotes. One for the general conference attendees on Saturday and another at a pre-conference dinner for diocesan staff and DRE’s on the Friday before.

I experienced something at the dinner that every catechist should know about and somehow incorporate in their teaching. When you’re speaking about the faith in front of any kind of audience, but especially one that makes you nervous, it pays not to be alone.
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Busy? You Need to Read This


Are you overwhelmed yet?

This is the busiest time of year for catechists and catechetical leaders.

Everyone’s going a mile a minute getting things ready for the new year–setting up programs, organizing volunteers, preparing class lists and lesson plans, etc.

I know for me it’s just one thing after another.

So, this is just a reminder during this frantic rush of getting things done to take some time for remembering what (or who) this is all for.
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