What are our real priorities?

The bishops’ retreat began last night here at Our Lady of the Lakes Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois with over 280 bishops in attendance. The first talk was given by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Papal Retreat Master, who will lead our retreat. His opening remarks were excellent, focusing in part on the daily need to choose the right priorities around which we can live our daily lives. Of course, a central priority is daily prayer.

Father Raniero concluded his talk with a story that beautifully illustrated the need to choose priorities wisely. He spoke of a meeting where an efficiency expert, speaking to a group of business leaders, placed before himself a large glass vase, into which the expert put a number of large stones until no further stones could fit. The expert then asked his audience: “Is the vase full?” They all answered yes and he countered with the response: “no it is not”.

The expert then proceeded to add smaller pebbles that gradually filled the spaces between the larger stones. He asked the question again: “Is the vase full?” One attendee caught on and said, “No”. The expert agreed and then poured sand into the vase, filling more of the empty space. He asked again: “Is the vase full?” The audience all replied, “No” and the expert agreed, pouring water into the vase until it was, in fact, full.

The expert concluded by asking: “What did you learn from this exercise?” Since no response was forthcoming, the expert asked a different question: “Now that the vase is full, is there any way to go back and add a single large stone into the vase (the ones he began with), now that it is filled with pebbles, sand and water? The universal answer was “no”, to which he replied, “The large stones are the priorities of your life. If you do not start with them each day, they will never fit into your life once the pebbles, sand and water fill in the rest.”

I reflected upon this simple story all last night, asking myself the question: what are my real priorities and do I make a conscious, daily decision to fit them into my life first? It is a question that will accompany me this week on retreat.

Perhaps it is a question that demands your reflection as well?

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos!