Businesses implement five-year plans to reach organizational priorities. Families, couples and individuals adopt five-year planning to help them buy a house, finance their children’s education, and fund retirement.
College counselors and therapists coach young adults to think carefully about the long-term ramifications of today’s actions – and a five-year planning exercise helps clarify goals, objectives and consequences.
For Catholics, five-year plans are both a methodical approach toward their future and a guide to developing the necessary steps to reach their spiritual goals – if they are open to the Holy Spirit’s leadership.
“We must see the world through our lives of faith,” explains Katie Dawson, Diocese of Orange director of Parish Faith Formation. “We have a very positive understanding of God’s creation of the world and ourselves. We know we are called to be a gift to the world, that God has given us gifts to share with the world.”
“Many would say that reduces our faith to simply living a moral life and being a good person,” Dawson continues. “But our Catholic faith calls us to be a whole person. We are a pure gift of life from God, thus our lives proceed from the overflow of a loving God.”
Basing plans – such as where we want to live, our career objectives, and the kind of person we want to marry – must center around God.
“He is central to the questions of what we’re about, and He is the foundation of our life,” she notes. “We believe that each person is uniquely gifted to contribute to the world. Our life is most meaningful when we distinguish the gifts God has given to us and how we can use them.”
Indeed, Catholics must incorporate basic spiritual practices, such as daily prayers, reading Scripture, and partaking in the sacraments into their lifelong goals.
Toward that end, the diocese offers parish-based Called and Gifted workshops four to five times a year, Dawson notes, designed to help participants discern their spiritual gifts and to learn how to use them. For example, someone with the charism of encouragement could recognize that no matter where they are, people want to talk to them about the significant things in their lives and come away saying how helpful their advice has been.
Both adults and young people are on similar life journeys, she points out. “Bring them along on the journey,” she says. “We live in a society that privileges certain attributes and skills and doesn’t privilege others.
“It can be easy for young children or teens to feel they don’t measure up to what the surrounding culture says is valuable. But as Christians we believe everyone is unique and valuable and brings something special into the world.”
Catholic parents, Dawson suggests, can influence their children’s lives so that they view themselves as special, and as people who have a lot to offer the world. “You may not be cheerleader or supermodel or the founder of Amazon – but you still have gifts and we need to uncover them.”
Basing our future on faith involves much more than a list of dos and don’ts, Dawson warns. “A truly religious perspective is based on the idea that the God of love has created us to be a gift to each other. It puts a very different perspective on what we are called to.”